SPECIAL NEEDS: Giving Sound To The Silence
Awaking what is dormant…giving sound to the silence
I’m thinking about the arrival of Jesus, the new arrival for this time in my life, for all our time and I wonder in what space will he choose to be born again. There are the usual suspects – my sin, the areas of my life where I’m not in control, my vulnerability.
But then I remember an add on tv. A man is walking along the corridor of his company building when he hears an old phone ringing. The sound comes from behind a door of ‘The Complaints Department’. The man enters the room which is covered in dust and cobwebs; he answers the phone, listens to the voice on the other end of the line and replies something like, “sorry, you’ve got the wrong number!”
The product they are advertising has not had a complaint in years and there is no complaint now, so the man emerges from the room satisfied and he closes the door on the gathered dust within.
I’d like to be able to stand before God with no complaint made against me and, at Christmas, I’m hoping that Jesus will come and make his home within at least one of the areas where there is some complaint and need for improvement. But I suspect now that God has a different idea.
In the place where there is no complaint there is also no life, no engagement. It is in decay, dying, dead. The birth of Jesus is about life and engagement in places where decay is at work.
Yesterday I celebrated Mass with a group of special needs adults and their families at the St. John of God Centre, Ravenswell in Bray. I’m not used to a setting like this but decide at the outset that I would “be myself” as much as possible and go with the flow.
Most of the residents are not able to speak in the conventional way. Some make no sound at all and some make a lot of noise, different people would let out a spontaneous roar from time to time. I had no idea if I was communicating or not but I said what I had to say and had to shout a lot of the time to be heard.
Joy, the chaplain had prepared a lovely liturgy in which various members of the community placed a figure in the crib and a member of their family would read a prayer. As Louise placed a shepherd in the crib she was pure delighted that the red of his cloak matched the red of her jumper. She said it with signs and with a smile that had been previously absent on her anxious face.
When it was complete I suggested we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. A bit cheesy maybe but it connected, so we sang it again. Everyone connects with happy birthday. And at the end of Mass we sang ‘Silent Night’ everyone joining in with whatever sound God gave them to sing with. I don’t think anything else I do over Christmas will compare with this.
After Mass I went down to Eugene, a man I anointed a couple of months ago because he was dying and here he is, revived, his beautiful blue eyes smiling. He has been silent for a long time but his sister sitting beside him said he was very animated and excited by the Mass. She hadn’t seen him so animated for a long time. He was one of the ones who let out a roar from time to time. And I understood the connection that had taken place. It was pure joy! And to think our society is moving in the direction of saying that most of the people at that Mass should not have been born.
There was part of Eugene that had gone silent, something that lay dormant within him. Yesterday at Mass God came and awakened that which was dormant and gave a sound to the silence within him. There is part of me that lays dormant, a fear and a love choked within me. This is perhaps my special need.
It reminds me to allow God himself to choose what part of my life He will enter and touch this Christmas or at any other time. Like King David, the most noble part of me wants to provide Him with the most appropriate dwelling place but God insists that He will make the choice and, like Mary I will now let Him do just that.
My prayer for the remainder is simply, “Come Lord Jesus, let it be done to me according to your Word!”
Eamonn Monson sac www.eamonnmonson.com