Children of a Lesser God

We Catholics can fulfill what’s known in church doctrine as the “Sunday Obligation” by going to Mass on late Saturday afternoon, or early Saturday evening. Since I’m the only one in the entire Dillon family who keeps up this tradition, I usually go to Mass at our local parish church at 4:00 PM on Saturday afternoon. I have been doing this for many years, now.

But, I must confess to you that I usually arrive late, sometime after the sermon (now called the “homily”), but before the part of the service known as the “Offertory”. This is another part of church doctrine that I recall. You are considered to have attended a complete Mass, if you are present for at least the three principal parts of the service: the offertory, consecration, and communion. (See, I learned well). So, I just slip in “under the wire”. (I wonder if I will “slip in” to heaven in the same way).

At any rate, since I arrive late, I usually wind up standing in the back of the church. This vantage point affords me a good opportunity to view the parishioners who attend this 4:00 PM service, even though I largely see them from the rear.

For many years, I have watched at this Mass a girl (now a young woman), who is both very severely physically and mentally handicapped. She is there with her parents-and, in her younger years, wore a bicycle helmet, probably to protect her in case of a fall.

I am fascinated by how this young woman’s parents so lovingly tend to her. They calm her down, when she gets excited. They wipe her mouth, when she begins to drool. They whisper what must be cheerful words to her during the service, since she reacts to them with a smile.

How wonderful-and, yet, so heartbreaking. How these parents must have suffered, knowing that they have a daughter like this. Yet, you would never know it. For her parents always radiate a warm, loving smile, as they tend to her needs. Amazing! I am so ashamed, since I doubt whether I would measure up, if I was in a similar circumstance.

On the Saturday eve before Mother’s Day, I was at this Mass, watching this young woman and her parents, when it was obvious that she had to go to the ladies room, which is toward the entrance to the church, where I was standing. Her mother gently helped her up from the pew-and, as the young woman turned around, our eyes locked, for a few brief seconds. I quickly looked away in embarrassment. But, in those few brief moments when I looked into her eyes, I saw no hurt, no pain, no desperation-just a creature of God, there to worship in her own way, like the rest of us.

I saw this same look in her mother.

Surely, I concluded, that this young woman could not be included among the “Children of a Lesser God”, but must be loved by God even more than the rest of us. I think that her parents must have felt the same way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *