Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Saint Unawares

Once in a while, a saint enters our lives, completely unbidden. Such was the case yesterday.

Gabriel and I go to Mass together on Tuesdays after his therapy. He's usually quite restless and distracted but still . . . it's our special time together. Each week he asks to light a prayer candle and each week, I say "no" because it requires going to the office in another building and I want to get him directly back to school.

I don't think I mentioned that after our fateful Ash Wednesday experience, I sent both Gabriel and Tinker back to Mass with Paul because it seemed really clear that they needed some practice in how to behave properly in church. He said they were really well behaved; I'm pretty sure they knew they would get another chance to practice if they weren't. Sometimes going to a huge church with 5 services on Ash Wednesday really comes in handy!  Gabe was sick on Sunday, so he got to stay home from church.

You can imagine it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached yesterday's Mass. I did not mention Ash Wednesday or anything about proper behavior, just held his hand and walked with false bravado to our usual spot in the front row.

Well, apparently that practice paid off because he behaved perfectly. He knelt, he prayed, he kept his hands in his lap, he attempted the responses; he shone! At the conclusion of daily Mass, our congregation adds a couple extra prayers including a short litany of the saints. When it concluded, before rising, I said, "St. Gabriel, pray for us." To which he sweetly added, "St. Benjamin, pray for us; St. Marguerite, pray for us; St. Peter Chanelle, pray for us; St. Allison, pray for us." (I didn't tell him that her patron is St. Clare and there is no "St. Allison" . . . yet!). Then I led him to the painting of St. Gabriel and he was able to finally read his own name on the painting. We were both on cloud nine as we turned to leave.

Just as we started out, a nun who shared the front row with us stopped us. She asked Gabriel if he knew what giving alms were. He said something about the homeless. (I had no idea he knew this!) She offered him a dollar she was supposed to offer as alms (explaining that she was about to return to her mother house) and asked if he would be responsible to either give it to someone in need or to get a prayer candle for someone's benefit. He said he would and proudly accepted it. Then she offered him a dollar of her own money for his own use. He was so proud and put it in his pocket. We thanked her and the moment we turned our backs, he said, "I want a prayer candle, Mom."

How could I refuse? As we walked to the office he said, "I want to say the prayers for Maggie and Bennie." What a doll. I have no idea what he prayed but I helped him light the candle and he knelt down a few minutes, crossed himself, and got up. What a sweetie.

It was the perfect ending for a little guy who clearly was making a concerted effort to do the right thing. I do not know if we will ever see that nun again but she made a huge impact on our son. You never know when your word of encouragement will lift the heart of one who needs it!

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