When I was 13 I fell in love with American Sign Language. I don’t know why or what sparked my passion but I remember telling my mom how badly I wanted to learn it. Unfortunately I was too young to take the community center’s class and as I got older, I was too busy. My passion never left when I entered college but I still never had the opportunity to fit it into my schedule at my old university. But then I attended BU and became friends with a lot of Deaf Studies majors and minors and even a Grad student in Deaf Education. They all encouraged me to sign up for an ASL 1 class. So I did, and my passion has grown a hundredfold.
I loved ASL 1 and now love ASL 2, which I’m in currently. I have been blessed to have the same professor for 1 and 2 and will have him again for ASL 3 next semester. ASL is a language unlike any other. The hands, body, and face serve as nouns, pronouns, subjects, verbs, grammar, vocabulary and everything else that makes up a language. It’s not a spoken language and yet it speaks volumes. Stories told in this language are more passionate and expressive than I’ve ever witnessed. A simple, funny story about my professor’s dog has me laughing uncontrollably. Stories are executed perfectly, and I feel like I’m there in that moment. This is just one magical quality of ASL that makes me love it even more.
Today my classmate and I had the opportunity to attend a Deaf Catholic Mass at Sacred Heart in Newton, MA. The priest that celebrates it is Deaf and signs the entire Mass while an interpreter interprets it. Deaf Parishioners sign the readings and psalms and the Deaf deacon signed the homily. Attending this Mass was unlike any Catholic Mass I’ve been to. Attendance is small (about 30) but the presence in the church is strong. And do not be fooled, Deaf Mass is actually pretty loud. People continue having conversations in ASL during the Mass and due to verbal markers that are part of the grammar of ASL, children laughing, and babies crying/cooing, it gets quite noisy during the service. And I love it. The Deaf community at this church is a vibrant one, and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and witnessing the widespread joy and enthusiasm and love of the Lord that permeates this community.
As I mentioned earlier about ASL’s unique ability to tell passionate and expressive stories, the readings today at Mass were no different. They had a reading from the Prophet Isaiah that touched me in a way that most Bible verses don’t. The person signing the story made it come alive, and I felt like I was there. The entire Mass felt that way: alive and passionate. I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit working in this community and working in my heart. Sometimes Catholic Mass can seem so monotonous with unenthusiastic parishioners in the pews half saying the responses that it loses my interest and attention quickly. Not this mass though, and I was excited to feel my passion for the Lord and my faith return, thanks to the vibrant and joyful community at the Deaf Mass. ASL and the Deaf Community have captured my heart, and I’m excited to see where I will incorporate them into my life.