Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Saturday Five O'Clock Mass

Jude nestles against me in her sling, sleeping, her lips parted as wispy breaths blow against my chest. I'm quiet, trying to look like I'm praying but really I'm looking at for the regular altar server. I tell people I come to the five o'clock mass because I just don't do mornings which is partially true. But I also come because the altar server has Down syndrome. And I like watching him go about his task. I like seeing him up there on the altar with the Friars.

The last mass I attended he was clearly in charge. He directed the other younger altar server. He performed his tasks efficiently. And I thought about how important it was that everyone sitting here with me was seeing him. Every Saturday (and Saturday mass is filled with regulars) these people see him. Up there.In the front. Not hidden away. He is not a tragedy or a source of sadness. He is a part of the community. The body of Christ.

After the Eucharist, as I am kneeling, awkward with the weight of Jude against me, pulling me toward the pew in front, I think about the face of God/dess (God is without gender I believe). If God/dess is what encompasses all of human expression, and if we are made in God/dess' image than God/dess must look like the face of my daughter as well. After all if  He/She is to mirror back to us own collective reflection, disabilities both physical and intellectual, are woven into that matrix. 

Thinking of the Blessed Mother, Mary, I am reminded of her multiple manifestations throughout the world: African, Latin American, Asian. She comes to us with our faces, our bodies, our skin. She wraps us in the embrace of the familiar. The Saints function in that way...a bridge as Orsi might say between earth and heaven.

But what of disabilities? I have never seen Mary portrayed in a wheel chair. Or with the features of Down syndrome.

I am still as the violin at the front mournfully calls the community to the body of Christ. The last supper. I wonder if I do an Internet search if I could find these images. And I think of how many people would call them blasphemous and I wonder why that is...I think of how many see God/dess as both male and female, of all races, but yet might not be able to imagine such a thing as God, or Christ, or Mary having Down syndrome. 

And while I watch the altar server put away the dishes from the Eucharist, I wonder what would it be like to be in a place where the leadership is open to people like him. If the great mystery of God/dess is that we are all one humanity why don't we see everyone up there? And I start to feel that wound I feel when I think of what a future where Jude is not fully integrated wholly into the human community. And I start to crave a religious vision where Jude is not just a server but a leader. A person guiding others because who are we to say that Jude doesn't have as direct a line to God as any of us?


Horacio said...

Very insightful, and like a great piece it provokes more questions rather than trying to answer any.

The questions it brought to my mind are: 1) Do icons and religious representations within the catholic church are made, and then given (from the top down) for other populations to identify with their universalist project? Or are they created by the people who feel aren't represented in the church? Not exactly from the bottom down but as a negotiation of religious and cultural identity ( I don't like the term syncretism-- maybe hybridity)?

Horacio said...

If it is the creation of new religious identities through process of self-representation and negotiation in hybridity, then the question 2) of self-representation comes to my mind. Specifically the question of self-representation and intellectual disabilities.
And the 3) question is in regards of doxa in the catholic church. What images -the images resulting of negotiation and hybridization processes- are accepted as part of liturgy, etc.? Is the official acceptance of these new images part of another negotiation of church-congregation/new congregations (even if it was populations that had little or no alternatives --as in conversion of the indigenous populations in the Americas in the sixteenth century)?

Horacio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger Stickney said...

I pointed out to you earlier that the idea of images are complicated...I wasn't fully going there with this post but it's a thread for sure. I think that the Virgin of Guadalupe is an interesting example. She comes to someone who is indigenous to Mexico not to a bishop etc. Of course this is the official story right? The virgin always seems to come those who are marginalized. There is a contestation and then they image becomes canon...it's an old story.

I'd argue that it's both of the things you mention...both an insertion from the oppressed group as well as a formation from the top down in a universalist project. She is clearly needed in this space by both sides and becomes in some ways a meeting ground.

What's interesting is the way her image is laid claim to in ways that are unorthodox.

I'm not sure what this says to the coming about of an imagery of a figure with Ds. It does speak to both self representation but also to the official sanctioning of the church. I suspect the Catholic church would be pretty opposed as their is an idea that Ds is "wrong," "a mistake" and less than. It's not just them right?

And I think they argument would obscure what I said above...it would be that the church has already made room for people with Ds..but I question the quality of that room.