Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 13: Blessed Imelda, V., O.P., Comm.

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of Blessed Imelda Lambertini, virgin, of the Order of Preachers.  Since today is the Vigil of the Ascension (which is a II Class feast), the ferial office of Paschaltide is prayed, with minor changes as noted in the Proper of the Seasons.  The Gospel (John 17) and lessons (Homily of St. Augustine) at Matins are proper, as is the Benedictus antiphon at Lauds and the Collect.  Also at Lauds, the II Psalm scheme is prayed.  A commemoration is made of Blessed Imelda at Lauds only.

I have a particular devotion to Blessed Imelda these days.  Our daughter is on the Autism spectrum, and she has developed a compulsive fear of receiving Communion.  After trying repeatedly, over a period of many Sunday's, to coax her into receiving, I finally realized that the saint who could probably help me here was this wonderful child-saint from my other family...the Dominican family.  So I keep a copy of the collect prayer from her feast (below) which I pray at Mass every Sunday, just prior to Communion, and I ask Blessed Imelda to intercede for her.  This past Sunday, she in fact received.  Thank you, Blessed Imelda...for hearing my prayers.

From the Martyrology:
At Bologna, a commemoration of the precious death of Blessed Imelda, virgin, of the Order of Preachers.  After receiving the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, which she most ardently desired, she could not sustain the most intense fire of love.  Her journey in life ended, she happily entered heaven to reign as a victim of love.
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

Blessed Imelda was born at Bologna in Italy about A.D. 1322, of the family of the Lambertini, distinguished alike for nobility and piety. Her father was a rich, brave, and powerful nobleman, who filled several important posts and was remarkable for his charity to the poor, and especially to the mendicant religious orders. His wife, Castora, was worthy of him. She had a particular devotion to pray for the souls in Purgatory, and for their relief she multiplied her charitable donations to monasteries and churches. Like the Child Jesus, Imelda grew in wisdom, age, and grace with God and men. From her earliest years she took little interest in the ordinary amusements of her age, but listened eagerly to holy stories and religious instruction, and gave herself entirely to a life of devotion. She made a little oratory for herself, wherein she delighted in reciting the Psalms and other prayers.


When Imelda had entered on her tenth year, she was placed in the Dominican Convent of Saint Mary Madalen, situated at Val di Pietra, at the foot of the hills which lie to the south of Bologna. The laws of the Church which now regulate the age for admission to the noviciate had not then been enacted; it may well have been, therefore, that little Imelda actually embraced the religious life at this early age ; and this is the view of the case usually taken by the writers of her story. It is possible, however, that her pious parents, as is still sometimes done in Catholic countries, had only vowed her to God and Saint Dominic, to wear the habit for a certain number of years. Imelda was at this time, we are told, remarkably tall for her age, fragile and delicate, and fair as an angel to behold.

The young Saint threw herself heart and soul into the new life which had opened before her. This child of nine years old set herself to practice the austere Rule with most loving fidelity, devoting herself to the exercise of prayer and penance, and by her fervor rendering herself a model even to the oldest and most saintly of the Community. She erected a little Calvary in the most remote part of the garden, and thither she loved to retire, in order to meditate undisturbed on the sufferings and death of her Divine Spouse.


But her chief devotion was to Jesus hidden in the Sacrament of His love; and with all the ardor of her soul did she long for the happy day when our Lord would unite her to Himself in Holy Communion. "Tell me," she would often say to her religious Sisters, "how is it possible to receive Jesus into one's heart and not to die?"

It appears that it was not then usual in Northern Italy for children to make their First Communion before the age of fourteen. Vainly, therefore, did the little Imelda over and over again beseech her Confessor to allow her to approach the Holy Table.  He turned a deaf ear to all her entreaties. But He "who feeds amongst the lilies," and who, when He was on earth, said, "Suffer little children to come to Me, and forbid them not," would not allow the loving young heart to be disappointed.

It was the last of the Rogation Days, May 12, A.D. 1333. The two years which she had now spent in the religious life and the approach of the great festival of the Ascension had caused the flames of Divine love to burn more brightly than ever in the breast of Imelda. All the nuns approached the Holy Table ; she alone knelt apart in a corner of the Choir, pouring forth her acts of fervent desire, and weeping bitterly because she was not allowed to share their happiness. The Mass was over; the priest had left the altar; the lights were extinguished; the Community had for the most part dispersed to discharge their various domestic duties; still Imelda knelt on, absorbed in prayer.


Suddenly a heavenly fragrance filled the sacred building and diffused itself even beyond its precincts.  It drew the Sisters back to the Choir, where a wondrous sight met their eyes. A radiant Host was suspended in the air above the head of the saintly child. Her Heavenly Bridegroom had heard her prayer, and was indeed come to make her all His own.

The astonished nuns immediately summoned the chaplain to the spot. He came in his sacred vestments, with the paten in his hand, and knelt in wondering adoration, awaiting some further manifestation of the Divine will. Then the Host gently descended upon the paten, and the priest communicated Imelda. The transport of love, and joy, and gratitude was too great for the weak bodily frame; the happy child closed her eyes, and, in the kiss of the Lord, breathed forth her pure soul to go and make endless thanksgiving in heaven.

Her holy remains now lie in the little Church of Saint Sigismund at Bologna. She was beatified by Leo XII. , A.D. 1826, and is deservedly regarded as the Patroness of First Communicants. Confraternities in her honor have been established in several places, the English Confraternity having its center at Saint Dominic's Priory, Haverstock Hill, London.


Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, you have received into heaven the holy maiden Imelda, on fire with charity's burning love and wonderfully refreshed by the stainless sacrifice; grant us, by her intercession, to draw near with like fervor to your holy table, so that we too may long to be dissolved and to be with you.  For you live and reign...

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