From today's gospel:
And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”. And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me”. (Mark 9:36-37)
We went to the 8AM Mass today (my husband was singing) and I saw a child who reminded me of a post at M'Lynn's fine blog Scattershot Direct.
For those of you who don't know her, M'Lynn has an 8 y/o child who happens to have the condition of autism. Last week, she posted on the experience of attending Mass with a child who does not want to go, and whose medical condition makes it extremely difficult to reason with her about the topic.
I noticed at the beginning of Mass, a large family sitting in the very front pew on the left side of the church. A very slender girl, who looked to be around 8 or 9, was sitting on the bench in front of the pew. She was so obviously not paying attention, and I got the feeling that this was one of God's special children.
From time to time, she would get up and walk back to the pew where her family was sitting (right behind her) and give her dad a big hug, and then she would bounce back to the front bench and rock. She did not speak or make any sounds - she was just never still and didn't seem to be able to 'behave' but there was no sign of malice or disobedience - just a simple incomprehension. During the homily she got up and walked quietly up and down the aisle, and during the prayer of Consecration she stood in the aisle near where the altar rail would have been and quietly swayed and bounced, dancing to an inner rhythm. Somehow, it did not come across as sacreligious, nor disrespectful. It was more as if she somehow knew that she was in a place of special behaviors and she was doing the best she could. I truly think she was worshipping in the only way she knew. When it came time for communion, she walked up with her dad, and Father gave her a blessing, which she accepted.
Now you have to understand that our parish is small and fairly geriatric. ( My 14 year old daughter has chosen to attend Mass with a young couple who are friends of ours, in a different parish with lots of large families. ) I was amazed and in awe just how accepting and loving all the parishioners in the pews around this family were. There have been times in similar parishes where something as simple as a child needing to leave to use the restroom would earn me glares.
So, in loving Samuel and spending the moments to try to let him know what is going on and why it is important for him to pay attention/be quiet/stop provoking the other children around him, I am loving God. I am offering my son a glimpse of the glory everlasting, and I am allowing God a moment to rejoice in the beauty of this wonderful child. (about taking his child to Mass)
Four of my six children have been diagnosed with ADD. I realize that this is an overdiagnosed and politically fraught condition, but please believe me here. I could tell you stories that would curl your hair, and that only another parent who has had to deal with children with this gift/affliction would really believe. I actually think that one of the children may have Asperger Syndrome, which is along the spectrum with autism. Kids and adults with AS have literally no concept of appropriate social behaviour, and have to learn it much as an actor learns a role.
Before I was a mom, I had these dreams of having the perfect large Catholic family. I pictured us lining up in the pew, with children behaving angelically in the presence of Our Lord, singing in perfect harmony and so on. Kind of like the Sound of Music. Having even one child with ADD - especially the hyperactive variant - put paid to those dreams. There were years when I gave up on the church entirely. I was angry that there was no help for moms like me - no nursery, not even a religious ed program at the same time as Mass so that I could go once by myself and again with the child(ren). I was angry at all the moms who had 'the perfect child' and who had no empathy for my struggle. I was angry at the Parish school that told me "I'm sorry, I know that your child is very intelligent but we just don't have the resources to deal with her handicaps".
So it was very healing for me to see, just once, a calm acceptance and love for a child who was just a little (or even a whole lot!) different.