Blessed Imelda Lambertini
Even though Blessed Imelda was only eleven years old when she died, she was named The Protectress Of First Holy Communicants by Pope St. Pius X.
There had to be a very special reason for this great honour bestowed on her by the Holy Father.
Blessed Imelda Lambertini was born in Bologna, Italy in the early fourteenth century, into a well known family. Her father was a Count, a title reserved for noble families. His name was Count Egano Lambertini and he was a rich, powerful and courageous man. Both her parents were very good living Catholics and were known to be very charitable to the poor of Bologna and especially to the monasteries and other religious who had no source of income: because they devoted all their time to prayer.
Her parents doted on her and she was the joy of their lives. From the very beginning, prayer was at the centre of her home life. Both parents taught her all they knew about God and the saints, and from a very early age, her holiness and prayerfulness were obvious to those who knew her. She even made a little oratory, that is, a prayer room, for herself in her home and she would often go there to pray. Imelda loved to spend many hours in prayer, talking to her Jesus. She dearly loved to think about the Child Jesus and His life and she then tried to be like Him in all that she did. God rewarded her love for Him and filled her with Divine Grace and He made her into a very spiritual child indeed.
The things of the world, money, toys, clothes, parties and so on had no place in her life. Coming from such a wealthy family, she could have had almost anything she wanted, and she did receive many fine presents of toys as well as pretty clothes from her parents and others who loved her for her goodness and her beauty as well as for her maturity. When she did get these beautiful things, she simply carried them to poor children. In this, she was following the wonderful example of her parents who were very charitable to those in need.
But, Imelda was interested in one thing and one thing only: becoming best friends with Jesus whom she longed to serve.
Imelda was never lonely. She loved her parents dearly and, more than the love she had for them was the love she had for Jesus, and she longed for the day she could live totally for Him and receive Him in Holy Communion.
Nobody was at all surprised when one day at the age of nine she sought her parent’s permission to enter the local Dominican Convent. Imelda had a very strong desire to become a religious sister. I am sure her parents nearly died from the shock of losing their darling girl so early in life. However, they knew that she was certain that God was calling her to serve Him as a Dominican nun, and, they recognised her special love and devotion to God and to prayer. Although it broke their hearts to do so, they consented to let her go. They would never stand in the way of God’s grace.
The nuns were thrilled to have this beautiful girl among them and they quickly realised that this was no ordinary young child. They treated her with immense love and as a special gift from God for their community. Imelda desired so much to wear the same habit the nuns wore and they ceded to this request. Indeed, she did not want to be different to them in any way. They marvelled at her spiritual growth in such a short time.
There was one thing Imelda wanted more than anything else and that was to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. When she put on the Dominican habit, she felt bound to Him in a very special way and she knew that He, because of the unique and great love she had for Him, desired to come to her too. She lived the moment when she could finally receive Jesus into her soul. Each time the community were at Mass, when the other sisters received Jesus in the Eucharist, she so yearned to be able to do the same. She begged the Mother Superior to seek permission for her to do so from the priest. However, her response to Imelda was that the church didn’t permit children to receive the Blessed Eucharist until the age of twelve, and she advised her to be patient and to make spiritual communions while at Mass, to unite herself heart and soul to Jesus spiritually without actually receiving Him.
Poor Imelda! Her whole being was devoted to Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. With all the ardour of her soul she loved Him and wanted only to receive Him. Her love was so intense that she was heard to ask some of the sisters in the community: “Tell me, is it possible to receive Jesus into one’s heart and not die?” This was the extraordinary expression of a young girl of nine who wanted nothing more than to be united with her Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist.
Three years was, for Imelda, an awful long time to wait. But, oh how she suffered, a suffering she was content to endure out of obedient love as requested by the Mother Superior. Ah, but Jesus is so generous to those who give Him everything, and after she had carried this cross of suffering for some time, He did something so truly wonderful for Imelda to show He understood her suffering and to demonstrate His Divine Love for her.
On the 12th of May, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven in the year 1333, when she was by now 11 years old, Imelda was at Mass with the community. She prayed with all her little heart. Once again, the sisters went up to receive her Hidden Friend and, once again, she felt the pain of being unable to do so. However, she got as close to Him in prayer as she could and, when Mass was over and thanksgiving prayers were said, the nuns got up and left.
The only thing to break the silence for Imelda was her heart beating with love for her forever Friend. And, then it happened!!
The nuns realised that Imelda was not with them and they decided to return to the Church to look for her.
- What an incredible sight met their eyes. They saw Imelda in an apparent ecstasy and lost in wonder at a bright shining light over her head. It was a brilliant white Sacred Host suspended in the air and it remained suspended while one of the sisters ran immediately to inform the priest.
When he witnessed what was happening, the priest understood immediately the message the Good Lord was giving to him and to the community. Imelda was to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist: Jesus longed to come to this pure heart that desired Him so much. The priest was to give Imelda her First Holy Communion. He went and got the paten on which he placed the Sacred Host and proceeded to give it to Imelda, who could only feel so much joy and love and gratitude!
And what about Imelda? Well, she never looked back. She was now united to her Jesus forever!