This past Sunday, our Sunshine received her First Holy Communion. It’s an amazing day for any child growing up in the Catholic Church, but for those who need a little extra help/patience/encouragement/etc., it’s a triumph.
This Sunday was all hers.
A little over a year ago, we were saying goodbye to dear Ms Connie in the nursery of our previous parish. I gave Ms. Connie my tried-and-true recipe for Cranberry Cider Jelly since she had liked it and we wouldn’t be there at Christmas to gift her another pint. She has been working Sundays at the nursery for a couple of decades, watching rambunctious young ones so the parents can attend Mass. Or, in our case, hugging the enthusiastic ASD child who towers over the wee ones and who came every Sunday with her little sisters to play in the nursery while I watched Mass on the big screen TV until Communion, when one of my older children would relieve me as soon as they had received and I rushed into church, hoping not to be late. That was our season at that time and at that place in our lives. Sunshine was too loud and fidgety in the pews to often sit through Mass, and if a toddler was overly rambunctious we often resorted to the nursery, and of course she came along, for she remembered the toys.
As we prepared to move, I realized we would likely be in a unique position with no other help besides “homegrown family help,” and no nursery with a big screen Mass viewing TV!!! Masses are still our weekly lessons in humility as we still have toddlers. And Sunshine still fidgets in her seat, still wants to greet babies near her, and examine the rings of all ladies in a certain radius of her chair.
The first Sunday we attended Mass here last year we had to motion to the Deacon that she wasn’t able to receive Communion despite her willingness. After Mass, he asked me how old she was, and I admitted she was old enough chronologically, but academically she was in first grade thanks to developmental delays, ASD, etc etc. He smiled at me and said joyfully, “Anyone who wants to receive Communion that badly has a right to receive. Let’s see what we can do about this.”
I was in shock. As we drove out of the parking lot, I turned to Haus Meister and asked, “Do you think she could?”
She not only could. She did.
March 23rd she made her First Confession. I had prepped her in advance by working at home with the church’s course (DynamicCatholic.com) and through a little comic book I made for her of ‘[Sunshine] receives her first Sacraments.” She loved it and wanted me to read it often. On her First Confession Day, she wrote out her small transgressions on a piece of paper. When it was her turn, she entered the small chapel where confessions are heard with her face beaming. We could see her through the glass doors, and the beatific smile on her face is something I will carry with me forever. The DRE put a hand on my shoulder and whispered. “She’s doing great!” At that moment I saw Sunshine hand Father her list, and she smiled all the time, and he blessed her, and I realized that if anyone in the church at that moment wasn’t breathing, it was me. So I reminded myself to breathe.
Seconds later, Sunshine came out of the chapel and fist-bumped the air. “I did it!”She shouted. ‘I remembered everything!” Then we went into the main church and she recited out loud one Our Father and one Hail Mary, which in itself is a huge matter as she does not ever willingly pray out loud. The only fly in the ointment was that I had forgotten to mention in our comic book just HOW MANY Sundays would elapse between First Confession and First Communion. The book made it look like it would happen immediately. After she cried at the end of Communion the next day because she was so ready, we made a countdown on the kitchen calendar for her to see and every Sunday I’d remind her that it was 5-4-3-2-1 Sundays until the day.
6:30am May 5. “Mom? Can I put on my dress and veil now?” For a 10:45am Mass!
I approached the First Communion rehearsal with some trepidation. Her ASD + ADHD had prevented her from sitting in regular 2nd grade CCD (so much more fun to be with her sisters in the K/1st room where there was a kids’ Bible and crayons EVERY week). I figured she would sit with us in a pew and I would go up to Communion with her. But I reckoned without her. She sat with her class. She processed in–and out–with her class. And when the glorious moment arrived when, as she reminded me before Mass, “The King of Heaven is coming to my heart,” she was there on her own. Our pew was across from the pews of the First Communicants, and as the rest of the parish filed through the Communion line, she whispered, “Mom? Did I win?”
“Yes,” I whispered back. “You won. You did it.”
She did it. And He helped her. Because when someone wants to receive Jesus so much, there’s no reason to keep her in a nursery! Not toddlers or folks who get annoyed at her involuntary loudness or fidgetyness.