The Children of God...

I’ve been thinking about children and people with special needs a lot lately. This is no suprise since my own oldest boy is autistic. He has really forced me to rethink many of my assumptions about God. And, looking back, Blake may have really influenced me to turn toward Catholicism.

I can’t help but think that God is giving me a preview of how humanity must look in his eyes. Beautiful and, to some extent, so totally innocent of the things that have been thrust upon us due to the actions of others before us.

I can’t help but think of the passage where Jesus says, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

I’m not saying that these children and people are sinful. Rather, on the contrary, I’m thinking of the frustration that they feel. I also think of the frustration that God must feel when he so desires to help us, and we simply cannot help but fail to understand his good intentions. I know, as a parent, I feel this way a lot.

When I look at the frustration my own son must feel, wanting to say things and express his thoughts, and yet being unable to, he must feel so lonely sometimes-- no matter how much we try to help him and reach out to him.

Sometimes I pray that God would remove his autism from him and thrust it upon me-- even if I could just know what it was like to go through this and understand it better, if not permanently.

I can’t help but think we’re all a little bit autistic in God’s eyes, feeling alone and lost, and I think he desires so much to get into our hearts and minds, to understand us and live amongst us, to show us how to do the things he desires us to do.

I think Jesus’ incarnation is for this very reason. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. I don’t think God could’ve fully understood the struggle that humanity was going through without him incarnating himself as true God and true man be honest.

I hear what you are saying, I have a brother with DS. I believe God sent him to us to show us how to love.

My family have put decades of work into helping those who are vulnerable and unable to speak up for themselves. Every person we have helped over the years owes it God blessing us with my little brother.

we are helping a profoundly autistic boy to prepare for Confirmation, which will be celebrated this year with his sister and her class. He probably never will be able to take first communion due to his behavioral issues with food. His parents and sisters have given beautiful testimony about the effect having this boy in the family has had on the family, all the difficulties and challenges, but the immense grace they have experienced through him.

We have in the time I have been here continued the work of my predecessor in an active effort to identify children and adults who because of whatever mental or physical disability, had been in the past denied the sacraments. Unfortunately, often because of the ignorance of the parents, sadly sometimes by misinformation on the part of Church personnel, this has happened and must be redressed.

In discussing this with the priest who is giving us guidance on this, here is how it was explained to me, I am paraphrasing but this is the gist of it. Children are expected to go through a period of preparation for the sacraments, as presribed by the bishop, and most actively participate in whatever program, texts, activities are devised for them to help achieve this goal, which is supervised by DREs, catechists, sponsors and parents, always keeping in mind that it is the Holy Spirit who actually disposes the child, and our human efforts endeavor to cooperate with Him in this process.

For these special children, the Holy Spirit takes over, since our human efforts usually avail little or nothing in overcoming the human limitations imposed by the disability, whatever it is. The more profound the intellectual and cognitive impairment, the more futile our own human interventions are, since those ar the means we rely on to teach and exhort. We come to realize profoundly the centrality of the action of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments and the interior disposition for them.

Such children, especially those innocent of actual sin because they lack the capacity for sin, are “ready” and “worthy” and “disposed” for the sacraments to a degree far beyond that which those of us “functional, normal” children can ever be, because they have not the barriers to God’s grace that come through sin, through reliance on the intellect, through pride in our own abilities.

with humility we realize how even a child with the most limited communication ability can project his love and desire for Christ beyond any doubt, because it makes us see our own lack and failures in loving and seeking Christ. the immensity of the grace flowing to the families, the rest of their “class” and the whole parish (and especially to those like me who help them) can scarcley be described but is the most profound joy.

Amen sister. :slight_smile:

This really touched me. I’ve been meaning to respond to this sooner, but I’ve got to now ask what special preparations are being made for the boy?

If these matters are too personal, you can PM me. But I know there are others on this forum who work with special needs children, or else have children who are special needs.

It seems like this would be good to share if possible.

I know I’ve been wondering for some time how I was going to get Blake confirmed (he’s been baptized already). And I have to admit that I’m really not sure how to go about this. Although no one has ever given me reason to be, I’ve actually been kind of scared to ask how this could be done.

If you have or know anyone who has a special needs child please talk to you pastor at once about arranging for them to have the sacraments. They are the right of every Catholic and cannot be denied for any reason. The US bishops have a strongly worded letter about this. the parish must arrange for each child to receive preparation suitable to his abilities and needs, and insofar as possible the child shoud participate with his peers. For some children, such as some autistics, that is not possible. The parents are the best judge of what the child can do. There may be physical reasons why the child cannot receive communion --we have two such children whose disability is so profound that is not possible.

All children should be baptized as soon as possible after birth, and confirmed at the age prescribed in their diocese. If the nature of the disability means life expectancy is shortened, the child should be confirmed without delay, and definitely if they face a life-threatening illness. Last year we confirmed a 2nd grader who has since died of leukemia. They need the grace of the sacraments to face the extra challenges they face.

the preparation is suited to their circumstances, needs and abilities, and it is best planned in cooperation with the DRE and parents. We have one child being prepared at home by the parent who is using some videos we have since the child cannot read or write. She loves the videos and is eager to tell us all about them. All that is needed for the child to receive communion is that they know who Jesus is, express a desire to know, love, and receive him in communion, and understand the difference between ordinary bread and wine and the Eucharist. they can express that in their own way, nonverbally if necessary. They should be able to participate at Mass and at least understand that something special is going on.

As parents of autistics know, sometimes even this minimal level is just not possible. you are the best judge.

Unless the child has reached the mental age of discretion, is able to think and reason and distinguish between right and wrong at the level of the average 2nd grader, they cannot sin and therefore don’t need confession. If they are able to recognize when they have done wrong and express remorse and contrition, they should have this opportunity, though, again for the grace they receive.

I would not like to make a recommendation for any individual child I have not met, but do talk to your DRE, not just casually, at a time when you are both at leisure to really go into the child’s needs.

Not every parish can accommodate every child, but it is my job to find out where in the diocese within a reasonable distance this can be done. For instance, a nearby parish has a CCD, sacramental preparation program for the deaf, because these children are all bussed to a public school in that district, and some of their teachers happen to be catechists as well. This parish also offers a Mass with a sign interpreter. We could provide an interpreter for anyone who wishes to participate here, but these kids prefer to be with their friends and teachers they know.

It also may be necessary for the parent to accompany the child at CCD class, for instance, if you are the only one who is able to communicate with him. Just a word, don’t underestimate a child’s abilities, they usually surprise you. The DRE, parent and catechist should meet so the catechist is prepared for anything such as behavioral issues that may arise. the catechist should be chosen with care. We are fortunate to have a couple of special ed teachers, and parents with special needs children, who are especially understand and competent. We also have some volunteers who act as aides for children who need them.

Homeschooling is always an option if that is what you are already doing for public school, but insofar as possible the child should participate with his peers, and celebrate the sacraments with them.

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