I usually shuttle the older kids to the Vigil Mass so I can go to one of the Sunday Masses. While I'm gone, the big kids watch Ronan. It's only an hour and a half I'm away, but this weekend, I didn't want to do the splitting up. So we didn't. We took a chance of me taking all five of the kids, including Ronan. I'm very happy that we did!
Ronan recognized the church, which is not our home parish, and easily transitioned into the building. I wouldn't normally do this, but I purposely left his backpack and snacks in the car. I also left the iPad there, something he knew we'd brought with us when we left the house. Upon entering the church, we found a quiet section and got settled in. Within five minutes, Ronan was ready to leave. I told him we'd do a countdown and prayed that he'd last longer than the 100 seconds I was slowly counting backwards.
He signed all done and proceeded to put the kneeler in the up position.
Not wanting a struggle, which has happened plenty of times at Church before, I held his hand and guided him out of the pew. All done, all done, all done, he signed. "I know, buddy. Let's go back to the car. The kids will stay here," I told him. Ronan hesitated. The kids? He looked back at his siblings and froze. A confused look came over him as he pointed to them.
I repeated, "Yes, the kids are staying."
Ronan didn't like that answer so he sat in the pew we were trying to go around. Pointing a very straight index finger at his big sister, he indicated that he wanted her to come with us. "Oh, she's staying," I reiterated. Ronan started to tap his hand on his leg, something he does when we do a countdown. He "taps down" letting me know he knows an end is in sight and to keep himself calm.
Pointing again, this time at the other siblings, I reminded Ronan that they were staying for the entire Mass. He was not pleased. But he did not get frustrated when I offered that information. He quietly waited. Pointing to the siblings hoping they'd come with him, he began to tap his leg once more.
Then, he picked up the Bible. Then, he started thumbing through the Bible. Then, he started to read the Bible!
At this point, Fiona had walked over to where we were sitting and encouraged Ronan. He was sitting quietly. He was reading. He was staying in the Church. That meant we could stay, too. She beamed. I beamed! I smiled even more when the other siblings, about 4 pews ahead of us, looked back and saw us. Signing to them, Fiona let them know that Ronan was reading the Bible. Wide-eyed and full of grins, they were as excited as we were.
Ronan stayed content going from one book of the Bible after another. He stayed in the New Testament section and gravitated toward St. Paul's letters. For ten minutes, he scanned pages, read, pointed to words, and read some more. Engrossed in what he was reading, Fiona and I noticed that he kept going back to two verses - one in Revelations about Jesus' second coming and this one from Hebrews:
"Never will I leave you:
never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper,
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?" (Heb 13: 5-6)
How profound! He was not going to leave those siblings behind.
Back and forth, Ronan flipped through the books of Bible during the rest of the Mass. He wanted to leave during Communion but did a great job waiting for all of us to have the chance to receive. With five minutes left, Fiona flashed me another smile. She was so proud of her brother. He did great, and he was able to lean on her to help make it through something he usually is unable to tolerate.
After today's wonderful hour in front of the Lord, I found myself repeating the verse that Ronan had read: "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid..." Thank you, Lord, for that little reminder, because I do fear things - like the seizures, like the other medical problems, like being able to afford everything a special needs child needs. But a message I needed to remember was clear - He will help. And I know that God does help me. Every single day, I am blessed by His love. Not only was that message clear, it was so perfectly timed. Delivered by an always-inspiring Ronan, what a treat it was for us to be at Mass with him today!