Preparing, preparing, preparing

Tonight was the rehearsal for First Holy Communion.  My family is here from Michigan, everything is arranged for lunch after Mass, but I knew I’d have to get through the rehearsal.  There were two things that made it harder than I would have liked.  Well, three.  I’m far more short of breath than I should be, to be hiking up and down the aisles with all these children.  And I am having pain management issues, which seem to be more of a problem every day.

But besides that… two things.  First was that our practice session wasn’t the only church activity tonight.  There was also a rosary and visitation for one of my fellow St. Ann’s mamas.

This picture was on my blog post for FHC last year.  Katherine Dollymore, who died Wednesday morning of ALS, had her sweet triplets in my class last year.  Oh so many times when I’ve felt inadequate because my physical limitations and chemo and all … keep me from taking care of my children the way I would like to, I thought of Katherine, quadriplegic, unable to speak, totally dependent physically… although she did amazing things with her computer and a laser eye thing that gave her good access to the world… she was able to keep up with schedules and emails and all, even ordering all her families groceries online.

But I would talk to her children about how it was with her, and there was no doubt in their minds that she was MOM and she took care of them and she was awesome at her job.  Thinking about her gave me such encouragement sometimes… but her death on Wednesday rocked me to the core, for many reasons.    Perhaps I could have managed to get all the way out to the funeral home after FHC practice, but really, I couldn’t.  Danielle, George’s godmother, who was the triplets’ soccer coach two years ago (it’s a small world here at St. Ann’s. 🙂 )  went for me… took me along spiritually.  And now all we mamas need to spiritually adopt these three third graders.  I will, for the next year, pray for them exactly as I pray for Emily, Sam, Brian, Danny, William and George. 

But tonight I’m also praying for a few of the first communicants in a special way.  Here’s the second thing that made tonight not quite as perfect as I would have liked…  You know that my faith formation class is totally open to all children.  I do not feel that it’s appropriate to segregate special needs children for their catechesis.  This evening, at practice, I was reminded about the very best and the very worst about that plan.

Among an interesting mix of children with disabilities, I have one child with autism.  We LOVE this kid, and he has responded to Sam as a teacher in amazing ways.  He is really, really ready to make his First Holy Communion.  But I made a tactical error this evening… we have all the boys, arranged by height, on the right side of the church, first three pews, and the girls on the left.  I decided to just put our small friend in with the other boys, and he was right between Bryson and my Danny.  You couldn’t ask for better helpers for him.  But less than five minutes into listening to Father give instructions, it was obvious that my plan was a failure.  I did lightening fast rearranging and put him at the end of the last pew of boys, with his mom right behind him. 

Here’s what I didn’t anticipate.  His two little neighbors, to whom I had entrusted his care, were totally crushed.  Big silent tears.  They thought that they had failed.  If they had tried a little harder to help their friend, he might have been able to stay.  I have to say that as sad as they were, such a big part of me was so proud of them.  We have worked all year on our corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, and talked every week about how even small children can truly serve others and help others on their faith journey.  We have talked about the amazing value of every single life.  This year’s class has astonished me with how they’ve pulled together and truly been blessings to each other.  Tonight’s disappointment from those two little boys proved to me that they really, truly GOT it.  I was so proud of them.  The child who is now sitting next to our little guy who had to get moved doesn’t know him, he’s a Catholic school student, and I’m not sure he has had quite as much exposure to students with challenges as the kids in my class have.  We had a bit of a chat, but he still totally needs prayers. 

I could go on with stories about my students all night, with a specific prayer request for every single one of them.  But then I’d be way too tired and cranky tomorrow to enjoy my favorite day of the whole church year.  My camera is set, battery charged, my best Saint Ann rosary already in my dress pocket, hanging on the laundry room door.  I’m even going to take extra pain medicine so that I can walk up to church with the rest of my family. 

Oh, one more thing.  I’ve not forgotten about the Baby Surprise Jacket knitalong… Elizabeth Foss has been doing all the administrative work.  YES you can sign up even if you don’t have a blog.  YES you can sign up late, and YES you can sign up with a BSJ you have already started.  Ellie, one of my big wishes is to find someone to help you get your knitting back.  Can you tell me where you live?  And guess what!  My mom is going to join us!  She had seen a BSJ at the Bernina store where she works, wanted to find a pattern to make such a nifty sweater, then arrived at my house and saw that exact same sweater AND the pattern. 

So pray for the Dollymore kids, and the First Holy Communicants, and for Ellie, and pray a little prayer of thanksgiving for the good fellowship of knitters…   Photos tomorrow I promise.

10 thoughts on “Preparing, preparing, preparing

  1. Dearest amazing wonderful catechist-of-the-century Elizabeth,
    I will be out of town all day today… Part of my trip involving the prison work… I will hold you and all the children in prayer today. I feel blessed to have met Mrs. Dollymore, even if only by long distance proxy via your writings. She is an inspiration to us all. I will hold the Dollymore children in prayer too. By the way, about 4 years ago I had an autistic student in my class. It brings me great joy to see that child in the Communion line. The child still has trouble consuming the Host, due to mouth and sensory issues… But still, the child faithfulky persevered in my class that year, learned all the material as much as possible, passed the tests, and continues to attend Mass and religious education. May your autistic student be graced beyond measure by the Eucharist today.
    Much love! Me

  2. Prayers, prayers, prayers! I will try to think of Katherine’s beautiful smile when I am feeling pressured and overwhelmed by life’s demands. I always leave here feeling inspired and thankful. Thank you. +JMJ+

  3. Prayers for all. Your compassion and insight are an inspiration. I am, at once, sad for the boys who were shedding tears thinking they had somehow failed their friend, but also rejoicing that they had so fully and deeply embraced the message that they could make a difference in the lives of others and that every person matters and deserves respect, dignity, and inclusion.

    I swatched for my own BSJ last night and just need to go pick up a long circular needle in the appropriate size and I’ll be ready to get started tomorrow. I am looking forward to it. I already have a question — if I’m using different colors of yarn, how do I know when it’s a good time to switch colors to create the stripes? I am really looking forward to the knit-along with all these knitters!

  4. Prayers for all.
    Elizabeth, if you are ever able, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts and experiences on keeping all children together for catechesis. So many parishes want to separate the kids, which feels wrong. How to address this?

  5. I cannot possibly say anything that would add substance to what has already been said, and it is so hard to type when tears are in the way. Prayers are flying your way.

  6. Ah, so many prayers fluttering your way, Elizabeth. I do hope this day of chemo wasn’t too taxing (I know from friends that some rounds of chemo are easier than others).

    It is so incredibly kind of you to want to help me with my knitting! I don’t see a link to be able to email you; I tend to be pretty private online. When you have a spot of time and energy, please feel free to contact me for geographic details and such: does wordpress allow you to ‘see’ commentors’ emails? If so, you could email me. Elsewise, you could leave a comment on my blog with your email — I moderate all comments, so it wouldn’t be a public comment.

    Blessings & Peace,
    ~ ellie

  7. Pingback: First Holy Communion Photos « Keep on Spinning

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