By CECILE SAN AGUSTIN
PATERSON - On the Feast of Corpus Christi May 25, First Communicants celebrated having received the Eucharist for the first time with a catechetical session by Bishop Serratelli at St. John the Baptist Cathedral here.
The children represented parishes from all around the diocese and came with their parents filling the cathedral to standing room only. The children asked questions about faith, the saints, Jesus and even about the bishop himself. In addition to catechesis by the bishop, the celebration included a procession with the First Communicants and honored Jesus with Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
To greet the congregation, the bishop said, "What beautiful day on the outside, what a magnificent day on the inside. On this wonderful feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the great mystery of the Eucharist. We gather with our First Communicants from around the diocese. They come with the spirit of joy in their hearts reminding us about how truly blessed we have been by God to receive Jesus. As we join with them today, we celebrate the great gift of the presence of Jesus to us. Let us use this as a moment to rekindle our own faith, to revitalize our own love and to draw closer to the Lord Jesus."
The Scripture reading at the celebration was from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, recalling Jesus' at the Last Supper telling his apostles to "remember me" through his body and blood.
The bishop then went into the center aisle of the cathedral and began catechesis with the children, mostly in second grade, by expressing the significance of the Eucharist. The bishop said to the First Communicants, "Jesus gave us the mystery of the Eucharist so he can remain with us forever."
For the First Communicants, the bishop related their first Eucharist to a story about St. Dominic Savio, one of the youngest canonized saints of the Catholic Church. Bishop Serratelli told the young Communicants, "On the day of his First Communion, Dominic Savio did something unusual. He took a piece of paper and wrote down a number of promises he made to God the day he first received Jesus."
Dominic Savio's promises were - Jesus and Mary will always be my best friends; I will go to church every Sunday and the Holy Days; I will never commit a sin; I will go to Confession and Holy Communion as often as I can.
The bishop said, "Because he remained faithful to those promises by the time he was 15, God decided to call him into heaven and make him a saint."
Following his reflections, the bishop then invited the First Communicants to ask him questions.
From a First Communicant from St. John Cathedral, the bishop heard the first question, "What's the priests favorite prayer?"
The bishop responded by saying, "I think you have to ask every priest what their favorite prayer is but I'll tell you want my favorite prayer is."
"What prayer did Jesus teach us?" asked the bishop as the children responded the "Our Father."
"We say it at Mass and you know why it's my favorite prayer. Because it comes from the lips of Jesus."
Another question asked by a First Communicant was, "What was bishop's favorite sacrament?"
The bishop replied, "My favorite sacrament is the Eucharist. You know why it's my favorite sacrament because all the other sacraments, whether it's baptism, confirmation, penance, all the other sacraments are meant to lead us to the Eucharist, lead us to Jesus or take the mystery of the Eucharist like anointing of the sick to make us better. All the other sacraments are centered around the Eucharist."
From a First Communicant from Boonton, the bishop heard the question, "What disciple received Jesus first?"
The bishop said he couldn't say for sure but took an educated guess. "We know at the last supper the position of honor was given to St. John, he has the position of honor closest to Jesus, so a good guess would be it was John, the beloved."
About the bishop's own First Communion, one child asked, how old the bishop was when he received First Communion.
"I was seven," the bishop said. "I remember the day. How many of the adults remember their First Communion? It's like one of the best days of our lives."
Another First Communicant asked the bishop, "Who is your favorite saint?"
The bishop said, "The Blessed Mother. You know why? All of us have mommies but we didn't choose ours. God chose His own mother. God gave us Mary who gave us Jesus and she watches over all of us."
For the final question, a First Communicant asked the bishop, "What's the easiest thing about being a bishop?"
"The easiest thing is being happy. When I look out at you, at the parents, when I go to so many parishes in the diocese and I see how much people love God, I know the easiest thing to me is to be happy because I know the Holy Spirit is alive in our diocese."
Following catechesis, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was held and then, the children were led by cross and torch bearers outside the cathedral. Bishop Serratelli followed carrying the Blessed Sacrament under a canopy while the congregation sang, "Come Adore." Benediction before the Blessed Sacrament occurred afterward with a recitation of the Divine Praises.
At the end of the celebration, the bishop gave each one of the First Communicants a picture of Our Lady of Grace to remember the day. The children and their families were also invited to a light reception at the Bishop Rodimer Center next to the cathedral to meet Bishop Serratelli.
To the First Communicants, the bishop said, "God has a plan for each of us and he wants us to do great things in this world when we grow up. Perhaps we may be a doctor, perhaps we may be a lawyer, perhaps may be the president of the United States but the best thing God wants us to do is to stay close to Jesus especially in Holy Communion."
Similar to Dominic Savio, the bishop said, "I want you to do me a favor. When you go home, get a sheet of paper, put your name on it and write, 'My First Holy Communion' and make just two of your promises that you want to make to Jesus. Keep it and every year and go back to it and see if you can keep those promises. Whether it be to 'be nice to people whether it be to pray everyday.' Whatever you want to do the most to please Jesus to thank him for coming to you in Holy Communion."