It still happens that there is no room at the inn. Just like it happened to the Holy Family that night in Bethlehem. It is difficult to listen to that part of their story. Not having a room at the inn for the King of heaven to be born. Still, hope shines through.
At the Inn
Some time ago, I found myself listening to the story of one of our families of a teenager with autism who at the time was part of our Adaptive Confirmation program. Mom shared with me how his son had been carrying his math book everywhere for the past week. Thus, when the day came to go to Mass, he undoubtedly took with him his math book.
As the family was entering the narthex in our church, one of the ushers intercepted Mom informing her that his son could not go into the church with a math book. Of course, Mom patiently explained to the usher that her son was in the Adaptive Confirmation program as a candidate with autism. She even shared about his son’s attachment to his math book that week, and assured him the book would not be a distraction as her son knew not to read it during Mass.
At that point, I was wondering why an usher had been so demanding at the beginning since I was sure the usher had welcomed the family into the church after such explanation. I reassured Mom after her sharing. However, she proceeded to tell me the unwelcoming, sad ending to her story. After Mom’s explanation, the usher had directed them to sit in the narthex for Mass because, again, her son could not possibly take a math book to church. I was speechless, and Mom was now crying.
A wave of feelings was crashing onto my heart. Shock, anger, justice, mercy, frustration. With kind words, I comforted Mom telling her I was sorry this had happened to them; that the usher should not had questioned her; that she did more than enough by explaining her personal story. Then, she confided that she wasn’t sure she would go back to church again for Mass.
I was silently praying while I reassured Mom I would be letting our Faith Formation Coordinator what had happened (she oversaw our Adaptive Confirmation program at the time). Of course, I asked her if it was fine for me to share her story. She consented and told me she would try again and attend Mass next weekend. I promised to text her as soon as I had informed our coordinator. Mom thanked me for listening to her, and for everything I have done for her son. As I know gifts come from God, I answered by thanking God I was able to do what I do.
How hard it was listening to Mom share this story with me. Not having a place in church when they went to Mass. No space in the church to feel a warmly welcome. Still, I know we are called to make room at the inn of our hearts, our lives, our church. To let hope shine.
Little by little, our church has been making room at the inn for persons with disAbilities and additional needs. This year, we had a Sensory Friendly Mass for our Adaptive Faith Formation families where parish staff and volunteers came together with our families to celebration the First Holy Communion of our candidates. To make room at the inn means to see persons with disAbilities and additional needs as God sees us all: as His children!
Let Us Pray
God, Our Father, may we make room at the inn for and with our Church with disAbilities and additional needs so we can be Church together as we prepare this Advent to make room at the inn for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Amen.