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Blessed Imelda Lambertini

on Saturday, 01 September 2018. Posted in Saints & Blessed

Patroness of First Communicants

In his Wednesday general audience on March 21, 2018, the Holy Father reminded us that each time we receive Communion, we further resemble Jesus; we are transformed further into Jesus. In the same way that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord, those who receive His Body and Blood are transformed into a living Eucharist. In Our Lord's words: "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. (John 6: 56).

When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God, the Creator of heaven and earth, into our hearts. He wants to be united to us so that we may resemble Him. What a great mystery! Many seem oblivious to God's gift to us and yet, if we understood it in the least, as many saints have said, we would die from love. This is what happened to a young Dominican sister (third Order), Blessed Imelda Lambertini, who died at age twelve shortly after receiving her first Holy Communion. Here is her biography:

Imelda was born into the noble Lambertini family in Italy. Born in Bologna in 1321, she was baptized Magdalen and was blessed with an early understanding of the beauty of the faith.

Magdalen had no difficulty taking direction, nor did she have the usual whims of childhood. As soon as asked, she would leave the most animated play and set to work. She created a small chapel that she herself adorned, and her great joy was to retire there to pray.

Her soul could not bear the splendour of her father's home as she already understood the emptiness of worldliness. According to an ancient custom in the Church, children were sometimes received into monasteries. They wore the religious habit without their future being compromised, and were subject to only part of the religious community's Rule. At the age of nine, little Magdalen asked this grace from her parents with such insistence that they agreed to bring her to the Dominican convent at Valdipretra, near Bologna.

Magdalen wore her habit with joy and changed her name to Imelda, which means "given to the world like honey", inspired, perhaps, by her meek and kind nature. Though only a novice, she chose to follow the Rule in its entirety. She was constant in her service to God. She feared no austerity she encountered. In all things, she sought to resemble the crucified Christ.

Never tiring, the saintly child resembled an angel worshipping God and spent many hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, she shed many tears, especially when the sisters went to receive Communion. She would sometimes ask: "Please explain to me how one can receive Jesus in her heart without dying of happiness?" The sisters in the community were deeply inspired by Imelda's devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

It was customary for children to receive their first Communion at the age of fourteen at that time. Imelda, consumed by her love of God, begged to be admitted to the Holy Table, but it was not thought necessary to make an exception for the young novice. Imelda turned 12 in 1333 on the Feast of the Ascension. She again asked to receive Holy Communion, but her confessor remained adamant that she should wait.

The child, crying, went to the chapel to attend Mass. The Lord Jesus conceded to her love of Him. At Communion, a Host rose from the ciborium into the air, travelled past the choir gate, and stopped over Imelda's head. The sisters witnessed this miracle and advised the priest. He approached Imelda with the paten, and the Host came to rest upon it. Understanding it was the will of God, the priest, with trembling hands, offered Communion to Imelda. It was said she looked more like an angel than a mortal being.

The bewildered sisters looked in amazement at this child who radiated a supernatural joy while prostrated in adoration. They called out to Imelda, asking her to stand, and then ordering her to do so. The child, normally eager to obey, seemed unable to hear them. The sisters attempted to stand her up, and then realized that Imelda had passed away. She had died of joy and love at the moment of her first Holy Communion.

This young Italian girl is known as "the Flower of the Eucharist". Little Imelda Lambertini was beatified in 1826 and was declared the patroness of first communicants in 1910 by Pope Saint Pius X. In the same year, he established that children could make their First Communion at an earlier age.

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