"Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keep my word, he will never see death." St. John, 8:51.
Did you ever hear of the Boiler Kid? His real name was Fred Snite. A former student at Notre Dame University, young Snite was stricken with infantile paralysis while traveling in China many years ago. The doctors said he would live about a week. But he continued to live past those projections, living with unbeatable courage, living with a cheerfulness and hopefulness that have only one explanation. When asked the source of his strength and spirit, this brave young man gave the answer: "Daily Communion."
But why was he called the Boiler Kid? When paralysis made it impossible for him to use the muscles needed for breathing, made it impossible even to speak a single word, he was placed in an iron lung, which looks a great deal like a boiler. Only his head is free. His generous and devoted parents and friends gave him every help during the years he had to live in this 'boiler.'
For a long time he could not move or breathe or speak. What a miserable condition! In his helplessness, however, he had a hidden source of strength and power - Holy Communion. Only after several months was he able to utter a single word. Faintly and feebly but full of faith he uttered it. The one word was - "God."
With the gradual recovery of strength he could speak a phrase. And what do you think his first words were? One morning as the priest held up the Sacred Host before Holy Communion the Boiler Kid spoke from his heart the beautiful sentence: "0 God, how can I thank Thee for this Gift?"
Yes, how can anyone thank God for this Gift of Himself, the Gift that does so many wonderful things for us, as we see every day. Today we would like to mention more effects of Holy Communion.
1. The Bread of Angels gives us courage. Thousands of examples are at hand, both in Christian history - like St. Claire driving an attacking army from her convent with the Eucharist, like St. Thomas More of whom we heard last week, and in modern history - like Fred Snite, the Boiler Kid. Holy Communion gives moral and physical courage.
2. Receiving Holy Communion also takes away venial sin, if we have sorrow and repentance. Accidentally, it may take away mortal sin, and indirectly the temporal punishment due to sin.
3. Best of all, Holy Communion helps us to avoid sin. We can do what God wants when God is with us, in us. How much easier it is to be humble when the humble Christ comes into our hearts. How much easier it is to be kind when the kindly, gentle Christ dwells within us. How much easier obedience becomes when our obedient Lord lives in our hearts. How much easier are chastity, patience, unselfishness, when we receive the One who has all those virtues.
4. Communion repairs the ravages of sin. Every living thing needs continual repair. Repair means making good that which is damaged and lost. True medicine of the soul, Holy Communion repairs the wounds of sin, and makes us less likely to give in to sin in the future.
5. Heavenly Food that it is, Holy Communion also gives pleasure. As there is a pleasure in taking bodily nourishment, so there is a pleasure in receiving the Lord's Supper, a spiritual pleasure, the joy one has in meeting a Friend, the comfort of the sheep that is with the Shepherd. Frequent communicants know what the Psalmist meant when he sang: "Oh taste and see that the Lord is sweet." Ps. 33:9. There is the added sweetness of doing what God wants, the joy of pleasing Him.
6. Communion unites us with our Lord, as He Himself promised: "He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him." St. John, 6:57. Closer than two pieces of wax in a fire, closer than the water mingled with the wine at Offertory, you and Christ are melted together in Holy Communion. Ordinarily when you take food it becomes part of you. But when you take the Food of Angels you become part of the Food you have eaten, one with Christ. That makes your every thought, word and deed so much the more precious in the sight of God. It makes you more pleasing to our Blessed Mother, whose Son is now living within you.
No wonder Jesus told the Jews: "Amen, amen, I say unto you, if anyone keep my word, he will never see death." This week, reflect on these words spoken to us. We keep Christ's word by believing His word, His promise that He would come to us.
By keeping Christ's word, Fred Snite, the Boiler Kid, was helped in body as well as in soul. By keeping this word of Christ, by a deeper and more burning love of Christ in the Eucharist, by a more fervent and frequent receiving of Holy Communion, you and I will also be helped in soul and body.
Adapted from Talks on the Commandments, (1948)
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, O.F.M.