Newsletter for Sunday 18 April 2021

16 Apr

Pope St Pius X and First Holy Communion

Last Tuesday I was given a relic of Pope St Pius X (1835-1914), and so I took this as a providential sign that I should write something about this great Pope as we begin our First Holy Communion Masses, because it was St Pius X who granted permission for children to receive Holy Communion at a young age. Prior to his becoming Pope, children had to wait until they were eleven or twelve to receive for the first time. In 1910 Pope Pius decreed that as soon as children had reached the age of reason (usually around seven but in some instances even younger) and could understand that the Host was no ordinary bread and that they were truly receiving JESUS, they could come to the altar rail.

One day a mother came to speak with the Pope and her very small son sat in the corner out of the way. And when the Pope had finished speaking with the mother, he called the boy over to meet him. Pope Pius asked the mother, “How old is your child?” “He’s just four” she replied, “but I hope in a couple of years time he will make his First Communion.” The Pope looked down at the child and asked him, “What does one receive in Holy Communion?” “JESUS Christ” the boy answered. “And who is JESUS Christ?” continued the Pope. “Our dear God” was the answer. The boy had passed the test with flying colours, and so the Pope said to his mother, “Bring your child to my Mass tomorrow morning, and I myself will give him his First Holy Communion.”

St Pius X wrote his own catechism and in it he posed the question, “Why do you believe that in the Eucharist JESUS Christ is really present?” And his answer was, “I believe that in the Eucharist JESUS Christ is really present, because He Himself has said it and holy Church teaches it” (Catechism of St Pius X). And when did JESUS say it? He said it when He said, “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. The bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). In other words, faith teaches us this truth. Our faith is so precious and so we must guard it and act as if we believe it. This is why the Church surrounds the Holy Eucharist with such care and reverence. It is why we have sanctuary lamps, silk curtains in our tabernacles and why we carefully guard the tabernacle key. It is why we genuflect and use incense before the Blessed Sacrament. The Church knows that these things that we can see and touch help safeguard our faith.

So let us always be careful to make our genuflections real acts of faith and love in Our Lord’s Real Presence and teach our children to do the same. If they see you do it, you will be strengthening their faith. Let us therefore keep all our children making their First Holy Communion over the next few weeks and their families in our prayers. May they always preserve their childlike faith in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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