Incident at Mass recently - how to handle if it happens again

I went to Mass yesterday morning. As I was going for Holy Communion, a teenage boy with a mental disability (Downs) kept trying to grab my arm - he was sitting in an aisle seat and was alone while his mother received Communion. I thought he would have known my posture of head down and hands folded meaning to not disturb me (which is my normal way of going up to receive Communion). The young man then tried to grab my right arm several times to get me to shake hands with him like he was able to do with several others in the line. I gently pushed his arm away several times before I was out of his reach to go receive Communion.

How should I handle it if it happens again? Should I approach his mother who certainly does her best to make him behave himself at Mass and let her know?

These kids are real loving. I don’t see what your problem was shaking hands with him.
Look out for him next Sunday & give him a big hug as well as handshake. He was offering unconditional love/friendship - perhaps on reflection you can see it like that.

I fail to see what the big problem was. A mentally disabled person tried to give you the sign of peace while you were in the communion line? And that upsets you to the point that you wonder if you should take action? You are in that line for how long? a total of 2 minutes maybe? and you would be by him for how long? 15 seconds? Good grief. How about remembering why you are in that line, and Who you are receiving and being a bit more charitable to both the disabled person AND his mother who clearly has a heavy load to carry. It’s not asking that much for her to be able to attend and hour of Mass and receive Holy Communion, quite likely her strength for the week of dealing with him, and expect to have the support and compassion of her Church family. Instead of trying to change his innocent, loving behavior, how about considering changing your attitude?

Two possibilities. I’d have smiled at him shaken my head and whispered ‘Not right now, love, I’m saying my prayers’.
Or just have given in and taken his hand.
I agree he should have known not to interrupt people, but perhaps he had been told not to but just felt moved by a hymn or something?

I really wouldn’t have seen it as a huge problem, as others have said. And I would be concerned how rebuffing him would look to someone attending Mass for the first time.

A very wise post!! God gave some an affliction perhaps to give us an opportunity to love more. I find it hard, coming with a personal reserve, coming to grips with the child-like openness shown by these children. But you only have to look to our present pope for example at welcoming the loving youth at a recent ceremony. God bless you in your refection shown in your post.

Why are you having a problem with this?

First, there have been many threads on these forums of people complaining about adults who do not respect other people’s “space” at Mass and don’t understand the physical, visual actions… and you are complaining about a teenager you classify as having a “mental disability”? You need to cut the person some slack.

Second, you say the mother does her best to make him behave. Do you honestly think parenting of any child comes with a 100% guarantee? Do you honestly think the mother has no clue what the child is doing?

Third, have you spent time with these children or have learned about their behavior? I think this would help you understand the dynamics of children with down syndrome…

Fourth, how would you react if someone came up out of the blue and said in effect"Your mentally disabled son is making me uncomfortable and interrupting my prayer. Make him stop!" Yeah, that’ll go over well!

Sorry, if this sounds over the top… but this is really a non-problem and as another poster said could be a reflection opportunity for you.

It is not a problem for me more of a dilemma. I do not mind sharing a sign of peace at the appropriate time with him & others but I prefer the silent reflection time in line then in my seat during Communion. There are other children in my parish that have Downs that remain seated at Communion quietly unless they receive. Another young lady who has Downs like the young man receives Communion very reverently, sits quietly most of the time during Mass, and does not reach out for others the way he did to me and others in the line.

So what? Its not all about you. Shake his hand and move on.

I realize that going up for Holy Communion is a time of deep reflection and to be suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted could be jarring. But once it became known what the situation was a handshake and even a hug would have been wonderful for him and you. :thumbsup:

On your way to Jesus one of his children needed you.

Just say, “Shhh. Leave me alone. I’m too busy being holy to reach out to you.”

Mention this to the ushers, so they can keep an eye on the situation, and approach the mother if need be. You are likely not the only one who is uncomfortable.

You could try approaching them, if they are not near you during the sign of peace, after Mass and giving the young child the sign of peace.

There are times I refuse to be bothered by the actions of other during Mass. This child with Downs would be one of them and I would have just put out my hand for them to hold. That is just me. I would do the same for babies and young children too.

If there is a young child behind us during Mass, and they place their hands on my shoulder, etc, I usually just place mine over there hand. It is to acknowledge them in a way that is appropriate. And also to give the parents a break from those that turn and burn holes in them with their eyes for having been touched! (we had that happen to us when our son was just learning to walk and bumped the young adult in front of us - of course he responded to her with a smile…I did what I could and changed the way I responded to others - as I would like it…)

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Really??? What are you suggesting the ushers do if it continues? Through him and his mother out?

This is a child of God, a person who will be kneeling before God praising Him upon death. Appreciate the opportunity to shake his hand and hopefully also take the opportunity after Mass to go talk to him and get to know him. He is a gift to you, accept him!

Well, this seems the perfect instance to ask: What would Jesus do?

Would Christ our Lord and Savior chastise this young boy for disturbing you? Would Mary our Mother look down on this child with a scowl?

Ask yourself, as I have many times, especially - how many times before my conversion did I not show the proper reverence to Christ in the Real Presence? (I didn’t even know about the Real Presence, so there I sat, in my pew, looking around, reading the bulletin, chatting up my nearby also-unconverted friend.)

Maybe this young man was trying to tell you your tag was showing or your wallet was exposed or your shoe was untied.

Trust me,his mother knows he’s not always behaving perfectly. Say a prayer for her and her courageous love of a child who is probably misunderstood and rebuffed for what he thinks is a loving gesture.

We have a single dad in our parish with three beautiful children. One has serious behavior issues and his dad does his best to keep the boy under control. He’s part of our parish and we just ignore his activity or gently tell him no (like when he grabs a girl’s hair and yanks).

In the future if he is so disturbing, avoid him. Go to a different line. If you want some quiet time with Jesus where you will not be disturbed, try Adoration. It’s really a blessed and special time.

Lisa

As every one us is different and unique in our capabilites, so are these precious chidren. This one may not have known.

:thumbsup:

Understandable, yet and again, his understanding is different from the others who sit quietly.

:thumbsup:

I really just can not believe that this is actually a question.

:crying::crying::crying:

This thread makes me so sad!

How wonderful that this young boy was at Mass with his mother.

I thought he would have known my posture of head down and hands folded meaning to not disturb me (which is my normal way of going up to receive Communion).

No, this is not something he knew, in fact it is the same posture that most (all?) the people in the Communion lines at both the churches I attend adopt. As adults we know not to disturb people in the Communion line, a child does not necessarily.

The young man then tried to grab my right arm several times to get me to shake hands with him like he was able to do with several others in the line. I gently pushed his arm away several times before I was out of his reach to go receive Communion.

If you had just shaken his hand, as “several others in the line” did, it would have been a momentary disturbance of your “silent reflection time” instead you chose to engage in shrugging him off and being so distressed that you are asking how to handle it if it happens again.

How should I handle it if it happens again?

Shake his hand and go back to your silent reflection.

Should I approach his mother who certainly does her best to make him behave himself at Mass and let her know?

Please don’t do this. You have already noticed that she is teaching him how to behave in church.

I am reminded of a story about when Jesus was tired, and what did He say about the children when the disciples tried to turn them away?

There are other children in my parish that have Downs that remain seated at Communion quietly unless they receive. Another young lady who has Downs like the young man receives Communion very reverently, sits quietly most of the time during Mass, and does not reach out for others the way he did to me and others in the line.

There is such a huge range of abilities, and hugely varying degrees of severity that all fall under the umbrella of ‘Downs’ that you really cannot compare the behaviour of one with another.

My heart is heavy for a child who was so rebuffed and may lack the verbal skills to ask his mom to explain why this happened. He just wanted to shake your hand, not distract your from your reflections with idle chatter.

Hi MissRose73,

I can see that what happened really bothered you. But I hope that, upon reflection, you won’t feel the need to formally address it with anyone.

My son, who will be ten this month, has autism, not Downs. I do my best to make sure he behaves in Mass, but, like any child, he has his moments. At the sign of peace, he goes to great lengths to shake every hand he can possibly reach. (Whether they want to or not, even if he has to poke them in the back to get their attention. :blush:) The people around us usually respond lovingly, for which I am so grateful. It took years of hard work to get him socialized enough to interact with strangers at all. I’m glad that, at least in church, he doesn’t have to deal with rejection.

If this should happen again, maybe you can look upon it as an opportunity to show love and compassion for a family who may be in great need of it. God bless. :slight_smile:

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