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.)                 

 

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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?

Are you lonely at church?

Do you ever feel invisible at church? Have you ever gone to a church event and felt lonely? Do you watch people chatting around the room as your kids attack the donut table, and crave some kind of personal connection? I’ve felt this way, especially after moving to a new home or church. Not knowing how my kids will […]

via Lonely at Church? — A Mother on the Road Less Traveled

Why did you become a foster parent?

seventh grade.jpegToday over at “A Mother on the Road Less Traveled,” I share the story of how I decided to become a foster parent, a tale that I can trace back to middle school.

If you have ever been a foster parent, what prompted you to consider doing this? I’d love to hear your story!

Easter Blessings

As thousands of new Catholics celebrate their reception into the Church, those of us who were received in years past look back with a mixture of gratitude and wonder. In particular, we wonder where has the time gone?

christopher-comm-brother-and-sisterIf I needed a visual, I have only to look at my children’s faces and see it. This one, taken for Christopher’s first communion in 2008, captures a time of sheer joy and innocence. They had been officially “ours” for just three years. Three years since they had been baptized, and had joyfully shouted “We have a new name!”

Fast forward nearly a decade, and …  Here the kids just received a surprise from my Chris and Sarahfriend (and theirs), Maria Johnson, handmade Franciscan rosaries. Seeing this image, I am reminded of the many friends (like Bego) who reached out to us over the last twelve years. And I remember how the kids have grown into their own faith. I smile as I watch Chris entranced in the flame of his own taper at the Easter Vigil, and thrill at the sound of Sarah standing next to me in the choir, belting out the high notes better than I ever could have hoped to do myself.

For Craig and me, it has been a journey of blind trust and faith in God, too. We have learned how limited are our own resources, and how bountiful are God’s mercies. We have experienced the power of prayer to create small miracles and change hearts. And we have learned how unique and unrepeatable is family life. To take small victories where we find them. And that the point of parenthood is not to turn small souls into replicas of ourselves, but to help them become — as fully as possible, in good times and bad — the best versions of themselves.

Wishing you and yours the richest blessings of the Easter season.

Revive Us Again

shroud.jpgHeading into Holy Week, my parish (Queen of Peace in Mishawaka, Indiana) is hosting a special display of the Shroud of Turin. (Not the original cloth shroud, but a photographic likeness flanked by displays outlining the history of the shroud and the scientific research done to ascertain the identity of the man whose image was miraculously imprinted upon it.)

As I sat pondering the display, I found myself thinking about a homily I heard a couple of weeks ago, while traveling to Atlanta to visit my elderly parents. It was serendipitous; I had merely picked the church closest to our hotel. But when the priest started talking about the raising of Lazarus as a “resuscitation” rather than a “resurrection,” his explanation stayed with me.

When Jesus raised Lazarus and others, prior to his own resurrection, these miracles served as a sign of who Jesus was — and what he had come to do through his atoning passion, death, and resurrection. And yet, the priest reminded us, this was not “resurrection” in the same sense that Jesus was raised, in his glorified state.

“Imagine what Lazarus experienced,” Father said. “He awakened, no doubt stiff and sore from lying on a stone bench for three days. He was still subject to pain and illness, and would one day die again. His was not the glorified state, a true resurrection. Rather, it was a sign that he still had work to do.”

On Saturday, the Church welcomes thousands of new Catholics — some receiving all the sacraments for the first time, others are simply confirmed. But each in some way suffers a little death, a putting away of the old and a putting on of the risen Christ. And each of us, whether our faith can be measured in minutes or decades, have work to do.

As a Catholic mom and writer, I confess that right now I feel very much in need of revival. If parenting were a marathon, it feels as though I am sorely in need of a second wind. And so, this year I look forward to the Easter season with great anticipation, trusting God for a “second wind” for my family. Like Lazarus, may Jesus breathe new life into us by the Spirit, that we might finish the race strong.

What it is like to parent a child who can never be left alone

Coping with the well-meaning but hurtful comments of those on the peripheries is one of the hardest parts of parenting a special-needs child. This woman speaks her truth with great courage … pass it on to someone who needs a dose of empathy! (Then pray for this family. Thanks!)

faithmummy

When your baby is born you promise them the world. You promise to look after them, keep them safe and be there for them. When they are tiny and lying so innocently in your arms fully dependent upon others to meet all their needs it is so easy to promise them you will never leave them.
The reality is though that children grow. As they grow they need to learn responsibility, resilience, and independence and all three of these require periods of not being constantly supervised by a parent. I want to say I never ever set out to be over bearing, or a so called ‘helicopter parent’ or paranoid in any way.

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Unfortunately though life changed the way I parent my son. He has multiple difficulties and wether I want to or not he simply can NOT be left unattended at any time, even at age 8.
Going to…

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