Agnes is a young girl with severe autism. She rarely speaks, is unable to initiate conversation, and struggles daily with behavioral problems. With years of therapy, however, she has learned to respond when greeted and even to blow kisses when they are blown to her.
One morning, her parents decided to take Agnes to Mass, though it had been an especially challenging morning. Sure enough, a tantrum erupted almost as soon as she, her parents, and her caregiver Margaret settled into a pew. To quiet her, Margaret let Agnes choose a new spot. Agnes strode straight up to the altar. The priest, who knew Agnes, permitted her to remain there, provided she did not disturb the Mass. Remarkably, Agnes sat as still as a mouse — until the Consecration. At the priest’s words changing bread into Christ’s Body, she suddenly said, “Hi!” “Hi, hi!” And then, Agnes began to blow kisses.
Margaret started to weep: any other child who did this would almost certainly be speaking and acting of her own initiative, but Agnes? Agnes could only be responding. Someone else had greeted her first. Someone else had blown kisses to her first. It was Christ, her Creator, her friend, truly present in the Eucharist, who had showed her love in the way she was able to receive it.
Margaret is a friend of the Sisters of Life, and this story appeared in the latest issue of the Sisters’ newsletter Imprint. I have been thinking about it particularly recently, because the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this past weekend launched our country’s three-year Eucharistic Revival. Among other initiatives, the Archdiocese of Detroit, in partnership with Hallow, a popular Catholic app dedicated to facilitating prayer, launched the I AM HERE campaign. I AM HERE provides inspiring Eucharist-related stories, like Agnes’s, and recorded meditations that foster Eucharistic devotion.
The story of Jesus and “Agnes” (her name has been changed for anonymity) teaches several lessons. Hidden under the appearances of bread, is Love Himself — as Eastern Christians are fond of calling Him, the Lover of Mankind. He is not put off by our tantrums, our failure to initiate friendship with Him. He stands at the door and knocks; He remains in the tabernacle of every Catholic church and waits for us — for you. If only you will give Him the chance, He will speak the language of your heart, speak to you exactly as you need to be spoken to.
And He will change you. As tears streamed down Margaret’s face, Agnes came up beside her and gently laid her hand on Margaret’s cheek. “Who taught you that?” Margaret thought. We know Who taught Agnes gentleness — it was the One, meek and humble of heart, who had spoken to her from the altar. It was the One who is so meek and so humble that He is willing to be mistaken for bread, in His desire to be with us, to be within us as our food.
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.