Blessed Imelda Lambertini (1322-1333), Patroness of First Communicants
Today, the Church honors Imelda Lambertini, who lived her brief life in total adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.
Imelda was born in 1322 to a noble and devout family in Bologna, Italy. As a child she developed a great love for prayer, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Holy Eucharist. She spent much of her time in the Dominican monastery praying with the nuns, and, at nine years of age, requested to enter there as a postulant. Her parents and the nuns allowed her to enter. However, in that era children her age were not permitted to receive Holy Communion.
Imelda repeatedly pleaded to receive Communion, but each time she was denied. Nevertheless, at her young age, she developed a close relationship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, understanding and believing in the Real Presence of the Risen and Glorified Christ in the Eucharist.
When the feast of the Ascension approached, Imelda begged to make her First Holy Communion on this feast. Again, she was denied. On May 12, 1333, during the Vigil of the Feast of the Ascension, she was in the chapel praying as usual, while the other Sisters were receiving Holy Communion.
After Mass, as one of the nuns was clearing the altar, she heard a noise and looked up to the choir to see Imelda with a glowing light shining above her head, with the Sacred Host suspended in the light. The chaplain was called at once, and he understood that Jesus Himself was making His desire known. “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
The priest gave Imelda her First Holy Communion. Imelda remained kneeling in prayer in thanksgiving as the nuns left the chapel. When they returned for her, they found her just as they had left her, but her body was lifeless. It was understood that Imelda died of pure ecstatic joy after receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which she had so ardently desired.
Imelda’s mortal remains are interred in the little Church of Saint Sigismund at Bologna. She was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1826.
The story of Blessed Imelda is so well-entrenched in the collective memory of her Dominican brothers and sisters that it has remained firmly as a part of the Order’s history. She continues to offer the witness of an innocent child but with mature desires, and a pure faith unspoiled in its intensity.
For Imelda understood instinctively what many of us have forgotten: that it is the single-hearted (those whose devotion is pure and undivided) who are truly blessed and that, unless we become like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed Imelda Lambertini is the patron saint of First Communicants, and we commemorate her feastday on May 12th (May 13th in some parts of the world).
(From nashvilledominican.org, catholickingdom.com, aquinasandmore.com and http://catholicsaints.info)
(The following prayer is from the Dominican Breviary for Blessed Imelda Lambertini)
“O Lord Jesus Christ, You have received into Heaven the holy maiden Imelda, on fire with charity’s burning love and wonderfully refreshed by the stainless sacrifice; grant us, by her intercession, to draw near with like fervor to Your Holy Table, so that we too may long to be dissolved and to be with You.
“For you live and reign with our Heavenly Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”