Kinda churchy in its wording (and a bit stiff in the translation), but the head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers had some really nice things to say to the autism community. Here is one passage that I really liked:
In this pathological movement of self-envelopment and closure to the other and the external world, the Church sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people – children and young people in particular – and their families, if not to breakdown these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering. Indeed, this suffering, at times, also acquires features of frustration and resignation, not least because of the still scarce therapeutic results. These frustrations are to be seen, in particular, in families which, although they look after these children with loving care, experience repercussions as regards the quality of their own lives, and are often, in their turn, led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalises and wounds.
If you untangle the words, you see that Archbishop Zimowski gets some of the most challenging aspects of living with ASD: the frustration of the ones “trapped” inside of themselves and the isolation that not only they but their families can experience as a result.
I’ve often thought that the greatest gift the Church can give to the world is the gift of solidarity–one of JPII’s favorite words. Today’s Mass readings described how Jesus showed the greatest solidarity with us by becoming one of us and walking the paths that we walk–even to death on a cross. And now we as members of his body are called to the same solidarity–to become fellow-travelers with anyone who feels abandoned, marginalized, or less than worthy.
This, too, is one of the greatest challenges–and privileges!–that I find in raising my ASD kids. It takes more to get inside of their brains than it does for neurotypical kids because ASD kids can have such a hard time communicating who they are and what’s going on inside of them. You have to learn to think like them, and that can be very hard to do. But once you’ve got the key, you can make all sorts of contact and bond with them in new ways. And the love that flows between you is something extraordinary.
The problem, of course, is that not too many people outside of the family are going to go through all the work it takes to get there. And that leads to misunderstanding, isolation, and limited opportunities. So this is why statements like this one from Rome are so encouraging. It’s so good to know that we’re not walking this path alone.
Then there’s the archbishop’s statement that people on the spectrum . . .
. . . are never alone, inasmuch as they are passionately loved by God and, in Him, by the community of those whose faith commits them to becoming a living and transparent sign of the presence of the Resurrected Christ in the world.
A “living and transparent sign” of the presence of God. Yes! This is what I want to be for my kids. And this is also what I know my kids are becoming for me. God just shines through them in a special way.
May we all have eyes to see!