May 13 marks the feast day of Blessed Imelda Lambertini (1322-1333), the patron saint of First Communicants. Blessed Imelda is one of the youngest saints of the Church, joining her Maker in Heaven at age eleven. Her yearning for the Holy Eucharist, and simple faith in the Lord remind us of the words of Jesus: "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all" (Mark 10:15).
Imelda was born into one of the oldest and wealthiest families of Bologna, Italy. Her father, a count, and her mother lavished her with every gift a child could want, but Imelda seemed to be looking for more than earthly treasures. Her parents were both devout Catholics, and Imelda was taken to Mass on a daily basis. From her mother, she learned to give her life in service to others, taking care of the poor of her town. Her mother also instructed her in the history and concept of the Holy Eucharist, which lit a fire in Imelda’s heart for a closer relationship with the Lord. Even at the young age of five, she would spend the majority of her time alone in prayer, arranging a sacred space in the corner of her room, adorned with flowers and pictures. She displayed great devotion to Saint Agnes of Rome and Our Heavenly Mother, Mary, Queen of Angels. At her fifth birthday, following receiving many gifts, Imelda inquired of her parents if she might have just one more. Her father, angered by what he perceived to be greed, rebuked her. However, she whispered to them, “I’d like to receive Our Lord in Holy Eucharist.”
Of course, at that time in history, Holy Communion was not granted until the age of 14, so Imelda had many years to wait. When Imelda reached the age of nine, she went to live at the Dominican convent at Val di Pietra, her wish to be trained by the nuns and enter the religious life. While such young girls were seldom accepted into the convent, Imelda’s holiness and zeal for the Lord was soon realized and inspired the community. She received the Dominican habit soon after her entry in the convent. She was especially devoted to the Eucharist, falling into ecstasy at Mass, before the Tabernacle, and at exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The one true desire of her heart was to receive the Eucharist, frequently stating, “Tell me, can anyone receive Jesus into his heart and not die?"
On the feast of the Ascension, when Imelda was eleven, her yearning for the Holy Eucharist was fulfilled. Following Mass, after her sisters had received Communion, Imelda remained behind in the chapel in prayer. One nun, having returned for her, was amazed to see a Eucharistic Host, surrounded by a warm light, hovering in the air above Imelda. She summoned a priest, who when confronted with this miraculous occurrence, had little choice but to grant Imelda her first Eucharist on the spot. Imelda received the Lord, and sunk into rapturous ecstasy. Her sisters left her to pray alone in joy, and upon returning, found that she had died, her heart broken from the love she felt for God and the joy she experienced in their union.
Blessed Imelda Lambertini’s life was driven by a single purpose—to have a closer relationship with the Lord who created her. Her drive, the very reason her heart beat, led her to the Eucharist—the source of life and hope for each of us. We pray that we remain conscious of the great gift that we receive in the Eucharist, and that we never take for granted or doubt the important role this awesome privilege plays in our humble lives!
Bible John 6: 25-40; 53-58:
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
Lord Jesus Christ, you received into heaven Blessed Imelda who loved you in the Eucharistic banquet. By her prayers may we learn to approach your holy table with that same fervent love and so fulfill our longing to be with you, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Text shared from 365Rosaries