St Gemma Galgani -A Patron Saint for children and First Communion
Although it is not required, it is certainly a good and holy practice in the Catholic faith for a person to select a special Patron Saint to guide, protect and intercede in one's life, along with the one that was chosen at Baptism by one's parents. Preparation for a child's First Holy Communion is certainly a great time for the child to select a special patron and friend from heaven as a holy example for them to imitate and model their spiritual life after. In seeking a patron Saint, especially for children, perhaps some may find the holy life of St Gemma Galgani to be an inspiration and example to imitate.
At the time when Gemma was a child in the late 1880's, children normally did not receieve Jesus for the first time in Holy Commuinion until around the age 12. It was Pope Pius X who some thirty years later lowered the age from age 12 years to 7 years.
Ever since Gemma could remember, she longed to unite with Jesus, especially in the Eucharist in Holy Communion. As her childhood years progressed, her desire to receive Jesus grew and grew. She fervently longed to unite with him in the Blessed Sacrament. By age 8, she kept asking to receieve Jesus, but her Priest-Confessor kept telling her she was too young. Let us read Gemma's own words from her Autobiography to find out how God in His infinite Goodness answered the desire of His little Gemma:
Gemma prepares for her First Communion at the Sisters of ST. Zita School -1887
(Gemma is writing to her Spirtual Director, Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P.)
"I started to school at the Nun's school and it was heaven for me. I immediately expressed my desire to make my first Communion but they found me so bad and so ignorant that they discouraged me from it. They began, however, to instruct me and to give me much good advice. But I only became worse. Nevertheless, my only desire was to make my first Communion soon and they, knowing how strong was my desire, granted my request before long.
The nuns used to have the children make their first Communion in the month of June. The time had come and I had to ask my father's permission to enter the convent for a short time. My father, who was indisposed, did not grant me permission. But I knew a very clever way to make him let me do anything, so I used it and got the permission at once. (Every time my father saw me weeping he would grant me whatever I wanted.) I cried, otherwise I would not have received the permission. In the evening he gave it and early the next morning I went into the convent where I remained for fifteen days. During this time I saw none of my family. But how happy I was! What a heaven it was, dear Father!
Once inside the convent, I found it to my liking and ran to the chapel to thank Jesus. I begged him fervently to prepare me for Holy Communion.
But I had also another desire besides this. When I was a little girl my mother used to show me the crucifix and tell me that Christ died on the cross for men. Later on, my teachers taught me the same thing but I had never understood it. Now I wanted to know all about the life and Passion of Jesus. I told my teacher of this desire and she began, day by day, to explain these things to me, choosing for this a time when the other children were in bed. She did this, I believe, without the Mother Superior knowing of it.
One evening when she was explaining something to me about the crucifixion, the crowning with thorns, and all the sufferings of Jesus, she explained it so very well that a great sorrow and compassion came over me. So much so that I was seized immediately with fever so intense that I was forced to remain in bed all the next day. From that day on the teacher explained such things only briefly.
These nuns caused me some disquiet. They wanted to inform my father that I had contracted the fever. But it did cause a lot of trouble, not only for me but for them and for the whole convent. This happened especially during the ten days of the retreat.
With eleven other children I began the retreat on the 9th day of June. Father Raphael Cianetti preached the retreat. All the children devoted themselves eagerly to prepare well to receive Jesus. Among so many, only I was very negligent and distracted. I gave no thought to changing my life. I listened to the sermons but very soon forgot what I heard.
Often, even every day, that good Father said: "He who eats of Jesus will live of His life." These words filled me with much consolation and I reasoned with myself: Therefore when Jesus comes to me I will no longer live of myself because Jesus will live in me. And I nearly died of the desire to be able to say these words soon (Jesus lives in me). Sometimes I would spend whole nights meditating on these words, being consumed with desire.
Finally the day I wanted so much arrived. The day before I wrote these few lines to my father:
Today is the vigil of my first Holy Communion, a day of great joy for me. I write these lines to assure you of my affection and to beg you to pray to Jesus that the first time he comes to me he may find me disposed to receive all those graces that he has prepared for me.
I beg your pardon for all the displeasures and all the disobedience that I have been guilty of, and I beg you this evening to forget all these things. Asking your blessing, I am
Your affectionate daughter,
I prepared myself, with much work on the part of those good nuns, for my general confession. I made it in three sessions to Msgr. Volpi. I finished it on Saturday, the vigil of that happy day.
Finally, Sunday morning came. I arose early and ran to Jesus for the first time. At last my desires were realized. I understood for the first time the promise of Jesus: "He who eats of me shall live of my life."
Dear Father, I do not know how to tell what passed between Jesus and me at that moment. Jesus made himself felt very strongly by my poor soul. I understood at that moment that the delights of heaven are not like those of the earth. I felt myself overcome by the desire to render that union with my God continual. I felt weary of the world more and more, and more disposed to recollection. It was that same morning that Jesus gave me the great desire to be a religious.
FIRST COMMUNION RESOLUTIONS
Before leaving the convent I made certain resolutions regarding the conduct of my life:
1. I will receive Confession and Communion each time as though it were my last.
2. I will visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament often, especially when I am afflicted.
3. I will prepare myself for every feast of our Blessed Mother by some mortification, and every
evening I will ask my heavenly Mother's blessing.
4. I want to remain always in the presence of God.
5. Every time the clock strikes I will repeat three times: My Jesus, mercy.
I would have liked to add other resolutions to these but my teacher would not permit it. And she had good reason, for within a year after I returned to my family I had forgotten these resolutions as well as the good advice I had received and I became worse than before. I continued to go to school to the nuns and they were fairly satisfied with me. I went to Communion two or three times a week and Jesus made himself felt ever stronger. Several times he made me feel very great consolation. But as soon as I left him, I began to be proud, more disobedient than before, a bad example to my companions and a scandal to all.
At school, not a day passed on which I was not punished. I did not know my lessons and I was almost expelled. At home I would not let anyone have peace. Every day I wanted to go for a walk, always wearing new clothes which my poor father provided me for a long time. I ceased to say my usual prayers morning and evening. But while I was committing all these sins I never forgot to recite every day three Hail Marys with my hands under my knees (a practice my mother had taught me that Jesus might protect me every day from sins against holy purity)."
St Gemma receieved her First Holy Communion on June 17, 1887 which was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that year. And, so we see that Jesus answered the desire of His little Gemma by giving her Himself in the Eucharist, and that on the Feast of His most Sacred Heart, which is in reality the Eucharist Itself!
~St Gemma, pray for us!
Here are some words of St Gemma on Holy Communion
"Today I have recieved Jesus, and now I posess Him entirely in my miserable soul. In such moments my heart and the Heart of Jesus are one. Oh, if only I could make it remain so always! It would mean that I would not commit anymore sins. Oh, what precious moments are those at Holy Communion! Communion is a happiness, Father, that seems to me cannot be equalled even by the beatitude of the Saints and Angels" -St Gemma Galgani