I was very much inspired this morning by a blog post from Sr Silvana. She writes about her memories of her First Communion:
We are fairly close in age and what she describes is very similar to my own experience. Her post has sparked all kinds of memories for me. You’ll see that I look rather pale in my photograph. Alas, I was recovering from yet another bout of cold. The day before my First Communion I had a temperature of 102 and for some hours there was doubt as to whether I would be able to make the great day. I missed school that week and as a consequence missed the class trip to my parish church for First Confession. Arrangements were made for me to have confession just 30 mins before the big Mass. The nuns were beaming, telling me that my soul would be ‘extra clean’ for Jesus. And at that moment, the full and awesome nature of what I was about experience hit me. Jesus was going to be so close he could see the cleanliness of my soul. I calculated that I was unlikely to cross paths with my brother before Mass started, so I’d nicely avoid an ‘occasion of sin’ there, that left only the Mass itself. We’d all been so primed to be on our very best behaviour, so there was unlikely to be any temptation there.
I have to confess to feeling a little over-awed as the Mass started. Luckily, the general excitement of seeing everyone so dressed up took away a little of my fear. During Mass I had more than one glance down at my white patent leather shoes, which were to be my pride and joy for many months to come. My dress was handed down from one of my English cousins. I secretly would have preferred a new one, but the new shoes just about made up for this.
My memories are hazy around the actual moment of receiving Communion. But what I do remember with all my heart is singing this hymn:
God is dwelling in my heart
He and I are one
All his joy He gives to me
Through Christ his son
And with Jesus in my heart
What have I to fear
For He is the Son of God
In my heart He’s near
Christians who are baptized
Have You ever realized
The great mystery
God dwells in You and me.
This joy God gave to You
Share it, with others too
Tell them, that God is love
Lift their hearts above.
Imagine 35 seven year olds raising the roof singing this, smiles filling our whole faces. You can listen here to all its schmaltzy loveliness:
What I love about this hymn is its simple directness. My seven year old self meant every word of this. And, now as an adult there is not a great deal I would add.
Fast forward to 1990, to St Vincent’s school in Acton and you’ll find me teaching this to my class as they prepared for First Communion. They loved it too. I hope today that they have continued to have that strong conviction that God is dwelling in their hearts.
There is a lot to be said for the innocence of our childhood faith and I’m am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with mine.