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?