While I officially started on April 28, I actually had a good head start. For one thing, Fr. Michael had graciously given me space to store my property as we began the move. Moreover, he invited me to help with some of the school and CCD Confessions during Lent to give me a chance to get to know some people. And then I actually moved in on Sunday, April 27. My first quasi-official duty was to concelebrate with Fr. Michael at the First Communion Mass that Sunday, before being the celebrant at the next weekend’s First Communion Mass. What a great way that was to start, for First Communion is one of the highlights of any parish’s year.
And that is another key theme to today’s message, for this weekend we celebrate the first of our First Communion Masses. It is always a great joy to see the boys and girls receiving Christ for the first time. The excitement they feel reminds us of the importance of a Sacrament that we can easily take for granted. We who have lost count of how often we receive the Eucharist may fall into the trap of making it just another part of our week. When we see the joy on these children’s faces, especially as they are all dressed up for the occasion, we remember what a great gift it is. In addition, when we see how nervous some of them are, then we may tend to ask ourselves if we are really prepared, in a spiritual sense, to receive the Eucharist. There is a reason why our preparation to receive includes the prayer, “O Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” But again, the joy of these children reminds us to complete that prayer, “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
First Communion, of course, is not the end of the journey. I want to recognize the eighth graders of our parish who, this past Wednesday, received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop William J. Winter, our retired Auxiliary Bishop. I am writing this column before the event, but I can confidently say that it Confirmation was (by the time you are reading this note) a beautiful celebration. Bishop Winter makes the sacrament very personal for each of the Confirmandi. With this Confirmation, they are now prepared, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live more fully the grace they first received in baptism.
All of this activity shows us what an exciting time the Easter season is in the life of the parish. And that, once again, reminds me of how thankful I am to God and to Bishop Zubik for making me part of this incredible parish of St. Malachy.