CATECHETICAL DIALOGUE WITH CHILDREN
“What Are Your
Memories of Your First Communion Day?”
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2005
(Zenit.org).- Here is the catechesis that Benedict XVI addressed last Saturday
afternoon to children who were receiving their First Communion this year.
* * *
1. Andrea [asked the first
question]: “Dear Pope, what are your memories of your First Communion day?”
Benedict XVI: I would first
like to say thank you for this celebration of faith that you are offering to
me, for your presence and for your joy. I greet you and thank you for the hug I
have received from some of you, a hug that, of course, symbolically stands for
As for the question, of
course I remember my First Communion day very well. It was a lovely Sunday in
March 1936, 69 years ago. It was a sunny day, the
church looked very beautiful, there was music. ... There were so many beautiful
things that I remember. There were about 30 of us, boys and girls from my
little village of no more than 500 inhabitants.
But at the heart of my
joyful and beautiful memories is this one -- and your spokesperson said the
same thing: I understood that Jesus had entered my heart, he had actually
visited me. And with Jesus, God himself was with me. And I realized that this
is a gift of love that is truly worth more than all the other things that life
So on that day I was really
filled with great joy, because Jesus came to me and I realized that a new stage
in my life was beginning, I was 9 years old, and that it was henceforth
important to stay faithful to that encounter, to that communion. I promised the
Lord as best I could: “I always want to stay with you,” and I prayed to him,
“but above all, stay with me.” So I went on living my life like that; thanks be to God, the Lord has always taken me by the hand and
guided me, even in difficult situations.
Thus, that day of my First
Communion was the beginning of a journey made together.
I hope that for all of you too, the First Communion you have received in this
Year of the Eucharist will be the beginning of a lifelong friendship with
Jesus, the beginning of a journey together, because in walking with Jesus we do
well and life becomes good.
“Holy Father, before the day of my First Communion I went to confession. I have
also been to confession on other occasions. I wanted to ask you: Do I have to
go to confession every time I receive Communion, even when I have committed the
same sins? Because I realize that they are always the same.”
Benedict XVI: I will tell
you two things. The first, of course, is that you do not always have to go to
confession before you receive Communion unless you have committed such serious
sins that they need to be confessed. Therefore, it is not necessary to make
one’s confession before every Eucharistic Communion. This is the first point.
It is only necessary when you have committed a really serious sin, when you
have deeply offended Jesus, so that your friendship is destroyed and you have
to start again. Only in that case, when you are in a state of “mortal” sin, in
other words, grave [sin], is it necessary to go to confession before Communion.
This is my first point.
My second point: Even if, as
I said, it is not necessary to go to confession before each Communion, it is
very helpful to confess with a certain regularity. It
is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at
least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in
cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen but
it builds up.
Something similar can be
said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is
neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer
understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress.
And this cleansing of the soul which Jesus gives us in the sacrament of
confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence,
it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two
things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is
very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty
of the soul and to mature day by day in life.
3. Andrea: “In preparing me
for my First Communion day, my catechist told me that Jesus is present in the
Eucharist. But how? I can’t see him!”
Benedict XVI: No, we cannot
see him, but there are many things that we do not see but they exist and are
essential. For example: we do not see our reason, yet we have reason. We do not
see our intelligence and we have it. In a word: we do not see our soul and yet
it exists and we see its effects, because we can speak, think and make
decisions, etc. Nor do we see an electric current, for example, yet we see that
it exists; we see this microphone, that it is working, and we see lights.
Therefore, we do not see the very deepest things, those that really sustain
life and the world, but we can see and feel their effects. This is also true
for electricity; we do not
see the electric current but we see the light.
So it is with the Risen
Lord: We do not see him with our eyes but we see that wherever Jesus is, people
change, they improve. A greater capacity for peace, for reconciliation, etc.,
is created. Therefore, we
do not see the Lord himself but we see the effects of the Lord: So we can
understand that Jesus is present. And as I said, it is precisely the
invisible things that are the most profound, the most important. So let us go
to meet this invisible but powerful Lord who helps us to live well.
“Your Holiness, everyone tells us that it is important to go to Mass on Sunday.
We would gladly go to it, but often our parents do not take us because on
Sundays they sleep. The parents of a friend of mine work in a shop, and we
often go to the country to visit our grandparents. Could you say something to
them, to make them understand that it is important to go to Mass together on
Benedict XVI: I would think
so, of course, with great love and great respect for your parents, because they
certainly have a lot to do. However, with a daughter’s respect and love, you
could say to them: “Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, it is so important for us all, even
for you, to meet Jesus. This encounter enriches us. It is an important element
in our lives. Let’s find a little time together, we can find an opportunity.
Perhaps there is also a possibility where Grandma lives.”
In brief, I would say, with
great love and respect for your parents, I would tell them: “Please understand
that this is not only important for me, it is not only catechists who say it,
it is important for us all. And it will be the light of Sunday for all our
5. Alessandro: “What good
does it do for our everyday life to go to holy Mass and receive Communion?”
Benedict XVI: It centers
life. We live amid so many things. And the people who
do not go to church, do not know that it is precisely Jesus they lack. But they
feel that something is missing in their lives. If God is absent from my life,
if Jesus is absent from my life, a guide, an essential friend is missing, even
an important joy for life, the strength to grow as a man, to overcome my vices
and mature as a human being.
Therefore, we cannot
immediately see the effects of being with Jesus and of going to Communion. But
with the passing of the weeks and years, we feel more and more keenly the
absence of God, the absence of Jesus. It is a fundamental and destructive
incompleteness. I could easily speak of countries where atheism has prevailed
for years: how souls are destroyed, but also the earth. In this way we can see
that it is important, and I would say fundamental, to be nourished by Jesus in
Communion. It is he who gives us enlightenment, offers us guidance for our
lives, a guidance that we need.
6. Anna: “Dear Pope, can you
explain to us what Jesus meant when he said to the people who were following
him: ‘I am the bread of life?’”
Benedict XVI: First of all,
perhaps we should explain clearly what bread is. Today, we have a refined
cuisine, rich in very different foods, but in simpler situations bread is the
basic source of nourishment; and when Jesus called himself the bread of life,
the bread is, shall we say, the initial, an abbreviation that stands for all
And as we need to nourish
our bodies in order to live, so we also need to nourish our spirits, our souls
and our wills. As human persons, we do not only have bodies but also souls; we
are thinking beings with minds and wills. We must also nourish our spirits and
our souls, so that they can develop and truly attain their fulfillment.
And therefore, if Jesus
says: “I am the bread of life,” it means that Jesus himself is the nourishment
we need for our soul, for our inner self, because the soul also needs food. And
technical things do not suffice, although they are so important. We really need
God’s friendship, which helps us to make the right decisions. We need to mature
as human beings. In other words: Jesus nourishes us so that we can truly become
mature people and our lives become good.
7. Adriano: “Holy Father,
they’ve told us that today we will have Eucharistic adoration. What is it? How
is it done? Can you explain it to us? Thank you.”
Benedict XVI: We will see
straightaway what adoration is and how it is done, because everything has been
properly prepared for it: We will say prayers, we will sing, kneel, and in this
way we will be in Jesus’ presence.
But of course, your question
requires a deeper answer: not only how you do adoration but what adoration is.
I would say: Adoration is recognizing that Jesus is my Lord, that Jesus shows
me the way to take, and that I will live well only if I know the road that
Jesus points out and follow the path he shows me.
Therefore, adoration means
saying: “Jesus, I am yours. I will follow you in my life,
I never want to lose this friendship, this communion with you.” I could also
say that adoration is essentially an embrace with Jesus in which I say to him:
“I am yours, and I ask you, please stay with me always.”
* * *
Address of the Holy Father
at the Conclusion of Meeting
Dear boys and girls,
brothers and sisters, at the end of this very beautiful meeting I can find one
word only: thank you.
Thank you for this feast of
Thank you for this meeting
with each other and with Jesus.
And thank you, it goes
without saying, to all those who made this celebration possible: to the
catechists, the priests, the Sisters; to you all.
I repeat at the end the
words of the beginning of every liturgy and I say to you: “Peace be with you”; that is, may the Lord be with you, may joy be
with you, and thus, may life be good.
Have a good Sunday, good
night and goodbye all together with the Lord. Thank you very much!
[Translation issued by the
Holy See; adapted here]