By Coby, an 11 year-old autistic student in the Faith Formation Program at Saint Nicholas and Saint William Parish.
Mapping in my mind the events of the day, I tried to remain calm. It was a gorgeous day and particularly pleasant weather. The trees joyfully ruffled their leaves in the morning breeze. The St Williams Church parking lot was transformed from boring asphalt to a fine decorated space of deliberate celebration. The chairs were set up in cozy clusters for families that came to attend this festive Saturday service. The select few kids showed up in festive attire, among them the lucky me in my newly tailed navy suit. I seldom get this dressed up, but today was worth the effort.
In the background of the yellow decorated altar, the banners from each first communion child hung proudly. Mine was hanging there, too, simple and glorious at the same time. Mom stitched it with such love and anticipation for weeks leading to this day, my First Communion Day. Having long waited, grieving the delays due to pandemic, I couldn’t feel my face nor fingertips due to the smiling, nervously grinding my teeth, and fidgeting.
The service started and the happiness leaped around in my heart. “Getting giddy, I am very aware how you feel” mother whispered to me. I wish I could tell her “Definitely” but my mouth just struggled to have control over my ismy utterances. “Happy today, Coby?” Catherine inquired form behind her cotton mask. This lady, my Miss Pleasant Lady Cathrine, with her brown dark hair as the nest of swans, was the one instrumental person in helping me join the catechism classes. She has lovingly eased my journey to this day. She saw through my disability and never doubled my desire to receive Holy Communion. I gleefully grunted at her in agreement and gratitude.
Finally, during the service the time came for me to receive my communion. I watched the approaching priest in trepidation. It was Father John, who was always light and welcoming in his demeanor, tall and wore his priest tunic looking like a willow tree in the fall. Father John bent down to me, picked up the Host from the chalice and raised it to my eyes. “This is the body of Christ”, he said slowly. “I know how much you longed for this. I am so very proud of you, young man”. I felt my mom gently pick up my palms and help me form a bowl with them as we had practiced days ago “Say it now”, she prompted. Grunted, deliberate, meaningful and simple “Amen” came out of my mouth, to my relief. Dosaly and humbly I watched a white cracker being placed into my palm. I lifted two fingers as my mother asked to form a pincer grasp on the host. Mother lifted my fingers and gently guided the host into my mouth, where I finally tasted it. The host felt light, brittle, and smoothly melted against the moist roof of my mouth. My feelings were happiness and I might have flown into the air if I by some miracle had grown some wings. I felt like flying anyway. The moment and the space after felt so incredibly loving.
Receiving First Communion, I can say it how, has been one of the most gentle and natural steps for me to take. Direct participation in my religious community life has really made a difference in how I perceive my life and my challenges. I really learned self acceptance here and touched upon so many inspiring stories. Taking First Communion made me feel like I belonged to a bigger family, God’s greatest masterpiece. The best way I can summarize, it felt like coming home.