That's Jack, receiving his First Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI at the canonization Mass of St. Nuno (among others) in April of 2009.
Here's what he said . . .
On April 19th we got some disappointing news. After a month and a half of calling various offices in the Vatican and petitioning the Bishops' Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican, we thought we had finally found the right person to talk to. An unidentified Irishman in the Prefecture of the Papal Household had discreetly instructed us to call the Vatican switchboard and ask for the office of Msgr. Guido Marini, the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. He was the man who could arrange for my son Jack to receive his First Holy Communion from the Holy Father at his next public Mass on April 26th. While no one in Msgr. Marini’s office could speak English to us, we knew we were very close to achieving the goal of Jack’s many prayers.
We knew a priest in Rome who spoke Italian. When we asked for his help, he said that he knew Msgr. Marini and thought that it would not be a problem to arrange our request – just one more little boy in the Communion line. It wasn’t long before we heard from a very understanding and gracious Msgr. Marini that in the case of a canonization Mass, it is the postulators for the causes of the various saints who have the ability to assign individuals to the Pope’s Communion line. We had been barking up the wrong tree for a month and a half. And we now had a week left to make it happen.
Ever since my wife’s spiritual director had suggested that we request that the Pope administer Jack’s First Communion during our upcoming trip to Rome, Jack had been offering little sacrifices, his bedtime prayers, and the family Rosary for it. Unable to fight the feeling that the wind had left our sails, the family joined Jack in praying for a miracle. I asked God for an outcome that would glorify Him in the eyes of my son. I also had the thought that we should find out who the new saints were going to be, on the off chance that we would have a connection to one of them. If nothing else, we could pray for their intercession.
|Jim & me, Jack, Bobby, Betty, and Gus.|
Anita came with us, in a non-view room.
That is the first we had heard of then-Blessed Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, O.Carm. I reached up and held my scapular, and all of a sudden I felt all over again as if this improbable goal could actually happen. Blessed Nuno got a lot of prayers from the Tierneys that night. On top of it, I had Jack find his scapular and put it back on for the thousandth time. Being 6 years old, he had a habit of constantly taking it off. And we finished up by asking Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to ask her Son to let Jack in the Communion line.
|You can see Jim's head and little Gus in |
his blue raincoat in the lower left.
In less than 48 hours, by way of Fr. Tim Andres and Fr. Carl Markelz on one hand and by way of the Blessed Nuno Society of Duluth, MN (we contacted them through their website) on the other hand, we received word that Fr. Raul Maravi in the Curia had spoken to the Postulator General for the cause of Blessed Nuno, Fr. Giovanni Grosso. Fr. Grosso had received our petitions from both avenues and had assigned the one remaining ticket for the Holy Father’s private Communion line to John Paul Tierney, Candidate for First Holy Communion, Northridge, CA, USA! In an email, Fr. Maravi enthusiastically certified it as the miracle that it was.
We arrived in Rome the night before the Mass, and I picked up the ticket at the Carmelite residence near the Vatican. The next morning, we seated Jack by himself in the Pope’s private section an hour before Mass, as required. He then had to sit patiently through 2 hours of alternating rain, sun, Latin, Italian, Portuguese, etc. until it was time for Communion. Being about 60 rows back, my wife and I could see that Jack had removed his hat and left his umbrella at his seat, as we had coached him to do. He waited patiently in line with his hands respectfully glued together, occasionally craning his head left and right to see what the hold up was. At the appointed time, he carefully ascended the steps, kept those hands together, and reverently knelt to receive Our Lord from the Pope. It was a very emotional and touching moment, and I can’t adequately describe how proud we were of him. On top of that, the whole chain of events which led to that moment testified to the power of prayer and sacrifice. We asked God for a miracle, and we received one.
Here’s what Jack has to say about his big day: “I liked looking the Pope in the eyes. It made me feel special. He smiled at me. And the Host tasted good.” I should also add that he hasn’t taken his scapular off even one time since April 19th.
We also got to eat A LOT of gelato.
Of course the timing of Pope Benedict's announcement is no accident. Lent is an appropriate time for all of this. It feels dark and sad and confusing now, but like every Lent, this one will end with Easter and triumph.
God bless Pope Benedict XVI and his successor!
For an excellent take on how we as the faithful should approach the coming days please check out Happy Catholic*.