Sunday, 24 June 2012

Anya's First Holy Communion

Anya had been preparing for her First Holy Communion for months, and when the day finally arrived she was full of excitement. I will never forget the wide smile on her face that morning. Her whole being seemed to exude a joyful enthusiasm. This was her turn to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, the most important sacrament in the life of the Catholic.

May had generally been a wet month in England, but fortunately that day the weather was fine and dry. There was a large turnout, including children and their families, for the special mass at St Matthias Church in Worcester Park. There were obviously many people there who did not normally go to church. Nithya, Anya and I sat on a specially reserved bench near the altar along with Mum and Dad. Some of our close friends including our immediate neighbours joined us in the bench behind.

I thought the service went very well. Much credit goes to Fr. Kevan, the catechists and the choir. In his sermon, Fr. Kevan held up a famous allegorical painting (known as “The Light of the World”) by the English painter William Holman Hunt. It depicted Jesus knocking at an overgrown and long-unopened front door. We are like the person living in the house. Jesus always knocks at the doors of our hearts, but only we can choose to let Him in.

After mass, there was a small party for all the children in the church hall. We did not stay for that as we had arranged a special celebration for Anya at a local Italian restaurant called Positano. Some of close friends and cousins joined us for that.

Due to problems I had earlier with another restaurant, I half dreaded some last minute problem. My anxiety proved to be unfounded as the party turned out to be a grand success. The portions were generous and the service good. What was important to me was the atmosphere: it was joyful and but in keeping with the significance of the occasion. There were some people there who were not even Christians, let alone Catholics.

I was pleased with the way everything went. I enjoyed the mass as well as the party. All the work in planning and organising the event paid off. The celebrations befitted the occasion, which was an important one in Anya's life.

I made a short speech before the meal in the restaurant. This is what I said:
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. I’d like to thank you for coming today to celebrate Anya’s First Holy Communion. I know some of you have come long distances. There are people here from Birmingham, Coventry and Hertfordshire. So thank you for coming. We appreciate it. I hope you will enjoy the food today. A special thanks to Emilio and his staff for making all this possible.

Now we all need food, food of different kinds. The body needs material food, the mind needs intellectual food, and our spiritual life needs spiritual food.

Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

To us Catholics, the Eucharist or Holy Communion plays a central role in our lives. In many it recreates the Last Supper when Our Lord instituted the Eucharist. It is the THE sacrament, and all other sacraments are enriched by it. Give us this day our daily bread. Jesus loved us so much that He wanted to be with us and within us, and that is the reason for the Eucharist.

So that is why this is a memorable day in Anya’s life. She has been preparing for it for the last few months, going to her communion classes every week and learning what it all means. We are proud of her. She is a talented girl and she brings a lot joy in our lives. Her catechist, Sr. Sheila, said she is a budding theologian. A few months ago she wrote some lovely lines about Jesus. I just want to read to you what she wrote:

“Jesus is like a delicate petal. Everything He does is perfect. How can anybody be bad to Him? He is the light of the world. I love Him deep down in my heart. He will lead us in the right path.”

That’s not bad for an eight year old. We are pleased that the seed of faith is planted within her. In time we hope it will grow and blossom and make her into a lovely, caring, considerate and responsible girl.

Thanks once again. Enjoy the meal.