Sunday, October 15, 2006

Words of a different sort

The little boy was quite angry as he tugged on his mother’s skirt to attract her attention as the bus left the stop this morning to head towards St. Peter’s. He was about 5 years old and was sitting on the knee of a girl of about 8. Normally, I wouldn’t have noticed the two children, except that when I saw them I had just realised that the group of adults surrounding them were all signing, so most, if not all, were deaf. What was fascinating about the little boy was that he showed, in his anger and frustration, that he is already fluent in sign language. His little fingers flashed backwards and forwards, leaving his mother in no doubts about what he was saying.

It was the first time that I have ever seen a child communicating through signing, and the first time I’ve ever seen someone express anger. It was every bit as articulate as using a voice! I sat mesmirised by his rapidly-moving fingers.

As the bus carried along the road, it occurred to me that, although he didn’t know it, that child had given me a gift this morning.

One of the four new saints canonised this morning had a great concern for those who could not speak or hear, so it was good to see that, as the Mass progressed, there was, alongside the Pope or whoever else was speaking, someone who gave a simultaneous translation for the deaf. Amongst the crowd of many tens of thousands, there were others who, presumably, were doing a translation into English, Spanish or French. Since I was myself doing the English commentary for Vatican Radio and Vatican Television, with my colleagues doing likewise in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Italian, it was intriguing to watch a completely different type of commentary taking place in St. Peter’s Square.

This evening, there are huge crowds of people across the world celebrating four new saints. Me? I freely admit that my greater joy was found in the fingers of one angry little boy and those of colleagues-who-didn’t-know-they-were-colleagues presenting the events of this morning’s canonisations for those who couldn’t hear what the rest of us were saying. They made my day! Isn’t it amazing the way in which differing abilities can enrich others?

God bless,
Sr. Janet