FIRST HOLY COMMUNION
This is a happy day for the Parish. Every Solemn First Communion is a happy occasion. It means that your children have advanced another very important step in their Christian education. They have drawn very close to Christ, the Lord of the world, as close as is possible in this world. They have received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
As I told you last year, parents should make preparations and see that this day in the lives of their children be one that they can never forget. There should be a special breakfast or dinner. A special cake should be baked, candles should be lighted, your finest silverware should be used, and the child who receives his or her First Holy Communion should be given the seat of honor. Then it will be difficult for your child ever to forget this great day. This is the universal custom in France, and we read in the life of Napoleon that he always remembered. When dying in Exile on the Island of St. Helena, he was asked what was the greatest day of his life. He said immediately: "The day I received my First Holy Communion."
Shortly after I came here as your pastor, I began to insist on family Communion. The family, I said, is not built today on firm foundations. I said that I did not want to see the family split up when they approached the Sacred Banquet Table to receive the Bread of Life. I did not want to see the ladies of the Altar Society receive one Sunday, the men on another Sunday, and the children on still another. I wanted you to receive Communion as families. So we inaugurated the custom of having all of you whose names began with A, on through to N, to receive Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month, and on the second Sunday, all whose names began with O, on through Z. By doing this, fathers and mothers will receive Holy Communion together with their children and this will tend to strengthen family ties.
On this day I wish to remind parents that they must take the lead and set the example for their children. It is almost invariably the rule that if parents are lax and lazy about going to Mass on Sundays, their children will be lax and lazy. If you are what we call "hickory Catholics", so-called because the bushes must be beaten with a hickory stick to drive you to Mass, then your children will be "hickory Catholics".
If you, the parents, go to confession and receive but once a year in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, your children will do the same. Our Catholic people can preach far more eloquent sermons than the priest can give, by simply being regular and constant in the practice of their religion. The best sermons are those preached by example.
We rejoice with the little children who are receiving the Body of Christ for the first time. We know from the Gospels that our Divine Lord dearly loved little children, and He told us that unless we have the simple faith and trust of little children we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. "Amen I say to you, unless you become as little children you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." During this Mass all of us will beseech the Good Lord to shower His blessings upon them, that the Faith so happily strengthened today will grow and become stronger still with the passing of the years.