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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
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Monday, June 6, 2011

THE PERFECT FAITH FOR ADHD

When I came into the church nine years ago, the farthest thing from my mind was how its rituals and liturgy might mesh so stunningly with my random, thoughts-a-flying mind. Who knew? I was just attracted to the beauty of the rituals, the reassuring repetition of ancient prayers, the words rising to the rafters of the great church like sweet prayers, and the profound meaning in the Eucharist.

But when I think back on it--when I look at my two "kids," both ADHD, and how special accommodations were made for them during elementary school--I see how Catholicism is perfect for us ADHD folks. To wit: both my kids had "movement breaks" allowed as part of their education plans. My daughter used to invent various ailments so she could march down the hall to visit the school nurse, thus gaining a needed break and some motion. A possible accommodation for my son was a tilting stool, which he could keep in balance only by slightly moving his body. Also written into their Ed. Plans were the use of visual aids to help cement learning and assignments.

We won't spend too much time discussing how their mama was famous for having spent many family meals beneath the table instead of sitting at it, for I found sitting quietly impossible as a child. It remains a challenge. And we won't draw a comparison between me and the water shrew which is known for whiskering its way around a known path; whenever anything new is put in its way, it must go back to the beginning and start again. So the sure repetition of known prayers is perfect for this Catholic who sometimes resembles a water shrew.

When I attend a wonderful Protestant church--as I do with my Protestant husband (who also attends "my" church and can genuflect and cross himself with the best of them)--I sometimes find my mind wandering. My eyes stray to the long glass windows with--nothing on them. No color, no figures of Mary or the saints, no Latin words. No Stations of the Cross on the walls to snag my whirling thoughts and bring me back to Jesus. And sitting...after an hour my legs tremble, knees quiver, and I'm afraid I might disgrace myself by jumping up to shout, "Stop talking! Please say a prayer I can respond to! Let me kneel!" But instead, I totter to the lady's room for water and a quick peek in the mirror to reassure myself that I have not morphed into a water shrew.

Here's my conclusion: for a restless mind inhabiting an impatient body, I find the Catholic liturgy a perfect match. We stand to greet the priest. (Hello, standing! Thanks be to God.) I spread my arms in welcome and can almost feel the Holy Spirit resting on my eager hands. As the liturgy proceeds, I kneel and say the familiar responses with the rest of my brothers and sisters. Then back to sitting, my butt on the wooden pew but not for long. For throughout the service I am standing, kneeling, saying prayers out loud, and listening to a homily graced by brevity and direct visual images which I can remember. (Thanks be to God.) If at any time my thoughts wander, I look at the colorful windows and construct a story about Mary in her red and blue robe. I look at the color of the priest's vestments which anchors me to the season we are in. Soon Pentecost will come, and I will wear red, a visual reminder of the flaming tongues which touched the heads of all assembled in the upper room.

I kneel, stand, pray, sing responses, look at sacred images, and then walk forward to receive the host in my hand, after a reverential bow which reminds me why I am here and Who I am encountering. God. In the bread. In the colors of the windows. In the grotto by the church's entrance and in the holy water. And God in the people on either side of me--men with thinning hair, ladies with coiffed hair, kids trying to behave themselves and mostly succeeding, and two men behind me in wheelchairs. The people of God together.

My straying mind finds a place in God's heart, and I am at ease for a little while, touched by grace. Then I get to share the peace with the congregation, extending my hand. Please, the waving and v-sign do not do it for me: I need to press your flesh, hold your hand for a moment, and feel the warmth under your skin. It connects me.

At the end I step out into the world with the sense of having had my brain and spirit combed by a gentle mother, by someone who knows I need to be quieted like a child in her mother's lap, ready for life again, my restless heart calm.