In this month of May, many children experience the great joy of receiving their First Communion. Among them was my son David. It was a very exciting day for all of us! One of my friends gave him a coloring book about Blessed Imelda Lambertini, the patroness of First Communicants. It was the first I had heard of her, but the boys and I loved reading her story and I thought that others might enjoy learning more about this young saint.
Blessed Imelda was born in 1322 in Bologna, Italy, to the very wealthy Count Igano Lambertini and Castora Galuzzi. She was an only child and grew up going to mass frequently with her family. From a very early age she was very devout. Imelda learned from the example of her mother to care for the poor of their town. Her mother also told her about Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. She explained to her very young daughter how Jesus could do all things, that simply by his words, he was able to change the bread and wine into his own body and blood. She also instructed Imelda that Jesus gave his Apostles the ability to change bread and wine into his body and blood as well, and that this power has been passed down through Bishops and Priests throughout all the centuries. Imelda was filled with such a great desire to receive Jesus in Holy Communion that she begged her mother to allow her to receive. Unfortunately, she was only five years old and at that time, children needed to be fourteen years old in order to make their first communion. She tried to wait patiently for that much-longed for day.
When she was nine, Imelda decided to enter the Dominican Convent in Val di Pietra. At that time, entering a convent at such a young age was not unusual. Even as a member of the convent, however, she still could not receive communion. She prayed and prayed that Jesus would grant her wish and allow her to receive him sooner. She waited hopefully for some sign, yet none came. Every time she went to mass, it caused her great pain that she could not receive. In May of 1333, Imelda was eleven years old. On the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, she asked the priest if she might make her First Communion. Once again, he denied her request. After mass, Imelda remained in prayer before the tabernacle, begging Jesus to come to her. Another sister who had stayed behind to clean the chapel saw a great miracle taking place. The Eucharist had come out of the tabernacle and was hovering above Imelda’s head. This sister ran to get the priest who immediately gave communion to Imelda. The other sisters left Imelda alone to pray after this miraculous event. Several hours later, two sisters came to check on her. When they touched her, they realized she had died in a state of ecstasy. Imelda was beatified in 1826. In 1910, Pope St. Pius X began to allow children to receive Holy Communion at age seven. He also named Imelda the patroness of First Communicants. Her body is incorrupt.
Blessed Imelda provides a wonderful example for both children and adults of what it means to desire Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Source: “Let the Children Come to Me” by Kenneth L. Davison, Jr. Catholic World Mission, 2003