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Guy Zangari: My big Sicilian Communion

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Guy Zangari and family celebrate his youngest daughter’s first Holy Communion. Photo: Supplied
Guy Zangari and family celebrate his youngest daughter’s first Holy Communion. Photo: Supplied

On any given day the Zangari Household is a hive of activity with six people frantically going about their daily routines of work, university, and school.

Trying to get the family together for dinner at the same time with working parents and adult children is now a logistical task in itself.

Long gone are the days when our four children were young and dependant, with dinner or lunch being served at the dinner table at exactly same time every day.

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As we witnessed our children grow up, the family dinner was frequently interrupted by soccer and netball training, dancing classes, music and swimming lessons.

Despite the interruptions to dinner one thing remained the same, the dining table was set and there was room for others to share the meal.

Our family, like so many others, places a value on having the kitchen and dining table as the centre of the family universe.

Growing up in traditional Sicilian families my wife Melissa and I witnessed the hospitality and generosity of our grandparents and parents in the kitchen and at the dining room table, all were welcome to eat.

Dinner and lunch in our household and I am sure in others’ is not only the time to eat but the opportunity to share and listen to a story. Sharing a meal is an ideal way to communicate good news stories of the day and a time to reflect.

Breaking bread and sharing a meal is the one of the most intimate rituals that any person can partake in. Inviting someone to share food is a statement which says, “I want to know you.”

Likewise, Jesus wanted us to know him through his invitation to the table. At the Last Supper Jesus made a covenant with us, as written in Mk 14:22.

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”

The offering of his flesh and blood at the Last Supper is the call for all be at the spiritual banquet. The spiritual food is the Body and Blood of Christ and we are invited to celebrate.

The sacrament of Communion is the call for everyone to be a part of, hence the common gathering and union for all around the table, the ultimate feast.

I remember my First Holy Communion and the significance of the sacrament very clearly, even though it was in 1979. I fondly remember the entire family coming together to celebrate the momentous sacramental occasion at All Hallows Parish, Five Dock and afterwards the reception, where we devoured a five-course Sicilian feast that awaited.

The luncheon of around one hundred relatives and friends was more like a wedding with lots of food, plenty of flared pants, platform shoes, paisley colours, lots of long hair and of course the traditional bomboniere (keepsake gift for guests) with an adornment of sugar almonds.

The Communion party would rival “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in that it was a massive party. The star of course was me, dressed in a bright blue three-piece suit with flared pants to match.

Fast forward to the present era; Melissa and I have adopted the Sicilian tradition of the sacramental celebration with all four children. The family feast has remained but the extravagance has slightly been toned down.

When we take Communion, it is done in the presence of family, friends, neighbours, and strangers. Millions of people around the world receive the Eucharist each day. No other spiritual banquet can universally be shared at such a large scale. The majesty of the Body and Blood of Christ is the biggest banquet given to humanity.

When First Holy Communion is given, it is witnessed by hundreds of people. This is truly the most unifying meal that has been given to us.

The words, “the Body of Christ” and “the Blood of Christ” as the individual receives the Eucharist signify that Jesus is our spiritual sustenance. The sustenance of Jesus Christ is available for all that know and love him, but also for those that have yet to taste the goodness.

No person should be left out of receiving the Eucharist. Our evangelisation includes the call to invite those not yet baptised or not yet Catholic to see the table that awaits them.

If we as practicing Catholics don’t encourage people to share in the goodness of Christ, we are not carrying out the mission to call others to take and eat.

The call by the Parish Priest to those not yet baptised to come and receive a blessing is so important if we are to spread the Good News.

The blessing given by the Priest and the Special Minister of the Eucharist to those yet to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is a sign that the feast awaits them.

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