CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
The time for
first communion drew near and a dozen students fidgeted
in their chairs, whispered and wrote notes to one another
as the teacher explained the sacrament they would soon
receive. One little girl sat quietly apart from the
others. Amanda was handicapped. Physically,
she looked just like all the other children. Mentally she
was a little slow. Grasping abstract concepts
was more difficult for Amanda than for most
seven-year-olds, but she sat in rapt attention as the
teacher attempted to explain the real presence of Christ
in the Holy Eucharist.
said, I am the bread of life, the teacher
said. Whoever comes to me will not hunger, and
whoever believes in me will never thirst. The
children had already heard the stories about the manna in
the desert, the Feast of Passover and the paschal lamb.
Moses gave you the bread out of heaven, the
teacher read the words of Christ, but my Father
gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of
God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives
life to the world. (John 6:32-33)
As she read
those words, the teacher wondered how much these
seven-year-olds actually understood especially
Amanda. It seemed she spent far more time teaching the
children how to behave and how to reverently approach and
receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist than she did in
explaining its divine purpose. Is seven just too
young for first communion, she wondered for what
must have been the thousandth time. She especially
wondered whether anything shed said could possibly
have gotten through to Amanda.
A few days
later, her teaching seemed to have paid off as the class
sat solemnly still in the front pews, all dressed up in
their stiff new clothes. It seemed an eternity passed
before the priest finally finished the Eucharistic Prayer
and the last note of the Lamb of God died out. Amanda
stood to take her place in the line as the children
processed forward for their first communion, solemnly
cupping their small hands in preparation exactly
as theyd been taught.
transfixed as Fr. Mike raised the consecrated Host before
her eyes. The Body of Christ, he said. And
Amanda said amen. Up to that point,
everything had gone exactly as planned. But then it
happened. When Amanda took the Host from her hand and
placed it in her mouth, a grin as broad as the horizon
spread across her suddenly glowing face. She forgot
everything shed been taught about reverence and
solemnity and in the most ecstatic gesture she knew,
Amanda raised two tiny fists into the air, both thumbs
pointing up toward the sky, and with every fiber of her
being, she exclaimed -- Yes!
This time, it
was For Fr. Mike who was transfixed. It was a moment
hell never forget. A little child will lead
them, Christ said and that day, Amanda surely did.
Though her handicap may have made Amanda
intellectually inferior to her peers, her
innocence and faith inspired even her parish priest.
happened several years ago, but to this day a grin
sometimes steals over Fr. Mikes face as he reaches
the part of the Eucharistic Prayer where he proclaims
Happy are we who are called to His supper. It
is most often at that moment, when he looks out upon
parishioners far too mature, intelligent and
well-mannered to exhibit any signs of joy, that Fr.
Mike remembers little Amanda, and her childishly innocent
two thumbs up for Christ.
(Published in New Covenant magazine,