While at my age being the main celebrant at the Holy Week ceremonies can be very demanding on a worn out body, it is more than compensated by experiencing first hand the fervor and the enthusiasm of our people with special needs. In fact I begin to envy them,as they appear to be much closer to Jesus than I could ever hope.
On Holy Thursday, the assistants and I took our basin of water and towel and knelt before twelve of our special friends.The cry or the roar of some of our friends as they reacted suddently to the cold water being poured on their feet was a reminder to me and the assistants of the cries of the wounded and our commitment to answer their cry.
On Good Friday, our special friends enacted the Passion Play,and at the Veneration of the Cross they came forward to kiss the crucifix. They who are carrying the cross of being slow learners and the wounds of rejection and abandonment were able to empathize with the suffering Jesus more than I or you. You noticed it as they kissed the crucifix with passion and with tears in the eyes. Wounded people know each other.
Then on Holy Saturday you could see how they felt the Joy of Easter as they kept ringing the altar bell non-stop and knocking on the doors of heaven with their Alleluias. It was at the singing of the Our Father as they joined hands with each other and swayed in dance from left to right that you know they were expressing their love and gratitude to the Risen Jesus. It is that same Risen Christ who gives them new confidence , new strength, new hopes and new life ,and who continues to walk with them on the Road to Emmaus.
Columban Fr. Noel O’Neill lives and works in South Korea.