Beatitudes for Special Families

shadowIn honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to run this guest post by Ann O’Keeffe Rodgers, founder of Hope Springs Florida, a respite home for families touched by autism, located in Jacksonville, Florida. Thanks so much, Ann!

As Christians, we learn about the early Christian martyrs who gave their lives for Jesus and His kingdom.  Those who chose death rather than deny their Lord and Savior are known as the “red martyrs.”

And yet, there are also those who give up their lives every day, imitating Jesus by giving themselves wholeheartedly in loving service. Theirs is a “white martyrdom,” a slow and painful way of taking up their cross. One example is Pope St. John Paul II, whose quiet endurance of Parkinson’s at the end of his life showed the world what it means to lay down one’s life each day out of love for God.

Through work for Hope Springs Florida and those with special needs, I have been so blessed to meet many other “white martyrs.” They give of themselves joyfully and willingly, out of love for their children. I have been blessed to meet, know, and be friends with them. Through their example and their friendship, they inspire me constantly to return to the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Blessed, too, are the men and women who get up every morning before their child wakes, and sacrifice for their child’s peace of mind.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And blessed as well are parents who work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet for critical therapy services for their child.

Parents who sleep on the floor of the pediatric hospital because there is no other place for them to sleep that night, while they wait for treatment for their child, remind me: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

Blessed are parents who are misunderstood by members of their own church community, and who often feel marginalized by others, who do not see their integrity, character, and strength. God sees the truth, and has promised: Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.

Blessed are parents who struggle to meet the needs of their neurotypical children as well as those with special needs, mourning the fact that these siblings’ lives will not be the same as those of their peers. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Blessed are the staff of doctor’s offices, behavioral therapists, speech and occupational therapists, special education teachers, and guidance counselors who recognize what a privilege it is to work with these exceptional children, who are absolutely without guile or deceit – simply unconditional love.

Blessed are the staff at organizations like Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services and other faith based organizations that are committed to serving this population, when they could be working in another business sector making a much heftier salary. God says to you, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

And finally, blessed are the behind-the-scenes supporters of these children who do not want recognition for their acts of service, gifts of talent or treasure, or their supportive presence alongside families who are struggling with the burdens of caring for these children. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Years ago, standing in Saint Peter’s Square at Easter, on the very same ground once soaked by the blood of the martyrs who had given their lives for Someone they had only heard about, it was clear to me that the Church is bigger than any one human being.

Today, thirty years later as a parent of four children – including one who has autism – I am an advocate for children with special needs. Just as I saw in Rome, I see in the Church today signs of grace and mercy – and also reminders that, as a Church, we must continue to find new ways to receive as Jesus did the “least of these,” embracing the culture of Life to its very fullest, so that no one is left behind.

Me with JoeyAnn O’Keeffe Rodgers is the founder of Hope Springs Florida and program administrator at Huntington Learning Centers in Jacksonville, Florida. Hope Springs Florida serves families touched by autism, strengthening bonds through respite services in a vacation environment. You can find more information about Hope Springs Florida on Facebook (their website is currently under construction.)                 

 

Mother of This Year

DSCF0569Today over at A Mother on the Road Less Traveled, I disclose a less-than-flattering side of motherhood. Just a few days before Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what kind of mother I have become … this year.

I thought it better to do this BEFORE Mother’s Day, before the brunch mimosa clouds my brain. As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s hard not to give in to the expectation of flowers and candy and breakfasts in bed, and to agree with the general population that I deserve this kind of adulation.

The truth is, there is a lot of room for improvement. As you will see if you read the other blog post.

The good news is … there is still time. Every day is a fresh chance to love a little more selflessly, forgive a little more deliberately, and to ponder the very real (albeit painful) connection between who we are … and what we choose.

So this year, for Mother’s Day, I’d like to skip the white roses and dark chocolate (lovely as those things are). Instead I’d like to stock up on empathy, gentleness, and kindness. God knows my kids need them even more than I do. And while my DH can’t make a last-minute run to Walmart to stock up on these particular commodities, I’m hoping that my prayer will reach the right ears.

What do YOU want for Mother’s Day this year?

Happy Mother’s Day … to Extraordinary Moms!

This week’s Catholic Carnival is up at “Organ-ic Chemist.” Be sure to check it out!

Every woman on the face of this earth has been called to be one.

Oh, yes … even you.

The job description of an extraordinary mom has a bit of “give” in it, like your favorite pair of jeans. For some, it involves childbirth … many times over. Stretch marks and sore nips and the kind of pain that makes a bad case of cramps seem like a walk in the park.

For some, the call involves sending several children on ahead of you to heaven. Or bearing with courage infertility within marriage or life without a spouse. And yet, even we have been called to spiritual motherhood.
We can be godmothers, adoptive or foster mothers, or favorite aunties that always materialize to relieve exhausted parents at just the right moment.

The only requirement, you see … is a willingness to be open to nurturing life wherever we may find it. To invest ourselves in the lives of other people. To come alongside those who are struggling. And to shine the light of faith so that others might know a truly abundant life.

Extraordinary moms see opportunities to exercise faith where others see deprivation.

We see opportunities to love when others see despair and aggravation.

We see opportunities to hope when others see only what can never be.

Lord, in Your mercy, make me an extraordinary mom.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me that I might be more like you!

Happy (Other) Mother’s Day

In honor of this other Mother’s Day, I’d like to invite you to enjoy this.

Comedienne Anita Renfroe captures in 2.55 minutes everything we all say a million times a day.

Kids snuck in while I was watching this classic for the first time, and said, “Hey! Is that YOU? You say that all the time!”

Sarah has watched it about 27 times today. Gee, how come she never laughs when I say these things!

‘Nuff said.

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