My day began with an impossible question about why God allows natural disasters, and it ended with another: At a fund-raiser tonight for our parish school, one of the five honorees was a 30-year-old man. Introducing him, his mother shared a question she said he asks regularly. “Mom,” the man wants to know, “why do I have Down syndrome?”
Michael has served at the altar in our parish church for 17 years, and because of his dignity and devotion in this service (you should see him carry the crucifix), his honor tonight was well deserved. “Sometimes—there’s God—so quickly,” Blanche DuBois says at the end of scene six of A Streetcar Named Desire. Anyone who heard Michael’s mother speak or heard Michael’s own joyful acknowledgment of the honor would have to agree with Blanche.
Michael’s mother acknowledged that her son’s question was a big one, adding that she always did her best to be honest with him. So the first part of her answer always has been, “I don’t know, Michael. I don’t know why you have Down syndrome. I don’t think God said to himself one day, I’m going to give Michael Down syndrome, but I just don’t have an answer for that question, Michael.”
Then comes the second part to her answer: “I don’t know exactly how, but I know God has big plans for you, Michael.” His mother told us at the fund-raiser that perhaps we, Michael’s fellow parishioners and friends, understood what she meant. She said she began to see those “big plans” unfolding in the past five or ten years, particularly in the faces of the many people who have been inspired by Michael, by his service to the Church, by the infectious laughter with which he surprises people in his job at Shaw’s supermarket, yes, by the way he carries that crucifix at the head of the procession into Mass.
She spoke of people who are suffering, who haven’t been getting the best breaks, and imagined those people looking at Michael and making a new kind of judgment about their own lives from the cheerful, indomitable way he goes about his business.
The headliner for this St. Mary School Legacy Gala was clearly Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who begins our Lenten Parish Mission tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. But the crowd favorite this evening was probably Michael Brusil, a young man for whom God’s big plans are still unfolding.