Lord of All

“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.

And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord”

Refrain from “One Bread, One Body” by John Foley

 

The refrain of this popular hymn still rings in my ears a week after participating at one the White Masses celebrated last weekend in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.  Designated white to signify our baptism, the White Masses were offered throughout our diocese on October 29 and 30 to “celebrate the giftedness of persons with special needs”.

My daughter Samantha, who is 14 years old and has autism, and I attended the White Mass at Church of the Resurrection in Portsmouth, VA.  Feeling just a bit anxious at being at an unfamiliar church, we made our way through the doors and were greeted warmly by the pastors, some friends and Nita Grignol, director of the Parish Advocates Program.  All was well and Samantha and I found a seat in the back of the church.

As I began to survey the sanctuary, my anxiety began to grow however.  Yes, it was obvious that there were many people attending who had disabilities, even autism, but I did not see or hear anyone who was as affected by autism as my daughter.  When she began vocalizing and jumping around, I braced myself.  Was I going to be uncomfortable, even here, at a worship time specifically designed for those with special needs?  Even though we have been working hard at it, Samantha has yet to make it through the entire Mass in the sanctuary at our home church.  We often have to leave the sanctuary because she gets quite loud, calling out phrases or singing parts of songs she knows.  I decided that, if needed, we would step out, but I would try to make it through.  After all, I reasoned to myself, this Mass was for people just like my daughter, right?

The music began and all was going quite well.  Samantha followed along in her specially designed prayer book and seemed to enjoy looking around the unfamiliar church surroundings.

Since I spent the majority of my time focusing on making sure Samantha was staying fairly calm, I don’t really recall much of the scripture readings or homily.  I was just pleased that we had made it through this far.  Perhaps we would be able to sit through the entire Mass for the first time ever- I was cautiously optimistic.

And then, seemingly from out of nowhere, I was hit hard by an overwhelming emotional response to the music.  Try as I may, I could not control the tears running down my face as the piano played and the choir rang out:   “One bread, one body, one Lord of all”.  As a cantor in my own church, the song is very familiar to me, but it had taken on special meaning here.  I realized, as preparations were being made on the altar to celebrate the Eucharist that my daughter had never actually been in the sanctuary during this most Holy part of the Mass.  We usually made it as far as the homily and then sat out in the section reserved for parents with toddlers.  But it came to me in a rush-she needs to be part of this.  She is just as much part of this “one body” as any one else, and our “one Lord”, is most definitely her Lord as well.

As I tried to regain control of myself, we made our way through the communion line.  Even though she said “peace” instead of “Amen”, after receiving communion, I was still overwhelmed with joy.

We sat back down and enjoyed the end of the Mass and the wonderful reception that followed.  And I was left to contemplate our experience.

I have to admit, I had arrived that evening with some anxiety and even some questions as to the necessity of having a “special needs” White Mass.  After all, shouldn’t all Masses be inclusive to all people, giving anyone, despite their perceived “abilities” the chance to participate and serve?  Did we really need to have a special separate worship time?  But I left with a thankful heart, humbled and moved by the experience of coming together with some of the body of Christ who are sometimes excluded, sometimes overlooked.

I am also very grateful that our Catholic Church is making special efforts to seek out those with differences in our midst. And it is my hope and prayer that all in our Catholic community will one day realize that we are indeed “one body” with just “one Lord”.  Maybe one day, every Mass celebrated will be a “White Mass”, complete by the participation of the whole body of Christ and the realization that He is indeed the Lord of All!

Many thanks to Nita Grignol and all my fellow Parish Advocates for all that you do.

Blessings,

Karen Jackson