First Communion A letter from St Gemma

A Letter from St Gemma on the occasion of a First Holy Communion

"What do You wish, oh my Jesus? That my love may always be unchangeable? For this I will nourish myself every day with Thy Flesh and Blood." -St Gemma Galgani

Cecilia Giannini, Gemma’s close friend and adoptive “mother”, had a nephew named Mariano Giannini who was about to receive his First Holy Communion, and she desired to give him some enlightenment and encouragement as a special remembrance of the occasion. Thinking of Gemma’s burning love and devotion for Jesus in the Eucharist she had a sudden flash of inspiration---she would ask Gemma to write a letter to her nephew Mariano in her name. Gemma reluctantly agreed to do this, out of love for God and souls. In the letter the reader will not only see Gemma's fervent love of Jesus in His Holy Sacrament, but we will discover many lessons on approaching and receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Lack­ing the original, we print here the translation as it appeared many years ago in The Cross, the magazine of the Passionists in Ireland:
(Taken from the book "The Gem of Christ" by Father Francis, C.P.)

"My Dear Mariano: A few days hence, and then, my child, you will no longer be a mere creature of earth. Jesus is waiting for you, eagerly waiting. And the angels are making ready to guide your steps to Him. You are going to be­long to Heaven, to belong wholly to Jesus - and you will continue to be His forever, will you not, my dear?”

"Rejoice and be glad that the day you so longed for is not far off: rejoice with Jesus, look up and lift up your eyes to heaven. Your eyes must no longer be set on the world and the things of the world; they must belong to God. Turn them to Him, then--look and see Jesus actually present there in the Holy Tabernacle. You do not see Him with your dear eyes, but you feel in your heart that He is there. And when you receive Him for the first time, and have His sweet Presence inside your being, then you will know better than I can tell you how glad those moments are: they will remain impressed upon your mind and heart, and all through life you will remember fondly the joy of your First Communion.”

"Have no fear to approach Jesus; go to Him with confidence. Listen to what He says to you: 'I stay here waiting for thee: I am looking, long­ing, for thee: come to Me then, I am thy Father.'
Go and meet Him, then, with a loving embrace, hide Him in your little heart and close Him up there forever. Do you know, Jesus will gladly abide there? He Himself has said: 'It is my delight to be with the children of men.' And since Jesus has this desire surely we ought to satisfy it. When you are purified from your sins in Con­fession, and when you receive for the first time on your tongue that beautiful Gift of God's Love, oh then, Mariano; how happy you will be!"

"The good and zealous priests have already fully instructed you about everything, I know, but still I feel it is a time when I would like to say a word to you myself. Do you know, dear, there is one thing that I have very much at heart for you. There is a vir­tue so sweet and beautiful in the eyes of God that Jesus has promised a special place in Heaven to those who keep it bright and whole: I mean the virtue of holy purity. I pray that Jesus may find your heart pure and spotless and that He may always make His dwelling there. You know that Jesus dwells among the lilies, and you will, I trust, ever keep your heart pure as a lily. In His heavenly dwelling place He will permit nothing unclean to enter; beg of Him, therefore, to grant you this precious virtue."

"Another thing, my dear Mariano. You are young still and innocent of the ways of the world. But when you come to mix with it you will find that it is full of deceit and can only bring sorrow, while Jesus always brings joy. You will also meet with many hearts to love you, but you will find them all different from the Heart of Jesus. May the thought of that Heart be always present with you! It is the Heart of a God - but don't be frightened at this, for it is also the Heart of a Man which no one need fear to approach. Yes, a human Heart is the Heart of Jesus - but how different from all other hearts! If we nestle close to this Heart we shall soon find that it is a Heart without peer, the King of all hearts. You must always, then, be very devout to this Sacred Heart."

"There is yet another thing that touches me very keenly, for it is something that pains Jesus: I shudder at the mere thought of it. Think of it, Mariano - there are Christians, there are Catholics, who have lost faith in the Blessed Eucharist. Oh, what a frightful crime against the good God! Pray for them, dear, and promise Jesus that you will always be faithful. Say to Him: 'If they be­lieve not, I believe all the more fervently.' Promise Him, too, that you will never let yourself be overcome by fear of the world. And then strive hard by your prayers and your good example to bring all men back once more to the Faith."

"There are so many things I would like to say to You that my heart almost runs away with my pen, but I must break off here and leave them to Your good mother to tell you. And the words of your mother will make a more lasting impres­sion on your heart. Still I am sure you will not despise the words of your aunt who is so devoted to you and who loves you as if you were her own child.
"Now, pray constantly for your dear parents that they may be enabled with God's help to bring you up in piety and virtue and guide you on the path to Heaven. And then don't forget to pray for,
Your truly affectionate aunt."
As the years progressed, Mariano grew up to be a devoted chronicler of the life of St Gemma. As one of the 11 Giannini children and thus having lived with Gemma for over 3 years, he knew Gemma very well through his own everyday contact with her and also those of his family. To him we owe much first hand information about St Gemma. He provided a wealth of information during the canonical processes, and later he wrote several books of his families life with St Gemma entitled "Gemma in Casa Nostra -La Mia Famiglia e S Gemma" (Gemma in our house -My Family and St Gemma) by Mariano Giannini.

Gemma's love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist often caused her to take flight into the high regions of divine contemplation, where Jesus spoke to her heart and told her how pleased He was by her Visits, how they recompensed Him for the coldness and forgetfulness of men and the crimes of sinners. Such were the visits of this lover to her Beloved. She seemed scarcely able to distinguish between the delights of heaven and "the Paradise of Jesus," as she called the Blessed Sacrament. Com­plying with Father Germano's desire to know ex­actly how she spent the day, she put the Visits at the head of the list without regard to the se­quence of time: "The morning with Jesus at seven o'clock; in the evening before Jesus at six o'clock."

If such were the Visits of this lover to her Spouse, what must have been her Communions, the culmination of the Mystery of the Love of Jesus. Her heart hungered for this Divine Food always, but toward evening this desire grew stronger and sweetly tormented her through the slow moving hours of the night. Here are her own words: "Last night and the night before, while thinking of Holy Communion, I felt myself growing faint and my heart was in commotion. Yesterday evening also before going to supper I said some prayers, among them this one: 'Grant, oh Lord, that I may pass from this little meal to Thy Great Supper.' I stopped a few minutes to think of this and, there and then, I felt forced towards Jesus."

That her health might not suffer from loss of sleep, her Spiritual Director forbade her to think of Holy Communion during the night. In the morning she was the first to be up and dressed, so eager "to go to the Feast of the Love of Jesus" as she called it, that she had not time to speak even to her Angel when he was visibly present. Every other thought was banished from her mind as she began her careful preparation: "It is a ques­tion," she said, "of uniting two extremes; God Who is everything and the creature who is noth­ing; God Who is Light and the creature Who is darkness; God Who is Holiness and the creature Who is sin. There cannot be enough preparation for it."
The greatness of receiving Holy Communion so impressed her that through humility she would have stayed away had not Our Lord encouraged her to receive Him with love and trust in His infinite mercy.

Here are some great little quotes from St Gemma concerning the Eucharist:

1 comment:

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