What I learn from Xavier
I remember talking with my friend, Amber Snipes, about her son Xavier several years ago. She was stressed, because he kept randomly shrieking during Sunday Mass, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She was concerned that the jarring sound frustrated other people. So I told her, “Amber, if Xavier is being noisy, and we can’t handle it, that’s our bad, not yours.”
I do recognize that Xavier-isms can be a little unsettling, and take some getting used to at first. He’s a boy, now 14-years-old, whose challenges in life include cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism. He is in a wheelchair, and unable to speak the common tongue as his head often sways to a song that no one else can hear. He has endured multiple brain surgeries and other medical procedures as a result of his conditions, and still averages about five seizures a week—sometimes more, sometimes less.
Amber once told me that being Xavier’s mother has strengthened her faith by causing her to rely on God constantly for strength and help. Xavier strengthens my own faith, too, but in a different way. When I see him, I recognize what I truly am—what we all truly are—helpless and in need, but precious none-the-less. By the way we each carry our various crosses—our brokenness from the Fall—we are all as Xavier before God.
So maybe I know when to make which sounds, and when to be quiet during Mass. But I can’t say my heart and mind are always so on point. In truth, sometimes my inner life can be as random as Xavier’s shrieking. So I’m not at all upset by the way his more obvious challenges invite us to acknowledge our hidden ones. I simply accept it—willingly and humbly—the reality of my own lameness, and of God’s unfailing love for His special children.
Xavier doesn’t seem to shriek as much during Mass anymore, but if I happen to hear his distinct voice making that familiar sound—which I’m convinced is his own way of praising God with the rest of us—I simply smile at knowing that the Snipes Family is there with us at the Lord’s Table, and we all get to be in Christ’s presence, glorifying Him together.
And speaking of the Snipes Family (a.k.a #TeamXavier), they have recently set out on a very creative, fascinating adventure in efforts to make life better for Xavier. They’ve added a new member to their clan—a service-dog-in-training named Clipo. The many ways this precious animal will be able to help Xavier are truly incredible. But first! They need to raise several thousand dollars in order to afford Clipo’s training as a service dog.
I recently made this video, and built a website in order to tell their story, and help them reach their goals. I hope you’ll watch, read, share, and learn more about how you can help #TeamXavier train Clipo the Service Dog, and help make Xavier’s quality of life just that much better. I promise, you will not regret it!