Pastor's Corner 033014

posted Apr 16, 2014, 10:38 AM by Music Director

Did you know that April is “Autism Awareness” month?  Autism is probably one of the most common conditions affecting children and families, yet it is probably one of the most least understood by the majority of the public.  For instance, did you know that 1 in every 88 children has some form of this condition? I only just recently learned that fact, and I was stunned when I heard it.  I had no idea it was so prevalent!   Consequently, there are many children and families affected by it.

            One of the problems of the condition is that most autistic children seem quite “normal.”   Many display little or no outward signs of the condition.  Others who have a more severe form may exhibit behavioral issues like calling out, rocking or jumping.  Some are totally withdrawn.  Others can participate in intelligent conversation.  Outside stimuli like bright indoor lighting, sudden movement or loud sounds can be upsetting and cause a verbal or physical reaction.  They will often have great difficulty being attentive.  Such stimuli can create behavioral difficulties, resulting in their being kept at home or, in the most severe cases, in a specialized care facility.     

The challenges that autism presents to parents are daunting to say the least, and they deserve all the love and support they can get.  Their children are God’s special creations and need kind and sensitive responses no matter what their behavior is at a given time. 

            This is why many parishes around the country set aside occasional Masses to particularly welcome families affected by autism and other disabilities.  Such “inclusion” Masses take place monthly at Christ our Light Parish in Cherry Hill and at Holy Family Parish across the Pike.  After receiving several requests to host one here, I’d like our parish to join in this effort. 

Next Sunday, the 6:00 PM Mass will be an “inclusion Mass,” designed primarily for families with autistic children or any other neurological or behavioral disorder.  Of course, all are welcome to attend, but you need to be aware of the changes to the Mass that will be employed, and be prepared to respond lovingly to any behavioral outbursts that might occur.  The idea is to provide these children and their families with a place where they can come and feel safe, welcome and loved.  That’s why it’s called an “inclusion” Mass!

            The Mass will be short, about 30-35 minutes long.  The lighting will be kept very low. The only music will be the 4 hymns (Gathering, Offertory, Communion, and Sending Forth) played softly with just 1 verse and refrain sung.  There will be only 2 readings, the first from the Old Testament and the Gospel.  The Psalm will be recited and abbreviated.  The shortest Eucharistic Prayer (II) will be used.  There will be no other rites or ceremonies, no elaborate Penitentials or Solemn Blessings.  This is all necessary to avoid over stimulating the children.  Still, it might get a little noisy.  Some children may get up and wander around.  Others may call out.  This is the important thing:  any and all behavior is to be accepted as normal!  If any of this would be disturbing to you, please do NOT attend this Mass

            We will see how it goes, and then decide whether or not to continue with a monthly “inclusion Mass;” and if so, when.  I trust that we will, because I trust in YOUR capacity and desire to make this an even more welcoming, inclusive and loving community that is a safe haven for ALL of God’s children, no matter who or what they are, what they suffer, or what they have to offer.  God bless you!

In His Love,

Fr. Mike