Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day by Margaret Ullrich

Happy Mother's Day!!
Wishing Moms and their families a lovely day!

May is a busy month for Catholics.
Little seven and eight-year-olds are receiving their First Communion.
The first big day in a Catholic's life.
I mean, who remembers being baptized, which usually happens when we're infants.

Paul and I are Eucharistic Ministers.
That means we help give out Communion at Masses.
Extra hands means that part of Mass gets done more quickly.
We were Eucharistic Ministers today.
No surprise.
Gloria plans the list way in advance.

Sometimes being an EM can be funny.  
A few weeks ago, while I was giving a Mom her Communion, her little girl (whom the Mom was holding) reached out for the host. 
The Mom and I laughed.

Times have sure changed for us 'Catholics of a certain age'.
Back in the 50s, only the priest could touch the host.
It was placed on a person's tongue.
Our hands couldn't touch Jesus.
Receiving Communion was like playing soccer.

We were not allowed to eat anything from midnight.
We'd heard how people avoided food to 3:00 pm, to receive at a wedding.
We'd also heard how some people fainted.
Our First Communion Mass was in the morning.
That meant no breakfast.
We prayed we'd stay upright until we could eat the snacks our Moms brought for us to eat after the big event.

And the host was never chewed.
As my second grade teacher asked, "Would you bite Jesus?"
We were horrified at the thought.
I mean we'd just gotten through Lent.
The whipping and crucifixion were bad enough.
No way would we bite Him after all that.

And the host was to be swallowed dry.
As is, no water, no nothing.

I was terrified.
I just knew I was going to choke on Jesus.
Or have him stuck to the roof of my mouth.
Or spit Him out.
Or, worse yet, I'd vomit.
Jesus covered in puke.
I'd go to Hell, for sure.

My Ma tried to reassure me.
The hosts were small, I'd gulped bigger things, I'd do fine.
No dice.
I was sure I'd puke and be damned.

Then Ma came up with the idea of practice communions.
She would tear a slice of Wonder Bread into tiny bits, squish them as flat as she could, and then place them on my tongue.
We practiced every night for a few weeks before my big day.
The bits gradually became bigger.
I got used to swallowing dry bread.

On the big day, Jesus was easy to swallow.
No choking.
No puking. 
No damnation.

A few years ago in May, during one of my parents' visits, Paul and I were on the list to serve as Eucharistic Ministers.
As we were going to Mass, we didn't call anyone to substitute for us.
It was no big deal.

During Mass we sat with my parents.
Paul and I walked to the altar in plenty of time to serve.
We got into position, as we'd done hundreds of times.
Folks came for Communion, as they'd done hundreds of times.

But, then my Ma came down the aisle for Communion.
She didn't receive from the priest.
She turned from him and approached me.
She was smiling in a way I'd never seen before.
I gave my Ma Communion.
The real thing.
Not squished Wonder Bread.

I remembered and almost cried.
We'd come full circle.
The giver was now the receiver.
From the one she had taught.

Erma Bombeck once wrote about driving her Mom to an appointment.
Erma had to brake suddenly.
Her arm shot out to prevent her Mom from smashing into the dashhboard.
Something parents always did before safety belts were invented.
And even after they were invented.
An old habit from when dashboards were metal.
Something Erma's Mom had always done for her daughter.
Erma and her Mom exchanged a look. 

Parents and children sort of change places.
In church.
In cars.
In life.


All comments are moderated. Spam will not be posted.