So we are still dealing with Michael’s existential angst when it comes to religion. He tells me he doesn’t believe in God, but yet continues to pray and wants to complete his catechism. I know better. I know God and religion is something difficult for him to grasp. It’s not concrete. This causes him anxiety and he doesn’t know how to handle these feelings. I have told him that this is normal. It is for a lot of people, on and off the spectrum. I went through my own spiritual angst many years back. I went through an agnostic stage, a pagan stage, and experienced my own angst about God, Christianity, religion, life, death and everything in between. It was a humbling experience to fully come back to worshiping at a Catholic church for me, and for finding other ways to enhance my prayer life. Some of them are unorthodox and I combine many different types of ways to worship, ways that work for me. Most of these ways, I discovered in the last ten years or so. This is why I completely get Michael, and I don’t pressure him.
Our church has been wonderful with this too. At our second catechism parent/child workshop, Michael promptly announced to the pastoral animator there that he didn’t believe in God. A few years ago, I would have been absolutely mortified by this and would have wanted to crawl under a rock. Now I sat back with confidence as I knew she would know how to handle this.
“That’s alright Michael,” she said, “You may not believe in God, but God believes in you and always will.”
You have no idea how many times he has repeated this to me and to himself. I think the message sank in and he is taking comfort in that.
Last Saturday, as you all know, we went to the third and last catechism parent/child workshop of the year. At this workshop, the one that went so well, the same animator talked about meditating and going into a special stillness to find God. She spoke about finding God in one’s heart place, and then we all went into the church, closed our eyes, and thought on what kind of guidance we need or want to have from God. It was beautiful. Then, after this was finished, we went back to the workshop room. She gave all the kids rosaries and proceeded to give us a short intro on how to say the rosary. The kids loved them. The kids also made a beautiful craft with a prayer message to Jesus on the back. Michael’s was : “Dear Jesus, please watch over me as I walk to my favorite shopping center.” And he named the shopping center too!
It was suggested to us parents that the kids keep the rosaries and prayer craft close to their bed at night if they find prayer difficult. I thought to myself what a wonderful idea! Michael prays every morning and night with me, a rattled off quick thanks God for my blessings. Now, guess who has been asking me for his rosary since Saturday night? He commented how cool it was that the white beads glowed in the dark, and though he is not saying the rosary (something his mother still wants to relearn), he fingers it now while he prays, slower, just a little slower and I can see those wheels turning in his head. I believe in her way, this animator has made God a little more concrete for Michael, and for someone with autism, that is huge! I plan on telling her about this in person.
Exceptional Parents, when did you find a way to make something abstract for your child concrete? How did this change their experience and yours? Was it an eye opening event for both of you? Next time your child is struggling with anything abstract, think about how you can break it down into simple steps for your child. Just like for us, something big is overwhelming, but if we tackle it, one step at a time, we can achieve a miracle in growth. Until next time.