Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Unexpected Blessing at Easter Mass

For parents of kids with certain special needs, Mass on Easter Sunday can be a special kind of challenge that may have them counting the minutes until they hear the closing blessing.  The crowds and the incense and the length of the Mass can be particularly overwhelming for those with sensory issues.

When we go to Mass I never know what to expect.  Will we make it to the closing blessing?  Will we even make it long enough to receive the Eucharist?  Or will we be hurrying a hysterically inconsolable child out during the homily?

The last happens rarely, and Mae genuinely seems excited to be at Mass most of the time, with her excited squeals being the main reason we hang out in the vestibule, behind the glass doors, only going forward for communion.

The vestibule was crowded by the time Mass started on Easter morning.  There were no seats left inside the Church and so as more people filed in it began to fill up.

Mae stays in her stroller because we've learned she's more comfortable and likely to be quiet in it, and I maneuvered her back and forth to try to get her a clear view through the glass doors as more and more people stood in front of her and to try to keep her away from offers of foods that she will be very sick if she even touches.  Finally I sank down next to her and held her hand as she giggled and clutched her mermaid doll in an embrace.

As a little boy walked in, who was maybe ten years old, I saw Mae's eyes fall on him and follow him as he walked across the room.  She doesn't usually pay much attention to older kids.  She loves babies and toddlers.  But this boy captured her attention and by the time he was halfway past us she had a giant smile on her face.

It was clear immediately that he also faced his own special challenges and he noticed Maggie right away and smiled back at her.  When he got too tired to stand any longer he came and sat on the ground next to us.  And when his mom arrived we smiled at each other, an understanding smile, before turning her attention back to Mass.

Then my attention was captured by Maggie reaching over repeatedly and trying to poke the woman standing next to us with her mermaid.  I was kind of surprised.  This wasn't typical Mae behavior.  She doesn't usually reach out to or bother people around us at all.

As I attempted to contain the mermaid doll, the woman, who Maggie was obviously drawn to, whispered to me that it was alright several times as she tended her toddler.  I noticed that she was watching Maggie with a smile on her face and finally she leaned over and whispered: "My nine year old daughter loved mermaids too.  She wouldn't talk and she wouldn't interact with other kids, but she loved mermaids.  And so when she went to swim lessons it was just so freeing, and then she would interact with people when she was in the water."

I smiled and whispered back, "she loves mermaids and the water too... so much..." and wondered if perhaps I'd just met another mom of another little mermaid loving girl on the spectrum who'd wanted to offer a little encouragement to someone closer to the beginning of a similar journey.

We made it all the way to the final blessing this Easter Sunday.  And I felt greatly blessed that we were able to receive this week, but I also felt that this particular Mass had been a sort of gift to see other families at other places in their own journeys, in a setting outside of waiting rooms.


  1. Just lovely, and certainly an Easter blessing!!!


  2. It sounds like Mae has a gift for discerning things about others. Wow! What an Easter blessing for you, and for that other mother too!

  3. I sympathize! Last year the crowds resulted in overwhelmed little ones and myself, and where I had gone to Mass that day was NOT good as we ended up outside, on the grass, in the sun, trying to hear the speakers on the outside patio area where all the chairs under cover were filled as was the vestibule where the benches that serve as cry room were filled with CEOs (Christmas-Easter-Occasionallies). Then before Mass was over someone came out to spread the candy on that same grass for the children to gather after Mass-- and which mine cannot eat--and I simply gave up and went home to avoid the meltdown if said small child realized an opportunity for sweets missed.

    This year I went to the afternoon Mass which lacked all the lovely Easter trappings but did allow us to get through Mass without anyone melting down. Even then, if not for a friend who happened to be there with helpful teenagers, it might not have gone even so well as it did. I only had to attend the infant in the cry area.

    This year for some reason I found myself deeply resenting the CEOs because my favorite Mass of the entire year is so packed by them that I am shut out. If the homily actually told them that they needed to get to confession for having missed so many Sundays, and that they need to attend EVERY Sunday or be in mortal sin (unless exempted for legitimate reasons like illness) then perhaps I would feel better because they might actually convert and return to practicing the Faith.

    My attitude used to be better about the crowds, but I think that was before I had to balance my sensory issues with my child's sensory issues on days where it seems like women use half the bottle of perfume and the men half a bottle of aftershave and thus render me unable to sing, and half unable to breath, while I am wrestling kids, I have been challenge beyond my ability to succeed at being glad they are there at least twice in the year. Then there are those oblivious people who will grab at any hand to try and force hand holding during the Our Father. I keep waiting for the day when someone does that on a day when the sensory load is on a hair trigger and there is a loud melt down in the middle of Mass-- another reason I am forced to avoid my favorite Mass of the entire year.

    I am very glad you were able to have a good experience and actually attend an Easter Mass.

    1. Easter and Christmas seem to be exceptionally sensory overloading... even for our sensory seekers!


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!