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The big heavy doors swung open, giving up a squeak. Maria and Riley peeked inside. They had both been to church hundreds of times before, but always with their families. This time was different. They were entering on their own in communion dresses, on their way to the first class to prepare for their First Holy Communion.

Riley stumbled forward, pushing Maria through the door. Squeak. Click. The door shut behind them. Suddenly it went from daylight to near dark.

As their eyes adjusted, they could see a second set of doors. These were swinging doors. "This is scary," Maria confessed.

"Oh, we'll be all right," said Riley with not a lot of confidence. "Here's the holy water. Let's bless ourselves."

They did a quick dip of their fingers and a fast,' In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'

As they opened the second set of doors they could immediately sense a change from the outside world. The air in the church was sweet smelling. It made their skin feel damp and slightly cool, yet comfortable, like a soft blanket.

"Mommy says you can smell the saints praying when you go into a church," whispered Maria. "I think I can feel them, too!"

Suddenly they could see a bright light shining in the area of the altar. It fell upon the figure of Christ hanging on the cross. They just stood there for a moment, fascinated by the cross, but not knowing exactly why. Then, just below the cross, in the front pews, they could see Father Hugo with a group of children and a lady, Ms. Kelly. They rushed forward to be with them.

"Welcome, Maria and Riley. Please come and sit here in front of me. I think you are the last two members of this year's First Communion class to arrive," said Father Hugo. "Shall we get started?" he asked.

Suddenly Father knelt down. The children followed his lead and scooted off the pews and onto their knees. Father led them in the Sign of the Cross, an Our Father prayer, and a joyful Amen! He stood and smiled as the children settled back in the pews.

Father Hugo told the class that for the next 12 weeks they would be meeting here in the church or in the parish hall at g o'clock on Saturday mornings. Ms. Kelly, the Director of Religious Education, would be their teacher. Before they could make their First Communion, the children would have to study their prayers, prepare for First Reconciliation, and learn what happens in the Mass. Some Saturdays, he explained, Sister Mary Rose would join them to practice the songs they should know for their First Communion day Mass. Deacon Paul would help them with their prayers.

"Children," Father said most proudly. "This is a very important time in your life. You are about to learn about the Mystery of the Eucharist!

"Mystery of the Eucharist," whispered Maria to Riley. "I love mysteries. My older brother, Luca, is always reading mystery stories to me."

"Do you know how to solve a mystery?" asked Riley in a low voice.

"Maybe," said Maria, her eyes growing big and dark like jumbo black olives.

Before she could say another word, both Maria and Riley felt the presence of Father Hugo standing over them.

"What is so important that the two of you have to whisper in my class?" questioned Father Hugo.

Maria swallowed hard, trying to get a lump out of her throat. "Father," she said, "if you let us try, I think Riley and I can solve the Mystery of the Eucharist."

Suddenly Riley felt like his whole body was on fire. All he wanted to do was to hide under the pew. He and Maria were next door neighbors and had been best friends practically their entire lives. They often played tricks on their parents and got in and out of jams together, but somehow solving a mystery together, especially one called the Eucharist, seemed much too much. What was she thinking?!

"You want to solve the Mystery of the Eucharist?" said a surprised and somewhat befuddled Father Hugo. He squinted and frowned as he looked back and forth at Maria and Riley. The expression on his face turned from serious to thoughtful and finally to smiling.

"Well, I guess we could let you try," he said looking at Ms. Kelly and rubbing his chin." I have to admit that the lessons you are about to learn will lead you to the Mystery of the Eucharist."

"Let's give it a shot. Class, are you willing to help Maria and Riley with this mission?"

The other children's responses were mixed. Some seemed confused, others doubtful, but the majority were excited and enthusiastic.

"Children," Father Hugo went on. "This church is filled with clues about the mystery of Jesus' life, the Holy Trinity, and the Eucharist. Between now and next Saturday I want each of you to spend time in the church. Feel free to walk around and look at everything. Pick out something you think might be a 'clue' to solving the mystery or that you find really interesting. We will discuss your clues in upcoming classes."

This made all the children sit up and take notice. Some giggled; others whispered. Getting ready for First Communion was going to be FUN!

"However," beamed Father Hugo, "this does not mean that you do not have to study the lessons in your First Communion workbook."

The rest of the morning was spent with Ms. Kelly learning about things like why God made us, the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and what happened when they disobeyed God, and how God sent his Son, Jesus, to teach us about love and how to get to heaven.

The next day was Sunday. Maria was up early and was very anxious to go to early Mass. This surprised her father because, of all his children, Maria was always the last one to get up on Sunday."Maria, why are you up so early?" asked her father.

"Daddy, I want to get to church early today so that I can look for clues to solve the Mystery of the Eucharist!"

Her father gave her a puzzled look. He began to wonder just what was she learning in her First Communion class.

As they entered the church, Maria noticed a lot of people already in the church. They were all talking out loud and in a kind of harmony. Maria listened for a while then asked her father what they were doing. He said, "They are praying the rosary to Mary, the Mother of God."

"I don't understand. What's that mean?" Maria asked in a loud whisper. Could this be a clue to the Mystery of the Eucharist she wondered?

"Well." her father said, "it's a little difficult to explain it all to you right here and right now. Let's just listen and pray along with them. You know the prayers, mostly the Our Father and Hail Mary. After Mass you can ask Aunt Isabella about it. I think she is the best one to explain the mysteries of the rosary to you. "

Mysteries of the rosary? More mysteries! Maria frowned. That lump was back in her throat. Going to Aunt Isabella's house for her Sunday visit going to have added importance today.

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