First Communion is a faith milestone for all Catholic families. But on Aug. 6, the sacrament solidified the power of prayer for the Maddox family as their son, Robert “Little Boo” Maddox V, received the body and blood of Christ for the first time at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans.
“It’s a day we’ve long awaited – Boo receiving Jesus Christ,” Renee Maddox, Little Boo’s mother, said. “You can’t be any closer to God.”
Many didn’t believe the Alexandria, La., youth, now 8 years old, would make it to his eighth birthday. Little Boo had contracted the H1N1 virus (swine flu) in November 2009 and has since been in and out of Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.
He’s survived multiple organ failures, surgeries and long-term use of an ECMO machine that oxygenated his blood. Kidney failure resulted from the ECMO machine, and Boo is now undergoing dialysis three times a week in New Orleans.
Through it all, Little Boo’s big smile and positive spirit has prevailed.
“God gave him this testament to get through this,” said Father Randy Roux who celebrated the Mass. “His attitude is amazing.”
It’s been the Catholic faith that has sustained the entire Maddox family. They believe that faith has healed him thus far and will aid his kidneys.
“God didn’t bring him through all this to have him on dialysis all his life,” Robert Maddox IV said.
Little Boo was baptized as an infant and confirmed in the hospital by Father Martin Laird, pastoral administrator and associate director of Hispanic Ministry at Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Alexandria. But Communion eluded him due to an intermittent inability to swallow food or fluids.
Practice makes perfect
As a Catholic chaplain, Father Roux got to know the Maddox family and began working with Boo – teaching him the Mass and practicing receiving unconsecrated hosts – in preparation for holy Communion. When illness prevented Boo from receiving the sacrament a year ago in Alexandria, Father Roux suggested administering it at Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans.
“It makes this great connection that our Lady (of Prompt Succor) has brought her son to receive her son in holy Eucharist,” Father Roux said at the Aug. 6 Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration.
“Little Boo knows that Eucharist means thanksgiving,” Father Roux said, “and we are grateful for the many ways God has blessed Little Boo and all of us. … I think Robert and Renee have crawled up to Calvary many times and asked for God’s mercy many times … and have been grateful for God’s power to renew and restore.”
Father Roux invited Little Boo – dressed in a white suit that was a gift of the local St. Jude Society – and his father to walk into the sanctuary near the tabernacle, which bears the image of a pelican. Father Roux enlightened Mass-goers how a mother pelican is the only bird that picks at her breast to provide the nourishment of her flesh and blood for her young when there is no other food.
Father Roux wanted Boo to remember the pelican as a metaphor for Jesus giving Catholics his flesh and blood. He asked how willing those at the Mass were to give themselves for others and then lauded doctors, nurses and other Children’s Hospital employees for their efforts to help children.
Father Roux likened a handmade paper heart that Boo presented his pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon at Children’s Hospital – Dr. Timothy Pettitt – to the way in which Jesus Christ invites little Boo into the chambers of his heart. Pettitt was present at the Mass.
“In those chambers, Christ will nourish his son with his flesh and blood,” Father Roux said.
Father Laird then fastened a Confirmation pin on Boo, and Little Boo received his first Communion followed by his family and others.
The Maddox family was then presented scapulars to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and Father Laird and Father Jeffrey Montz, parochial vicar at Divine Mercy Parish, who had befriended the Maddox family in the hospital, prayed blessings over them.
Robert Maddox expressed his gratitude to those who have kept Boo alive.
“I thank God for bringing each and every one of you into my family’s life, and I thank God for giving you the talents, wisdom and love in your hearts,” he said. “I ask him to bless you and to continue to use you and shape and mold me into the man he wants me to be.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.