This is an extract from a new book of conversations on the theology of Stanley Hauerwas between Hauerwas and Brian Brock. This short extract comes from chapter 4 and Brian talking about his son Adam, who has Down Syndrome and autism.
BB: You've been to church with Adam and seen him take Eucharist. He doesn't go to Eucharist because he's hungry. In fact, he never, under any other circumstances, takes one drink of anything. For him it's clearly not quenching his thirst, though every once in a while he does have to have the cup wrestled away from him! ... Now does he rationally know that Communion is Communion? It would be hard to believe that.
SH: Do you?
BB: I believe he is "taking communion" not just "having a sip of wine." But I also can talk about it and be appropriated into it through the medium of language in a way that he can't.
SH: So you do it for him?
BB: I think of going with him to church every week and us being in a tradition where it's a physical thing to eat and drink and move around the sanctuary as both worship and catechesis. I know I confessed his faith for him at baptism, and I can't say for sure but I think he might well commune for himself. I think he probably has been incorporated deeply enough into the Christian story because he's part of a liturgy and he knows how it works and he knows what comes next and he largely willingly embraces that, which is about as much understanding as I would expect from anybody else in the entire congregation. Last Sunday the server didn't give him the wine and he just stayed there at the rail until she came round again! He knows what he's there for, and it's definitely not lunch!
SH: All that is the body being shaped by habit. The story is shaping him. Probably it's that basic for you and me!
BB: It's true. It's true.
But at least to make sense of what is happening on Sunday morning, could we say that what we believe is really going on there is organised according to the Christian story? ... Remember, Adam's not hungry! Or probably better, he's hungry, it's lunchtime after all, but he knows this meal isn't going to fix that hunger. But I do believe it satisfies his habituated expectation of what should happen in church.
Brian Brock and Stanley Hauerwas, Beginnings: Interrogating Hauerwas. Ed. Kevin Hargaden. (T & T Clark, 2017), pp.120-121.