Our church has a beautiful and unusual holy water font that you see as you enter the church. It is shaped like a layered bathtub. As people enter the church they can dip their fingers into the font and bless themselves with holy water. The font is also used for baptisms. Our family has become accustomed to instinctively placing our fingers into the font when we arrive for Mass.
Our daughter, who has autism, has struggled with this. Danielle has always been fascinated by water and often has immersed her entire hand into the font. Sometimes she splashes water onto the floor so we take care to place our hand on top of her hand and gently instruct her to dip in just two fingers to bless herself. We were delighted to see that the last time we went to church she was able to do just that. She placed two fingers into the font and blessed herself independently and in an appropriate manner. She is 21, so as you can see we have been working on this for quite some time.
Water is essential for life on earth so it’s no wonder that it plays such an important role in the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church. It’s present at our baptism, and also sprinkled on parishioners by priests and deacons on certain Sundays. At our parish the choir usually sings the hymn “Rain Down” as we are sprinkled with water.
When Danielle approached the holy water font and dipped her two fingers in with reverence and care, it was a great moment. We were so proud of her. It reminded us that for people with special needs (and indeed for all of us) learning is something that takes place throughout the whole of life.
All those times when we had to guide our daughter’s hand carefully into the holy water font so she would not cause a mess taught her how to bless herself with due reverence and respect. We are confident that there will be many more great moments for Danielle as long as we keep at it, trust in God, and never give up.
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).