There is one aspect of being autistic that I don’t always understand: masking. Masking is a way that autistics have tried to adapt to the neurotypical world. We see what ways non-autistics might communicate, through verbal and nonverbal communication, and we use what we see to blend in. Sometimes these skills are taught through personal experiences or bad therapy, but it puts on a false facade. It makes us look “normal”, but it’s not our normal. It isn’t an accurate display of autism.
As is in the season of giving thanks, and Thanksgiving being a few days away, there’s a lot for me to be thankful for in my life. I am grateful for where I am and what joys I have currently in my life, the joys and sufferings of my past that have led me to where I am, and the hope for the future. Most importantly, I want to thank God, the creator of my life, including my yesterdays, today, and tomorrows, for all these things.
“Hail to the Cross, our only hope.” I have attributed this saying to St. Edith Stein, namesake of my home parish in Katy, but many others have made this Latin phrase their motto. This Lent, I have felt the call of the Cross. I interpret this call as to let Jesus to be present in our sufferings because he suffered and to have him help carry the cross that he calls us to take up with him. As this Lenten journey is almost concluded, I want to reflect on what is the cross I carry, how it compares to the Cross Jesus carried to Calvary, and that he is carrying my cross as well.
I first heard the call of the cross during daily Mass on the first Thursday of Lent. The gospel reading was from Luke. In this passage, Jesus predicts his passion, death and resurrection. Near the end, Jesus says
…If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
– Luke 9:23-25
Inspired by one of the priests’ at the University Catholic Center, Fr. Larry Rice’s homily, I was allured by the thought that we have a daily choice to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. I have doubts, weaknesses, struggles and insecurities that would make it hard to believe. That in short, is my cross. I am called by God to carry my cross daily and follow him. Despite my struggles, if I want to follow Jesus as a true Christian, I will have to carry my cross with me.
But what makes my cross mine? There are many parts of my cross. I admit I know all about the Catholic faith, but words aren’t my strong suit. I doubt my words. I am concerned about my exactness in order to prevent myself from lying. I can’t lie that Jesus loves me. One thing I know for sure. Autism is not my cross, but adjusting to a world that isn’t tailored to me is part of my cross. God created me as an autistic. He created my brother as well, whom I have understood better with both of us being autistic in different ways. Another part of the cross is the experiences I’ve had, the sorrows of losing people, being hurt and having physical, emotional, and mental scars. Those scars have made me who I am and I’m thankful to God for those scars. I also have many anxieties when things don’t go to plan. If my schedule is off, if I delay in doing something, I have anxiety attacks. I am uncertain about my future and where I’ll go after college graduation in a month or so. These struggles make up my cross. I carry this cross as I choose follow Jesus and trust in Him.
The Cross Jesus carried during his passion was not just pieces of wood. It was the weight of our sins He carried. One of my favorite reflective prayers is the Stations of the Cross, found in many Catholic churches, which mark critical points on the Way of the Cross from Jesus being condemned to death, up to His eventual death on the Cross and His burial in the tomb. I remember going to Stations on Fridays during Lent when I was young, partially because Jr. High Youth Group was afterwards at my home parish. I also adored when the Senior High Youth Group would do “Living Stations of the Cross” on Good Friday and re-enact the scenes in the Stations. When I went to Stations of the Cross, I witnessed the 14 Stations, but also how much He suffered. Jesus suffered during His journey, and that affected those who he interacted with on the way, like His mother Mary, Simon, Veronica , some Jerusalem women, and Dismas. Each stations reflects on an element of my own personal life from all the falls, sorrows, love and mercy shown on the journey.
I like to go to Stations now even more that I understand what the Stations mean, and I try to go as often as I can. Reflecting on the Passion of Christ is a mystery. The graces that come from it never have a end point.
This Lent I struggled with being present. I was being distracted. I struggled with asking God to deliver me from the anxieties and uncertainty I have. I lay them down at the foot of the cross. I asked Jesus to deliver me, and heal me, just as the Blind Man did. He wanted pity and mercy and he received healing and mercy. I have to place my trust in God to deliver me from distractions and uncertainties.
I would say the apex of this call of the Cross is realizing that Jesus is carrying my cross with me. I struggle with being present, but I know God is present with me in the struggles. During Austin CARITAS, a mission I served on this Spring Break, I was called to be present, to put trust in God for my future and whatever may happen. I was called to serve and to do alms giving with my heart, not just money. I saw the journey I’m on is a pilgrimage towards Heaven, my true eternal home. I believe I see Heaven as in those moments with the community, when I have positive flashbacks to times of joy, love, and growth in God. It is in the people I love in the Mystical Body of Christ, I find a home where I am accepted and loved. During discussion, one song was brought up where it shows I accepted where I am. It sucks that I don’t know Spanish well because this song spoke to me despite not being my own language. It described being accepted and loved. The song is called, “Vida en Abundancia” or “Life in Abundance” The stanza in particular is shown below.
Amá lo que sos, y tus circunstancias. Estoy con vos, con tu cruz en mi espalda. Todo terminará bien, yo hago nuevas todas las cosas.
This stanza translates to “Love what you are, and your circumstances. I am with you, with your cross on my back. Everything will end well, I make all things new.” Jesus is with me, carrying my cross on his back. I cried the first time I heard the translation. I imagine Jesus looking at me, carrying my cross, just as he carried the Cross of my sins. He looks at me with love. I would now imagine he is saying with his loving eyes “Look at what I have done for you. I have died for love of you. What would you do for love of me?” I hope to die for Jesus. If I am called to die for Him, so be it. That is the call of the Cross.
In silence, God speaks. God is in the silence. About two weeks ago, I went on a Silent Retreat. Before and after the retreat, my friends Jacob, Andy (I’m not referring to myself, but another Andy) and I recorded a “podcast” If and when Jacob decides to post it, I will add it. Until then, here’s a link to his blog. https://grandhappeningsblog.home.blog/
I barely have time to get around to posting and whenever I attempt to write a blog post, it seems to just catalog events without their emotions. Plus, I resolved to post at least once a month at the end of last year. In order to defeat both my lack of emotion and my inconsistency with posting, (where’s January?), I write this post. Back to the story, this was the second time I went on a Silent Retreat. The first I have mentioned in my previous post, but this time was distinct and different.
Well, okay, it’s not a secret anymore. I remember when it was a secret. A year ago, I was co-leading a small group for Longhorn Awakening 62. At this time, I wasn’t very proud of my autism. Really, I didn’t know how else to tell someone I was autistic, rather than taking them aside and saying it. Since I knew that the retreat can get rather personal, I had to tell my partner who I was. I texted her that I wanted to tell her something after one of the meetings before the retreat. I drew attention to myself. I didn’t want her to think this was some big secret. But doing that make it feel like I wasn’t naturally being myself. It made me anxious. Continue reading “The Secret of Autism”→
I always carried a deck of cards in my backpack when I was in a high school. Why? Because you never know if you needed to play a game. Whether it was Maui, Egyptian Ratscrew, or Castle, I had the key to socialization. Pull out the cards during lunchtime and play a simple game. It can get my mind off it all. It was a quintessential part of who I was then. Today, I’m reminded of this fact while I’m meeting up with on of my oldest friends whom I played cards with, Michael.
Happy World Autism Day! As it’s World Autism Day, I want to address how messy autism advocacy can be. There are two sides to what I call “Autism Politics: Neurodiversity, those autistics who advocate for themselves and their supporters, and Autism Parents, those parents who advocate because they have children with autism. Now both sides are not exclusive, as opinion on autism can be as much of a spectrum as autism itself. To be honest, I’m not personally on one side on the other. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and my older brother has autism as well as being intellectually disabled and bipolar. Here I will present both sides, and then explain my own opinions based on my experiences.
“Autism parents” are those who live with those who have autism and their supporters. This group is commonly allied with Autism Speaks, the most common non-profit organization that advocates for Autism Awareness. This side struggles with adjusting those with autism in order to better adapt them to the world around them and vice versa. This camp believes that autism can be cured, and the source of autism could be vaccines or other unnatural causes. They prefer person-first language, such as a “person having autism.” The primary symbol is the puzzle piece, as autism is a puzzle that needs to be understood. They use the color blue, as in #lightitupblue, or a mix of primary colors.
The “Neurodiversity “camp includes those autistics that can speaking for themselves and advocate on their own, #actuallyautistics, and their neurotypical supporters. They focus on the positive qualities of autism, and support natural behavior such as stimming, various communicative behaviors, and sensory sensitivity. This camp looks to better accept the various types of brain neurologies and intellectual disabilities as different abilities. They advocate for “Autism Acceptance” rather than “Autism Awareness.” The source of autism is more likely genetics. They prefer identity first language, such as a “autistic person.” The primary symbol is a rainbow infinity sign, and use a rainbow to support the neurodiversity spectrum. They protest #lightitupblue by wearing #redinstead or #toneitdowntaupe.
I stand in the middle, kind of. I am wearing #redinstead, but I’m not fully integrated into the neurodiversity paradigm. I grew up with my older brother who has autism, and I have Aspergers myself. I prefer that both sides should listen to each other. Some parents sadly suffer by raising those with autism, as I did having a older brother with autism. Autistics suffer only because we are living in a world that’s not made for us. I believe that God made my brother and I both autistic, and I have learned how my faith helps me identify myself by Christ, rather than just a stigmatized disability. We should help those who suffer by raising autistics and the stigma behind autism so we can better accept each other. Stop, listen, and love. Happy Autism Acceptance Day! For Catholics and Christians as myself, Happy Easter!