We tried on her dress and carefully placed her white veil against the perfect backdrop of her jet black hair. Her brother, our little lady, and I got in line in our family room, folded our hands and took turns walking up to the “priest” (played by Dad), to practice receiving Communion. We even had samples of the bread to practice with in an effort to get my daughter familiar and comfortable with the taste and texture. Thankfully, she was excited to be in her new dress and played her part surprisingly well. She consumed four or five unconsecrated hosts and did her best to be reverent, taking a small pause to high five her brother and do a quick jig after one of her practice runs.
Our daughter will be making her First Communion in a little over a week, and the approach of this highly anticipated event has sent me down memory lane to the very beginning of our family’s journey to this sweet child of ours. Our travels began with Jesus, so it brings me immeasurable joy to now quite literally be bringing my daughter to Him.
You could compare our journey to the adoption of our daughter to the path one’s soul takes along the beads that form the Rosary. On a rosary, the cross — Jesus — is the beginning and the end; the literal and figurative connection between the physical beads and the prayers one recites while pondering the mysteries of Jesus’ life. With each Hail Mary, you are pulled deeper into Jesus’ world and allow Him to enter yours through the discernment of what each mystery means to your own life and circumstance.
Fifteen months — sixty weeks — four hundred and twenty days: that was the length of our journey once we opened our hearts to adoption. We often felt lost on our travels but regained our direction through prayer, more specifically through praying the Rosary. My husband and I would tuck our two boys into bed each night and pray the Rosary together as they fell asleep. Our intentions were always the same, including praying for the health and safety of the child that was meant for us, for the child’s birth parents and to be blessed with a girl so we could honor the very subject of the beads we held tight in our hands, our Blessed Mother Mary.
For four hundred and twenty days we were like the child hounding her parents for the toy of the year at Christmas: “Please Lord, bless us with a girl so we can give her the name Mary in honor of your mother.”
There is truth to the fact that God can never be outdone and will often exceed your hearts deepest desires. Not only did God bless us with a little girl, but He delivered her to us with the birth name Mary-Rose. Now, seven years later, my heart swells as she prays the Hail Mary every night before she goes to sleep. This is no easy feat for her, as her language and speech have been significantly delayed as a result of her living with Down Syndrome. Listening to this pint-sized hero of mine slowly recite the prayer honoring the woman and mother who so beautifully interceded for us is poignant every time. It feels as though, in some way, we have come full circle. We trust — God acts — God acts — we learn to trust — always beginning and ending with Jesus.
There is a family in our parish that has an adult son who lives with what appears to be significant needs. For years I have watched his parents and siblings beautifully care for him and support him patiently and selflessly. Above all, what has impacted me deeply is witnessing his parents guide him to communion and help him as he receives from the cup. They are literally bringing their son to Jesus and bringing those of us in witness right along with him. Never would I have guessed I would one day be bringing a child so fragile before the Lord, seeking His communion with her even though she may not entirely understand what is taking place. I don’t doubt God meant for me to watch this family for many years before asking me to do much the same.
Looking at my daughter, one truth that is forever before me in those beautiful brown eyes of hers is that we never would have reached her on our own. Our fingers traveled the beads as Our Lady traveled time and again before her son to ask for an answer to our prayer. On May 12th, our family will approach the altar with Mary-Rose as she receives Jesus for the first time.
I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day present for our beloved Lady.
Copyright 2018 Nicole Johnson