I’ve seen this article shared before. It’s about a teenaged girl with Down Syndrome who has a goal of serving Mass in every state. In it, the girl says, “All I want is to be a saint.”
Reading those words makes me think a little deeper about Paul. There’s a lot more within him than we can see from the outside. He is, in a way, “trapped” by his inability to talk, and even by his poor fine motor skills. And sure, maybe this girl is less delayed than he is, and she probably doesn’t have autism like he does, and obviously, she is older than him. But the truth remains that Paul has deeper thoughts and feelings than he can express. He is, in a sense, a mystery.
I have to try to remember this, even in daily tasks, but I fail an awful lot. Like when I let Ben choose which color cup he wants, and then just hand Paul whatever is left or when Ben chooses the music in the car and not giving Paul a turn to pick.
I know he can’t exactly tell me what he wants in every situation, and he seems content with any cup or music, but I should still ask. He’s made it clear he has opinions and preferences and I should honor that. I cringe to think of the feelings he may have that he can’t express- maybe he’s been jealous, or resentful, or hurt, but I just kept on with my day.
But more than just the mundane tasks of each day, this article makes me think of the holy mysteries that permeate life. I believe Paul to be a naturally spiritual person, as children tend to be- he participates when we pray, attends at Mass (as much as any young child), clearly prefers Marian hymns to other music, and Brother Francis is his favorite show. Some of this has to do with familiarity for him, but we ought not discount his “popular piety,” because these things can be instruments of grace and a source of true enjoyment and sanctification, not just routine.
The yearnings of our heart, our desire for our Creator and for holiness, do not need eloquent words or even an intelligent mind* to be fervent. The soul is deep and transcends beyond the material limitations of our bodies. Paul is called to be a saint, and not by some incidental means (like assuming he doesn’t have the capacity to sin), but by virtue of his creation in God’s image, his baptism into new life, and even just the nature of being a human being.
As Paul ages, I’ll try to keep the “holy mysteries” and Paul’s own mystery in my mind. I don’t want to assume that he doesn’t know or understand things; I don’t want to assume he has no desire to participate and serve as he is able; I don’t want to assume he doesn’t know about or desire to be a saint.
*This is not a statement about Paul.