Dominican Saints 101: Bl. Imelda

May 12, 2012

Incorrupt body of Bl. Imelda in the University Chapel in Bologna
For a person with no faith, the story of Bl. Imelda (1322-1333, feast – May 13) must seem one of the most frightening.  That might sound strange to say about this child-saint who is also the patron saint of first communicants.  But she is not so regarded because her story merely romanticizes a pious and devout first communion story, but because she enjoyed something a bit more unexpected in her first holy communion – death by love. Bl. Imelda entered the monastery of Dominican nuns to the south of Bologna at the age of nine.  By the age of eleven she was begging to receive first communion, which wasn’t given out till twelve or fourteen in her day.  She had faithfully been following the monastic way of life, even at her incredibly young age, and was incredibly devoted to the Eucharist.  Nevertheless, her confessor would not let her receive communion until she reached the requisite age.  Yet, on the vigil of the Ascension in 1333, our Lord provided. After Mass, the community went about their duties.  Soon afterward, a pleasing fragrance filled the air of the monastery and drew the nuns back to the chapel where they found its source.  There, before the kneeling Imelda, floated a miraculous host.  The chaplain was soon called.  When he approached, the host rested on the paten he had brought.  After this, he gave Imelda her first communion, and she died on consumption.  As one author wrote:

The transport of love which took possession of her little heart at this moment was too great for a finite being.  She died from sheer joy and made her thanksgiving for First Holy Communion among the angels in heaven.

Bl. Imelda was named the patron saint of first communicants because of the great love she had for Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.  She loved Him so much, especially as He was present in the consecrated host, that her love overflowed into something uncontainable.  When she was joined to Lord in communion, she entered into full communion with Him in heaven.  The Eucharist wasn’t just food for the wayfarer for her.  It was that which truly joined heaven to earth and led her into the eternal banquet of the Lamb.  Her story adds a vibrant reality to the admonition that all of us should receive Holy Communion as if it were our last. O Lord Jesus Christ, who, wounding the Blessed Virgin Imelda with the fire of Thy love, and miraculously feeding her with the Immaculate Host, did receive her into heaven, grant us, through her intercession, to approach the Holy Table with the same fervor of charity, that we may long to be dissolved, and deserve to be with Thee, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

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