When I cried opening the cookie box, I knew it would probably be a good idea to wear waterproof mascara.
Having three First Communions under my belt, one would think I know what to expect. But the Holy Spirit surprises me every time.
When Will celebrated his, my brother was kneeling next to me. He grabbed my arm and gave it a squeeze just as I started to fall apart. I won’t ever forget that moment.
With John Paul, I nearly missed the big moment. Luke started fussing and I beelined for the back. But, just as John Paul approached the priest, I spotted an open seat…just feet away from him and got a front row seat. What a moment.
Sweet Anna-Laura’s celebration involved my husband giving her the blood of Christ due to a priest backup of kids. Y’all. That was the ugly cry.
And, our Clare Bear. I saw my two oldest boys scamper to the other side of the altar (they were serving as altar servers), Scott following quickly behind since he was a Eucharistic Minister. As I sat in the pew and watch her confidently walk toward the priest, I was struck by the beauty of that moment. If ever you’ve been in a church, full of people awaiting a First Communion, the love that exists in that space is palpable.
In a word? Awesome.
The week preceding First Communion was full of activity. Last week, I shared all about the par-tay. Clare was counting down the days (and the Masses) until her big day. And then we looked on the calendar and BAM. It was here. Friday morning, my sweet friend Kendra dropped off Clare’s cookies. I opened the box and started to cry. Not only were they stunning, but they were made with such love for my sweet girl. It was too much. I’m not counting out nursing hormones, either.
For the first time, ever, we got the house whipped into shape and completely party ready by 7:30pm on Friday night. People, I’ve been planning parties a long time and that has never happened. And, we were in bed by 10pm. What? It was glorious.
Saturday morning, we were up early putting the final touches on the table, dressing the kids and rolling hair. “Um, Mom, my ears are burning!” A little toilet paper and the hair (and the ears) were saved. I had a flashback to this day. Cue the tears, again.
I don’t know why, but our neighborhood always holds its biannual garage sale the same morning as First Communion. This is problematic because the church is in our neighborhood, too. Gah. So many cars and bargain hunters. I sent the kids, minus Gianna and Clare, with Scott and my mother-in-law on to the church to save seats and get the boys ready for altar serving.
For a moment, it was just the girls and I. I walked into the closet and unzipped Clare’s dress. And fell apart again. I did pull it together long enough to get her dressed. That beauty. That innocence. That love. It won’t soon leave my memory banks.
My mom saved the day by walking in the door just the moment I needed her. All the girls headed to Mass and my mom and Clare walked confidently into church while I parked. What a sweet moment that was.
Deep breaths. Time for Mass. Serving at First Communion Mass is a family tradition for us. I lector, Scott is a Eucharistic Minister and the boy/s altar serve. Will has served for both John Paul and Anna-Laura’s big days, but this was a first First Communion Mass for Master John Paul. The boys rocked it. As I stepped to the ambo to begin the reading, my eye caught Will’s theology teacher, Sr. Maria Fatima. The Sisters came! It’s a good thing I didn’t know that beforehand or I would not have made it through that reading.
If you look closely in this photo, you can see me in the bottom right corner, barely holding it together. I think I was largely unprepared for just how powerful a moment it would be for me to see Will preparing the altar for Clare and the other First Communicants. In fact, I think it was equally beautiful to her receiving the body and blood for the first time. Will always serves with such reverence and this picture really shows that love.
And, just as lovely was watching John Paul carry those chalices with such confidence.
Scott is in the background here, looking on during the consecration of the body and blood. Rocking the pink, no less.
If I may pause for a moment here and share my Pope Francis moment. Gianna was really starting to fuss before the homily. I could see a veeeeery long Mass in my future. It was also about this time I realized I forgot to change her diaper like I planned on doing before Mass. I scooped up the diaper bag and headed for the Marian alcove. Please don’t shame me here, but a desperate mom sometimes does desperate things. I promise I was lightning fast and no one was the wiser. Well, except that 2yo that wandered by to smile at Gianna. That bought me ten minutes, but I knew I’d have to nurse her to make it to communion if I wanted to see Clare’s big moment.
So there I sat, on the front row at our parish, with a packed congregation, and I nursed my baby. With each child that walked toward Father to receive their holy nourishment, I was content to sit in the pew and provide similar nourishment to my sweet baby. It was beautiful and I never even thought twice because I could hear Pope Francis saying, “Feed the babies!” And I think he may have been referencing more than just infants. Can you imagine the Holy Father’s joy at First Communions? So great.
Gianna finished nursing, I handed her off to my mom and I scooted down the pew to sit between my parents. Each of us caught our breath as Clare walked to the priest. Y’all. She never took her eyes off Jesus. And I cried my eyes out. Actually, she’s four communions in and I’m still tearing up.
My good gracious she looked beautiful. And, in this photo you can see our sweet Sr. Maria Guadalupe looking on at Clare. I will love this photo forever. And ever. And ever.
She walked back to the pew, knelt and prayed. I have never been prouder of sweet Clare. She is such a gift.
Father blessed the religious items and the onslaught of photos began!
We’re all in agreement, here. Gianna wins this picture.
This one was before the boys changed out of their altar server robes!
As the day came to a close, presents were unwrapped, dishes washed and house back to “normal,” I walked Clare back to my bedroom, stood her in front of my mirror and told her to take one last look.
“This is how God always sees you. Pure, beautiful and holy. Never forget that.”
She smiled and said, “Mom, can I take off my dress now?”