FRANTZ: An exceptionally ‘special’ First Holy Communion

May 14, 2024

I’ll never forget the moment our middle child made her First Holy Communion. It was three years later than most but for a good reason. 

Mimi was born with severe cerebral palsy that affected her both physically and mentally. From her diagnosis at eight months, our days were soon filled with speech, occupational and physical therapy. Over the years, there were also a few orthopedic surgeries. Mentally, Mimi remained a delightful little child her entire life and was known for her incredible hugs. Despite her many challenges, Mimi was very connected to her Catholic faith.  

Mimi’s faith journey started as an infant when she was baptized. During her elementary years, Mimi attended Catholic faith formation classes: I volunteered for kindergarten and first grade with Mimi in attendance. After that, I volunteered as a catechist aide for several years. I was always watching for indications Mimi had some understanding of the mystery of Christ and the Holy Eucharist. With her limited communication skills, it was difficult to know. 

Before Mimi approached the age when most children receive their First Holy Communion, my husband and I had many discussions. Was she ready? How do we know? We had already experienced Holy Communion formation with Mimi’s older sister, Katie, but this was different.  

During these discussions, I was often reminded of Matthew 19:14, when Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them: for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  

In my heart, I knew Mimi understood her Catholic faith according to her limited capacity. But was it enough? 

Over the next three years, my husband consulted several priest friends about our wait. The discussions were positive, but still, we hesitated. Separately, I would meet with our parish priest over these same three years. It was my last meeting where I got the message. 

That night at dinner, I told my husband, “I met with Father again about Mimi and her First Holy Communion. He expects to see her at confession this Saturday. Then Father said we should schedule her First Holy Communion.” We agreed Father had spoken definitively about the matter. Naturally, we obeyed.  

That Saturday, I took Mimi to Confession, pushing her wheelchair into the confessional. I sat across from the priest with Mimi, held her hand and helped her with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

When the time came, I worried Mimi wouldn’t open her mouth to receive the Holy Eucharist: sometimes, her reactions were unpredictable. It turned out, though, that she knew exactly what to do. Mimi, then 11 years old, along with her second-grade brother, Ricky, received their First Holy Communion together. My husband stood on one side of Mimi, and I stood on the other. We each held a hand so she would save her hugs for the priest after Mass. Everyone applauded afterward. It was one of the most special moments of our lives. 

Dixie Frantz lives in Kingwood and is the author of “A Joyful Embrace: A Memoir” available on Amazon. She wrote it about her special needs daughter.

(OSV News photo)