May 15, 2009
Acts 15:22-31 (The exhortation of the First Council of Jerusalem)
Psalm 57:8-12 (My heart is steadfast; I will chant and sing praise)
John 15:12-27 ("No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends")
(As on Thursday, I wrote this Friday morning and wanted to have a lot of time to think about what was being written. While the past is passed, what I write now has more to do with the present and future.)
Ultimately, it is love and determination that makes us strong; to grow, as is said in Luke and Acts "in wisdom and Spirit."
Raising children means being a well-spring of these virtues. Raising children with lifelong challenges such as autism, even more. Sometimes I think my head is buried in the sand somewhere.
My wife and I live with the daily challenges of raising our autistic son. He has come a long way since he began his life's journey.
On one hand, we want to be optimistic and hopeful that he can enjoy life like most other children. On the other, most other children - and most other parents - don't fully understand what this is like, and tend to distance themselves from it. I admit that I've only just recently gained a better understanding of how our son relates to us, to others, and to events in his life. People with autism cannot easily express intangible thoughts or feelings, so faith and hope are added to the love and determination that it takes to help them grow.
His experience in developing a relationship with God seems unfathomable to me. If he has trouble relating to the barrage of stimuli before him, how does he relate to God, whom he cannot see?
When I served as a deacon at Mass, I would proclaim the Gospel of the day. Catholic liturgy has its share of pomp and circumstance, so I would carry the Book of Gospels from the main altar to the lectern/pulpit, holding it high. My son imitated this at home. But that's about all the time he could manage not to fidget from that time (about age 3-4) until about three years ago. He did not seem to have an appreciation for the traditional organ hymnody - he thought everything sounded sad, in his limited words.
When I started taking him to Cornerstone ten years ago, he took an immediate liking to the use of multimedia and the uptempo, contemporary music. He still fidgeted some, so I only brought him with me when I could be with him the whole time (which admittedly was very infrequent). Still, he picked up something from that limited exposure; enough to carry him to the point where he wanted to go more often. This has evolved into what we do today. He's able to sit and participate when I am singing or playing with the band; he is generally attentive to the extent he can be.
Somehow, a mother's love and the love of God have been imparted on our son. I make no claim to have done any of it directly. Not that I don't do it at all - I guess I would say I have trouble internalizing myself. But the proof is there.
In all of this, I have experienced a profound level of God's endless love. Each time a barrier is crossed, when the dominoes fall and we're still standing and looking for more, there is a renewed sense of hope, of strength, of resolve. There is the desire to keep moving, never to give up, never abandon the journey together.
Yesterday, I reaffirmed the vows I made at my ordination fifteen years ago. This time, though, it has more to do with being a beacon of Light - loving God, serving Him through others; and thus, proclaiming Christ. And it is not for my sake or gain, but for my son and others like him. It will also mean praying for more insight for him. I will also pray for the unknown who have no one to pray for them, and for pleas for help and healing known to God alone.