By MAUREEN MULLALLY-CLARKE
One morning, at the English Mass on our unforgettable Pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I could not help noticing the mother calming her disabled son with a gentle pressure on his arm when his desire to communicate — or to pray? – resulted in his becoming too noisy a participant in the Eucharist celebration. Every time she did this, he turned to her with an unforgettable look of pure love and joy, willingly obeying her.
He loved the singing of the choir and looked so disappointed whenever it stopped. After Mass had finished, I went to speak to them. She told me his name was John and that he was 19 years old,. “Say hello to Maureen,” she suggested – and he did so haltingly.
On the following day, I saw them sitting at a neighbouring table in a restaurant, and went over to speak to them again. The mother invited me to sit down and began to tell me about her life. John was her sixth child, she said. All her other children had died before birth. But she had named each one and told me their names.
John was the joy of her life. He had made his first Communion, initially with just a sip from the chalice. Later, a small piece of the host was introduced. Eventually, he was able to receive Communion under both kinds. He had been Confirmed.
Then she told me that she would like to share something with me. When John was about 11 years old, they had been visiting her mother, his grandmother. “As you can see,” she added, “he is never quiet when he is awake, either moving his limbs constantly, or making noises, which you can’t always understand, although he believe he is speaking.”
On this occasion, the two women suddenly realised that the room was completely quiet. When they looked round they saw John, silent and transfixed, gazing at his grandmother’s crucifix on the wall. “You could tell that he was communicating with it in some way.”
After several minutes of complete stillness, John left the crucifix reluctantly, but kept turning around to look at it again. “John, what is that?” his mother asked. “You could never guess what he said”, she told me. And, indeed, I could never have imagined what his reply would be.
“That’s Holy Communion,” he explained.
I asked him to say a prayer for me and he made the sign of the Cross.