Eugene’s first communion, at the College of Nobles in Turin, was concisely noted in his exile Diary:
It seems his masters and in particular Father Scati were also happy with his good sense, for he was admitted to first communion before the age of ten. He had this joy on Holy Thursday in the year 1792.
Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI p. 32
The brevity of this entry does not indicate the importance of the event or of the Eucharist for him, as one of the foundations of his spirituality. Bishop Ricard, who had been a diocesan seminarian in Marseille, recalled:
One Holy Thursday – as I personally recall – we were in the Cathedral of Marseille. The bishop (Eugene de Mazenod) was officiating with the gentle dignity and recollection that made him renowned among all the bishops, his contemporaries. Unexpectedly we saw him cry and, while trying, he could not conceal it. The seminarians who surrounded the bishop’s throne, struck by the emotion of the Bishop, were moved as they looked at him. He noticed this, and turning to one of them, the author of these lines, whose short-sightedness made his staring more obvious:
“Young man,” he said with that simplicity that made him win hearts, “do not be startled like that – today is the anniversary of my first communion.”
Mgr Antoine RICARD, “Monseigneur de Mazenod, évêque de Marseille, fondateur de la Congrégation des Missionnaires Oblats de Marie Immaculée, p. 12.“
Forty seven years after his first communion he praised God for
the great lights and inspirations that God has wanted to communicate to me for a good number of years concerning the admirable sacrament of our altars ─ in reparation for the little fruit that I drew from the extraordinary feelings with which the person of the Divine Savior favored me…
Diary, 17 March 1839, EO XX
In later entries we will have the opportunity to explore this aspect of his spirituality in a deeper way. Today, this text could be an invitation to recall my own first communion as one of the steps in the formation of my personal spirituality.
“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” James E. Faust