Give up? It was St. Pius X, the canonized Holy Father whose memorial the Church celebrates on Aug. 21.
Pius? keystone for building our life as Christians is receiving Holy Communion frequently, hopefully at daily Mass. The only two requirements for reception: Be free from mortal sin and have the right intention.
Relevant Radio host Father Larry Richards says it?s significant that, in the ?Our Father,? we ask God not for our weekly bread but our daily bread. ?When you receive the Eucharist each day,? he says, ?you?re given strength for your journey? through life.
It?s a point made in a 1905 decree approved by Pius X, Sacra Tridentina (Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion).
As a popular retreat master, Father Richards (who?s online at ReasonforOurHope.org) always asks, ?How many really believe that Jesus Christ is really present in that tabernacle?? Many hands rise. Then, ?How many go to daily Mass?? Only a few hands go up.
Father Richards, who says he largely discerned his vocation by going to daily Mass, recognizes that some can?t keep that schedule for various legitimate reasons. But, he says, many can ? and many should.
Legionary Father John Bartunek, author of The Better Part (Circle Press, 2008), also knows firsthand the powerful effects of daily reception.
?Holy Communion isn?t just one more thing we do,? he says. ?It?s actually the most intimate encounter we have with Our Lord. Everything is directed toward it and everything else ? all my Christian activity, my efforts to build Christ?s Kingdom ? flows from my love for him and his love for me.?
What helps most to live frequent Communion worthily is a vibrant personal prayer life, says Father Bartunek. He notes that Pope Benedict stressed this in his meeting with young people on his visit to Saint Joseph?s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., and in his homily for World Youth Day 2008.
And speaking of youth, Pius X also lowered the age for first Holy Communion from 12-14 to about 7, the age of reason, in the 1910 decree Quam Singulari (First Communion).
?It?s a message for all members of the Church that holiness isn?t a product of our own strength,? reflects Father Bartunek. ?Holiness comes from God. Children can receive the means of holiness. St. Pius X said we will have children saints.?
Whenever he thinks of children receiving Holy Communion, he thinks of Blessed Imelda Lambertini. Pius X made her patroness of first Communicants. Living in the 14th century, she longed to receive Holy Communion but could not. Tradition holds that she died of love at 9, after miraculously receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
It?s a favorite story of Dee-dee Mihaliak. In Avon, Conn., she and husband Charlie are realizing all the benefits of daily Mass and frequent Communion for themselves and their five children.
?The attempt to get the children to daily Mass is so important because of the grace they receive and the world we live in,? says Dee-dee. ?That grace they get from receiving Christ is the extra strength they need.?
She advises making every effort to go. She finds that ?when you precede it with the joy that?s going to proceed from the Mass, the children see it as a beautiful thing, a gift. It?s not a chore.? Drawing from her time in China, she tells her kids that many Chinese children never get the opportunity to go to Mass or must attend in secret. ?That we?re not only able to attend Mass but have choices of churches to go to on a daily basis,? she says, ?means we should be running there.?
Preparation and Thanksgiving
Father Bartunek emphasizes the importance of parents being motivated and giving a good example. ?Bring the family a little early to pray before the Mass begins,? he recommends. ?If children see their parents dressing well to go to Mass, and after Mass see their parents kneel and pray with reverence, that?s what teaches the children what it means to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.?
He says seeing their dad on his knees in prayer is a powerful witness to children ? that brings the lesson home and stays with them.
The Mihaliaks put these suggestions into practice. ?The way we dress dictates the way we behave in many ways,? says Dee-dee. ?How do you dress to go see your King?? To make things easy, her children wear their homeschoolers? uniforms on weekdays.
Pius X counseled careful preparation before Holy Communion and thanksgiving afterwards.
Driving to Mass, ?we have to prepare mentally by having quiet time,? says Dee-dee. The children read spiritual books on the way, like the Magnificat, so they?re not distracted. Four-year-old John contemplates his prayer intention for the day.
?This is an opportunity to prepare themselves mentally for receiving Christ,? says Dee-dee. Fruits are abundant in sometimes surprising ways. During a litany on a retreat with 14-year-old daughter Kathryn, the teen recited from memory. When Dee-dee asked about it, Kathryn told her mom, ?When we sit in daily Mass and we?re early, I look for prayers in the back of the book, and I memorized it.?
Fruits of Frequency
Frequent Communion grows these fruits and others that Pius X promoted.
?If you understand Holy Communion as the most intimate personal encounter we have with Our Lord, everything else falls into place around that,? says Father Bartunek. ?Devotion to Mary brings us closer to Christ. Catechetical instruction enlightens our mind about who Christ is. Gregorian chant is reverential music that brings peace to the soul so that we can focus on Christ.?
As Sacra Tridentina promises, ?by frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist, union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient. ? Hence the Holy Council calls the Eucharist ?the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sin.??
No wonder Dee-dee Mihaliak says, ?I have never regretted getting children to Mass in the morning, but I have regretted not getting them there.?
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.