First Holy Communion is received around this time of year by second graders, and it is inspiring to hear stories of saintly First Communicants. For example, we have that of Blessed Imelda Lambertini from the 1300s. The age to receive First Communion back then was twelve. Imelda was nine. She begged to receive the Eucharist, and though she prayed daily with the nuns in the nearby church and exhibited an understanding of the sacrament, she was denied. One night, on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, the young girl was praying in the chapel after Mass. The nuns present smelled roses and saw a bright light. Suddenly, a consecrated host floated in the air and hovered above the girl. The priest was immediately summoned and, placing a paten underneath the host, he gave Imelda her First Communion. The girl proceeded to enter into an intense, ecstatic prayer. Her First Communion was her last. When the nuns lifted her up, she was dead. Imelda was known to have said in the past when arguing her cause, "Tell me, can anyone receive Jesus into his heart and not die?" She died out of love.
Saint Gemma Galgani was born in the late 19th Century. The seven-year-old begged her pastor to give her communion. He finally relented, saying, "there was no alternative but to admit her to holy Communion; otherwise we will see her die of grief." He had learned from Imelda's case. Gemma received her communion and would treat each communion until her death eighteen years later at age twenty-five as if it was her first and last. "Oh, what precious moments are those at Holy Communion!" she said. "Communion is happiness that seems to me cannot be equaled even by the beatitude of the saints and angels."