It is customary at our parish for the children who are about to receive First Holy Communion and/or Confirmation to attend the closing night of Forty Hours Devotion. This is a mixed bag sometimes. On the one hand, did Christ not beckon the children to come to Him? On the other hand, this is South Philly we're talking about and for a lot of folks, the sacraments are nothing more than a cultural rite of passage. I recently heard the pastor of a nearby church say that in our neck of the woods, Baptisms are part sacrament and part riot-control. He's only half-joking. I must admit to a certain amount of trepidation when I saw the little ones trooping in tonight, some of them literally running down the aisle. But by the grace of God, it didn't take long at all for them to settle down and occasionally, I would sneak a peek over at them. The expression on their faces was priceless. They were totally awestruck. And also by the grace of God, their parents were on their best behavior, too.
Although we celebrate Forty Hours in the Ordinary Form, it is most reverent and the preaching always centers on the Eucharist. The music was exquisite and it's a blessing that the choristers gifted with the most beautiful voices are chosen to sing at this service. I don't think it would occur to the children to talk or fool around, not only because of the solemnity of the sight before them but also because of the splendor of the voices and the grandeur of the organ. Apologies to Haugen fans but I don't think "Gather Us In" would command the same kind of rapt attention. How fitting that as our Eucharistic King was lovingly carried by the priest throughout the church in the Monstrance, every eye was riveted on Him. I pray that the impression made on these children will carry them through their young lives and on a journey that leads them to Heaven. I pray, too, that the Holy Spirit would ignite a spark in their parents to realize the gift they have been given in the faith.