Finding Joy and Holiness: Reflections on Mother's Day and First Holy Communion

Dear St. Anthony’s Parish Family,

First of all, I want to wish all Mothers’ a very Happy Mothers' Day today. 

Although last Sunday, I tailored my homily to our First Holy Communicants, I spoke to those of you at the 4 p.m. Mass last week about how much I enjoyed my visit with my mother the day prior. I am so grateful for my Jewish mother! 

I pray that all of us will pray for our mothers today and love them in some way - a visit, a phone call, facetime, a stop at the cemetery. And for all mothers, my hope is you will either be with your children today or at least hear from them. 

Sometimes Mothers' Day can be a day of sadness when a child isn't talking to the parents, or if a child has died. We must pray for the healing of all wounds between mothers and children, children and mothers, and in confidence we recall that "nothing will separate us from the love of Christ" (Romans 8:38). 

We of course also congratulate our First Holy Communicants. 

I was able to speak with a few of them after the Mass, and the ones I spoke with told me that they really did feel Jesus' joy and happiness inside of them, localized in their stomachs - which means that they were indeed properly prepared to receive Our Lord. 

He usually (though not always) grants that grace of what we call a sensible consolation upon reception of First Holy Communion, so our faith and hope are rewarded with evidence of love. If you haven't felt God's presence within you after receiving Holy Communion, there are only three reasons why. 

1. This one is difficult to mention, but it must be mentioned: 

If you are in a state of mortal sin and you have not been to Confession to have the sin absolved by Jesus Christ, who forgives sins sacramentally through the priest, then you will not feel God at Holy Communion, and you shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion until you go to Confession. 

2. More common is the second reason: 

A lack of reverence. Since the 1960s, we've become accustomed in our modern ways to become very relaxed around Jesus. To say, "Jesus is my friend" has been misinterpreted to mean "Jesus is my buddy!" And so we come to church with a very casual attitude.

The truth of the matter - and this has been attested to by every great saint I can think of - is that before we enter the Lord's presence, we must recollect ourselves and realize that we are about to come before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Yes, He loves us dearly, of course. But as St. Teresa of Avila put it so perfectly: 

"Essential to humility is reverence." 

Unless you show, in your actions, in your thoughts, and (maybe) in your attire (I am not certain about this - the former two are far more important) that you are indeed aware you are standing before the King, He will not acknowledge you until you are ready to acknowledge Him. 

In summation: 

If you are not feeling God in you after Holy Communion, it could mean that you have lost your sense of reverence for God. 

3. If you have no serious sin on your soul and if you are indeed reverential to God when you enter into His holy presence, and you still do not feel the presence of the Lord - rather you feel only dryness and desolation - then in this case God is purifying your soul for a deeper union with him. God will withdraw sending sensible consolations because He wants us to worship the God of consolations, and not the consolations of God! With this kind of dryness, which can last months or years, the key is to recognize that God is working His grace at a level "beneath" sense and body, and in doing so He is transforming your body of its tendencies to concupiscence, that is, its tendency to sin and vice, especially the sins of lust, gluttony, and anger. 

Sometimes souls in this state actually find it painful to pray and go to Mass. 

The strategy is to keep going and to remain reverent of God. In time, all the sudden, God will be through much of His work purifying your body, and then the flood of sensible consolation of God will become a torrent unlike you've ever experienced in your life. And if you still feel sensible consolations at Holy Communion, enjoy it while it lasts. It usually doesn't last very long, quite honestly. 

It's like a Honeymoon period. My hope is that all of us in this parish are either still in the Honeymoon period of feeling Jesus at Holy Communion, or else you are at point number 3 above. Knowing human nature as I do, and having been a priest for almost 16 years, I regret to say that most Catholics fall into the category of point number 2, and more than we would like to admit are stuck in point number 1. 

The good news is that both are easily remedied. 

Going to Confession isn't difficult. 

The priest won't remember anything of what you say anyway - he's too busy wanting Jesus to forgive you. 

As for cultivating reverence before God, that's not hard but it does involve some alterations. For starters, we probably shouldn't be talking in church. The moment we enter church, we really ought to be focused entirely on the Tabernacle. Second, as we kneel to pray, we ought to form our words into proper sentences in our minds before we speak to so awesome a King as Jesus. You might think to yourself, why should I do this if Jesus knows what I'm thinking anyway? 

Again, consider His majesty. You ought to choose your words properly when speaking to a King. 

This is not Fr. Waldman's opinion, by the way. It is what he has read in every book in which saints give advice on how to pray. After formulating our words and speaking them under our breath or in our minds, we must then remain focused on Jesus and on loving Him when we are in church. It takes practice, but it can be done. 

And maybe your pastor ought to do a better job modeling this, too! 

Mea culpa. 

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