It was a beautiful sunny day on the Villanova University campus. We had just left our son Colin who had started Law School there, and we decided to stroll through the campus with our two daughters, Danielle and Shannon. The grounds are lovely with stone buildings and lots of trees. The school is steeped in the Augustinian tradition. An outdoor Mass was about to begin and we wondered how our daughter Danielle would do, since she is used to Mass being indoors, and changes to routine are often difficult for people with autism.
All around us we saw the incoming class of 18-year-old freshmen, the same age as our daughter Danielle. It occurred to both of us, almost at the same time, that if our daughter did not have autism, she might be part of the ‘Nova Class of 2021. This made us feel sad.
Although we have come a long way in the acceptance of our daughter’s autism, there are occasional times when we still feel a twinge of sadness. It is not like we are walking around in doom and gloom. However, every once in a while when there is some event or occasion, some example of something that you feel your child has missed out on, your faith in God’s plan for your child sometimes wavers. You can fall back into sadness and grief, and feel as though you are returning to the feelings you felt on the day your child received his or her diagnosis. For us, these triggers usually involve a rite of passage such as a graduation, getting a driver’s license, or going to the prom.
Fortunately these moments are brief and by the time the opening hymn at Mass, All Are Welcome, was sung we felt like it was directed towards Danielle and our family. The reading at Mass was the story of the woman who wanted Jesus to heal her sick daughter. How fitting! The priest’s homily talked about how the woman’s focus was not for herself, but for someone she loves, someone who she wanted restored to health, her daughter. The priest reminded the crowd that some parents have children who are sick and require care, and those parents’ ministry is caring for their child. This resonated deeply with us. Even though the story took place two thousands years ago we felt as if we were living the same story now. The priest concluded his homily with these inspiring words, “Be a person who works for justice of others and you will be serving God and all those creatures that God created.”
This particular Mass helped heal the sadness that we felt earlier. It was a wonderful thing to experience the healing and transformative power of the liturgy, to feel Christ’s presence in the Sacrament, and to know that His healing is extended to all of us. Life is not meant to be lived void of emotions like sadness and grief, but it’s important that we allow for redemptive and healing moments to restore our happiness so that we can live an abundant life that is joy-filled and connected to the presence of God in our lives.
Copyright 2017 David and Mercedes Rizzo