What I learned from My Daughter's Sacraments
Five years ago, as I was bringing home my little girl, Faith, from China, I was smack in the middle of my self-righteous stage of my reversion. As I organized my daughter’s Baptism, I lost complete focus on the reason for the day (the privilege of bringing her into the Catholic faith) and saw that day as an opportunity to evangelize.
My pastor agreed to incorporate Faith’s Baptism into a Mass, complete with contemporary Christian music. I was convinced that if I created the perfect Mass with upbeat Christian music and an amazing priest’s homily that my family and friends presently away from the Church would all come rushing back. I was arrogant. I was so captivated by the evangelization that I forgot to focus on the beauty of the sacrament.
The real reason we were together that day was to welcome this beautiful little girl into the church, because she had just joined her forever family, and we should have been enjoying those moments instead of trying to convince everybody our church was best. That day was not so much about my daughter but my desire to be “fishers of men”. A simple Baptism celebrated with authentic joy and love for the Sacrament would have spoken louder than the whole song and dance I decided to create. I can honestly say I cannot recall a single conversion coming from that day – unless you count mine from my self-absorbed ways.
Learning from my previous mistakes when it came time for Faith’s next Sacraments, her First Reconciliation and Communion, I decided to focus solely on Faith and her needs. Faith is profoundly deaf, and Sacramental prep had been done primarily at home. My first hint that God was blessing my more humble approach came when Faith was invited to a Reconciliation retreat hosted by The Boston Deaf Apostolate, which was led by one of the most amazing and humble Priests I know – Father Sean Carey (who also have just happens to be deaf).
Faith spent the morning of the retreat in religious education with the other First Communion kids and their Religious Education Teacher, who were all deaf. Then we all went over to “Deaf” Mass, which means it was celebrated in American Sign Language by Fr. Shawn. This day there was no voice interpreter (someone who sits in the front pew with a microphone voicing for the hearing what Father is signing). I have to be honest, I was actually very excited about experiencing the Mass as Faith does, and I felt it really connected us.
Faith was absolutely riveted to every moment of the Liturgy. We had the whole pew to ourselves, and she scooted back and forth on it to make sure she could see Fr. Shawn at all times so that she did not miss a word. She even joined in signing all the responses.
After a quick lunch at McDonald’s and a walk to the nearby pond, it was time for Reconciliation. I was still worried that she wasn’t ready since her communication skills are a bit delayed. Although she has gone to Mass with us just about every week since she came home five years ago, I still wonder if she truly understands who God is, what Jesus did for her, and how our faith is lived out in the Sacraments.
Child after child went into the confessional before her. She sat patiently waiting, smiling at me with her beautiful brown eyes and barely sitting on the edge of her seat just so eager to be the next to speak with Fr. Shawn. When her time came I looked down at my watch. It is important to note that this retreat was taking place on Divine Mercy Sunday, and she was entered in the confessional at exactly 3 o’clock. Having a very special relationship with St. Faustina, I knew that my prayers had all been answered, and she was as ready as she will ever be. All my concerns melted away when she bounded so joyfully out of the confessional, and I knew she had received God’s loving and healing mercy.
As the big day was approaching, Faith was even more eager to receive Jesus then she had been to receive His forgiveness. The weeks leading from Divine Mercy Sunday to her First Communion were filled with her crossing off the days until it arrived on a calendar. One Sunday she was in tears, because I was offering her a dress to wear, but it wasn’t the fancy one with the veil. She was crushed not because of the fashion but because she was still not able to move from receiving only a blessing to the Eucharist.
As May 3rd approached, I noticed that her sometimes less-than-stellar behavior at Mass had faded, and she wasreally paying attention – miraculously all the time. She was focused on my interpreting, asking questions even though those were always at the best time for them, and I was very happy to see her trying really hard to understand what was happening and to participate fully. Having invited the whole world to her Baptism and making it about them, this time I made the very difficult decision to slim down the invitation list to her godparents and grandparents. Faith had the front row to be able to see the interpreter, which was a blessing more so because there was little to distract her. The day had become just about her, Jesus and the abundant grace that he has for her in the Sacraments.
Receiving the Eucharist was pure joy for Faith; it was all I could do to hold back my tears. She received Communion with my husband standing on one side and I on the other. Another grace was that her older brother, Adam, was not only altar serving, but was the very one holding the paten under her chin as she received Jesus. No one else was in line, since our Pastor invites up on child at a time. She was first. She signed AMEN, kept her hands folded in prayer hands, and stuck out her tongue – it was perfect! After we had all received, she went back to our pew, beaming with pride and delight.
My husband and I were right behind her focused only on her and God’s amazing grace!
This column first appeared as a Guest Post on Love Alone Creates.
Text and Image Copyright 2015 Allison Gingras, all rights reserved.