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Blessed Imelda, patroness Fervent First Communion

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Several years ago when I was teaching CCD (Catholic Sunday School!), I wanted to make the students aware of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a concept which is sometimes brushed aside in today's busy society.

I decided to try an experiment. I told my students that I was going to tell them a story and they were to decide if it was a true story or not. I told the following story to them:

There was once a little girl named Imelda. She was a very pius little girl and her one desire was to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Since she went to a convent school, she was at Mass daily but at the time she was going there, girls did not receive their first Communion until the age of 12.

So, daily, little Imelda, then 10 years old, watched with a great longing in her heart as the older girls took Communion.

One day, the priest looked up and saw something over Imelda's head (we do not know what he saw - perhaps a golden light?) and he was inspired to come over to Imelda and give her Communion even though she was too young.

Her First Communion turned out to be her last, because she went into estasy at receiving the Lord so intimately and died immediately.

After telling my students the foregoing, I asked:

"Now it's your turn to tell me if you think this story really happened."

Their first reaction to the story was negative, as I expected.  I heard comments of...

"That's ridiculous - someone dying after receiving a Communion?"

After all, these young folks were from the twentieth century, and tended to be scientific and skeptical of stories like this.

But as they discussed it, a strange thing happened. In thinking of the nature of Communion, they, on their own (I intentionally remained silent to see what conclusion they could come up with by themselves), decided that it probably WAS a true story and that Imelda or anyone else might indeed, die in ecstasy receiving the True Body and Blood of Jesus.

The discussion was intense, and all of us, interested in it, were caught by surprise when the bell, ending CCD, rang.  They all turned to me, glued in their seats...(and keep in mind these students were usually out the door, one minute after the bell).

"Well, tell us," they said, almost in unison, "Is it true?"

I told them that it was indeed true and that Blessed Imelda had lived around 1300 AD.

Ironically, I first read about Blessed Imelda in a somewhat anti-Catholic biography by a woman who had gone to Catholic school. She wrote, somewhat scornfully, how the nuns seemed to speak ceaselessly about how holy, Blessed Imelda was, because she had died after her first communion at the age of 5 (the author of the book was wrong about the age of death).

Intrigued, I could not find any information on her in any of my books. I knew that the local Kino Institute probably had the several volume set of books about the saints so I called them and asked them to look up Blessed Imelda for me, explaining I had no access to those books.

The lady who answered the phone said someone would call back. But when a priest called back, he explained that he didn't want to spend the money to read the entry to me because it was a toll call. I asked him to please allow me to call HIM back (so I could pay for the call).

He consented somewhat unwillingly, obviously bored with the subject and me.

I did call back and he read the entry. When he came to the part about Blessed Imelda dying in estasy after her first Communion, his voice visibly softened as if he remembered something which he had perhaps, forgotten lately. He said gently, "Well that was a long time ago".

But I knew that this small saint ministered to him as much as she did to me.

And I hope that Blessed Imelda has ministered to you also!

Addenda: Recently I was reading in a book of Eucharistic Miracles and found out that Imelda's surname as Lambertini and that after her death, her body has remained incorruptible for all these hundreds of years!

And of course, with the Internet how it is today, there is a lot of information on Blessed Imelda on the web.  For example:

Catholics-on-line short bio