Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Rest of the Family: Non-gluten-free Catholic Family Members

“Why is everything about Catholic Celiac’s about Nate? Why don’t you ever write about me?”


She’s not celiac. We’ve had her tested twice, once as a toddler, and then again this past year when she complained about stomach ache’s after every meal. Maybe I am super sensitive, but I think my eagle eye has been turned on from the moment she was born, always looking for similar or different signs of gluten intolerance. Nothing. Or at least nothing, yet.

First Eucharist felt like it was a breeze with Emily. Emily was in a class of two. The big issue for us was conducting the sessions in dual languages and honor four cultures; Chinese, Deaf, Catholic, and American. Emily is hearing, bi-lingual, and very good friends with an adopted Chinese Deaf friend. She chose to take classes and celebrate with the Deaf community and was welcomed as member of their community.

On the special day, the two First Communicants, Emily and Xang, signed the psalms in American Sign Language, the parents each read prayers and signed a song. Nate and a cousin of the other communicant, acted as usher’s, and at the receiving of the bread, Fr. Pat gave the low-gluten wafer to Xang. Oops, a little miscommunication or over-site, but moments later, Nate processed forward to shake his head over the wheat wafer and receive a blessing before proceeding to the cup.

Emily wants her own pyx. We have made the ritual of the low-gluten-pyx a special occasion and she felt that she was missing out on something really important. Was it something that Deaf Catholic’s don’t do? No. Something that she could have for the hearing church? No. Could she just have a pretty pyx like Nate with her own wafer? Please?

So much of Emily’s life revolves around being in a gluten-free family, it is often easy to overlook what life looks like through her eyes:

  • We arrive at the weekly church community dinner and the menu was changed at the last moment, instead of expecting Nate to exist for three hours of youth group solely on iceberg salad, we all bundle up to head home for a quick dinner before returning for Religious Education. Emily misses out sitting with her classmates.

  • Pizza parties often require early arrival so that we can heat a frozen gluten-free pizza before youth group begins. Emily is willing to hang out, even though it will be a few more years before she gets to feast with the teens. We head home for left overs or soup.

  • We bring donuts to church for the after-church-donut-social, only to find out that this Sunday is a donut-free week. Nate munches happily on his donut, Emily mumbles about the texture of the donuts and would prefer to skip his offering of a few chunks of maple frosted pastry.

I can focus on all of the negative experiences that we sacrifice and suffer through, or I can approach each of these with a positive attitude and create moments for life lessons. Each of us has our own cross to carry, Nate’s is journeying through life on a gluten-free diet. Emily needs not to make hers a sacrifice of her brother’s, rather she will have her own cross to bear. My cross is not Nate’s diet.

The way I approach the conflicts and inconveniences can be a witness to them on how they can make sacrifices with a joyful heart. It has not been a quick turning of the heart, but a conscious choice each day.

For Emily, each time she approaches the altar, I need to remember to make this moment for her a moment to receive, no matter if it is with a special pyx, or from the community plate. This is Emily’s moment with Christ.

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