Blogs I Know · My world · Simplicity

The most important moment of your life


 
Dancers — Edgar Degas

**Update**
The Anchoress has a wonderful bit on this topic and a charming video which she describes as, “a sweetly evocative scene of the joys of anticipation to which we – in our era of immediate gratification – no longer allow ourselves.”

*******

The most important moment of your life is happening right now.   I think it can be a sign of the Holy Spirit moving in God’s people when many of us start thinking about the same thing.  Or it could just be that we all talk to each other and hear and read what each other are saying and start to repeat the same things.  But in this case I like the more super-natural explanation.  The most important moment of your whole life is now, because is the only moment you can effect.  That past is done, though it may have consequences that we have to deal with now.  And the future isn’t here yet, though we probably will have some plans to make for it.  But all in all we live in the flow of time, we live in the moment.

No matter how much we plan, how much we reflect, none of that is as important as how we live the moment we are in.  Being intentionally and fully engaged in what we are doing give the moments of our lives meaning.  Allowing ourselves to be distracted from the present by juggling the hectic pace of modern life with the real needs of ourselves and those in our lives robs us, not just of our peace, but of the quality of life that God intends His children to experience.  Everything we do can be impacted by a lack of intention or made more meaningful when done with intention. 

I have been spending a good deal of time thinking about the whole idea of intentionally living in each moment lately.  I find that it makes me a better person, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend.   But it is hard to do.   It is almost stupefying difficult at times to focus on where I am and what I am doing without feeling pressed by all those many, many things on my “to do” list.  

Yesterday my daughter Hannah had her end of the year ballet performance (I didn’t get pictures, but you can see some of the classes here).  Six and seven year-old girls were dressed in white tulle tutus and their black leotards, pink tights and shoes.  Their hair was up and decorated with ribbons and little flowers.  Their dancing was a combination of the joy of having mastered some of their steps and the intense concentration in parts where they were less certain.  

I remembered back to my own days of studying ballet.  How it was not just a matter of training the body but the mind had to be fully engaged — evaluating and adjusting and correcting each position and step, listening to the music, staying on beat, anticipating the next move as it effected the current one.  The heart and soul became part  of the music and turned what was otherwise nothing but an aerobic set of motions into art. 

These little girls, there before their parents, siblings and friends, sharing with the most important people in the world the moment they were living most fully.  That is what I want to capture more in my life everyday, intensely, fully and intentionally living every moment God sees fit to bless me with.

My world

Bits and pieces


The Broken Pitcher,  William-Adolphe Bouguereau  

 
If you are wondering about your recent unpublished comment or unanswered email: I deleted it.  No, I am not sorry,  I am just unfair that way.  A long time ago I really loved online debating.  But at this point in my life I have no desire to read, much less respond to some total stranger’s comments about my logic, mental state, life, children or opinions.  It isn’t that I don’t think you are worthy of the exchange and I am sure there are others who will gladly play that game with you, but it isn’t me.   I thought about it, but in the end I just don’t want to spend my time that way. 

The images I use on this site: They are either in the public domain, my own pictures, or they are purchased through a stock photography site.   If you want some wonderful pictures for your own site you might want to check out Wikimedia Commons

My daughter Rachel: She does attend mass and she does receive Holy Communion, she lives in a residential group home and comes home on the weekends about every other week.  We have never had any serious problem with Rachel in mass. We have never had any problem from any parishioner or any priest about having Rachel in mass. We have benefited greatly from the services of the Archdiocese Office for People with Disabilities.

For my real life friends: I love your prayers.   I will never look at what I write here quite the same way again and this morning I feel incredibly blessed.   My little frustration has been completely resolved.

Autism · Catholic stuff · My world

About Carol Race from someone who knows her.

The Parish of St. Joseph In Bertha, Minn has barred Adam Race from attending mass because of behaviors stemming from his autism.  I honestly thought I was done blogging on this yesterday, having also blogged on it the day before, but then I received a heart-felt comment from a priest who knows Carol Race personally and wanted to post his take on the issues.  While his additional information hasn’t changed my personal feelings on this story I want to share them with you in a spirit of being fair, and also with the recognition that I do have a horse in this race so to speak and I don’t want my feelings clouding what is right and true. 

***
Update: 

My latest update on this story is here.

Would those of you who are interested in this story please remember Fr Showers, Carol Race and Adam in your prayers.  I know this is a difficult time for all of them.  I pray that God blesses them all with  peace and fortitude and understanding in discerning what is best for Adam.
***

Below is Fr. Robert G. Showers comment to my blog post “A little more about Adam Race” followed by my response to him.

Dear Darcee,

Thank you for this posting. I do hope that your anger has subsided. You seemed especially upset that Mrs. Race “spent the day lining up legal help.” I allow myself gently to point out that the pastor and the parish council are the ones who chose to unleash the media storm – they chose to go ahead with a restraining order and themselves reported the fact to the press, knowing full well the circus that would follow. After having been threatened with jail time and with news cameras already in her face, Mrs. Race was well advised to spend the day lining up legal help. The parish had lined up their legal help well in advance.

And she was advised. Mrs. Race took this step on the advice of advocacy groups for the handicapped of which she is an active member.

I know Mrs. Race because we studied theology together. This mom in Minnesota is actually a professional Roman Catholic theologian who studied dogmatic theology under the now Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph von Schönborn. Her love for the Church has been constant from her early work on the Catechism of the Catholic Church while she lived in Switzerland to her years as DRE in the Twin Cities to recent years, where she has served her parish in many capacities. She began writing about the place of children, including handicapped children, in the heart of the People of God from way before she could have known that she herself would become the mother of a severely autistic child. As the godfather of one of her children, I have followed this family for many years from my friary here in Scandinavia.

Please believe me, that it pains Mrs. Race a great deal that the Catholic Church is made to look bad. It is true that the parish “offered alternatives” – but all of these so called alternatives were ways to keep Adam out of the church, for example, they offered special Masses just for him in private at home, closed circuit transmissions of the Mass directly to his home – and other fanciful ideas designed to spare people the sight and sounds of a handicapped boy in church.

In my heart, I pray that I am wrong when I suspect that the real issue is fear. Some adults in that parish (including the priest) seem to be afraid of this autistic child, a fear born, it seems, of ignorance and prejudice. I feel like I am reading a novel about the 13th century, but fear of “odd” people strikes deep – in this sense, this truly IS an issue of faith.

I thank you for your insightful and honest comments. You have a good blog here.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Robert G. Showers OFM Conv.
guardian of Consolatrix Afflictorum Friary in Roskilde, Denmark

Continue reading “About Carol Race from someone who knows her.”

Autism · Catholic stuff · rants

“I can’t discipline him out of his autism”

If you have come here today because of the Adam Race story and are looking for other information about autism and Catholic life I have two other articles you might be interested in:

Can My Autistic Child Recieve Communion
Autism and Catholic Life


image of St. Dymphna,
patroness of  nervous system disorders

“I can’t discipline him out of his autism”, said Carol Race, the mother of an autistic teen boy.  She feels her priest expects that she should be able to do so.   I suppose that is possible it is what the priest is thinking, it could also be that he is simply at the end of what his parish can reasonably accommodate.  The Race’s have been attending the same parish since 1996 with their five children and now the family has a restraining order against them to keep them from bringing their six foot tall, 225+ lb, 13 year-old son to mass.

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis & St Paul, MN has two articles on this story.  I would like praise the authors of the articles for the fair and balanced way they handled the stories.  While the headlines: Church bars severely autistic boy from mass and  After warning, family of autistic teen attends different churchdefinately are there to draw attention the articles themselves tell the story in an even handed way that I am unaccustomed to seeing in the main stream media when it reports on anything having to do with the Catholic Church.  Reporters Pam Louwagie, Curt Brown and Laura Pabst could have talked to the parents and the disability community advocate/activists folks and come away with some screed about the horrible Catholic Priest who won’t let this poor family come to mass.  Which would have been much more sensational and not true and with the tragic effect of putting in the minds of parents with autistic children that the church doesn’t want them… which is also very much not true.

A careful reading of both articles paints a sadly familiar story.  This family has been attending mass in the same parish since their teen was a baby.  Week in and week out with their five children, drawing strength from the Mass, their faith and community.  In 2005 Carol was given an award by the Diocese of St. Cloud “for her efforts to encourage families with disabled children to attend mass” and even in this current situation she says, “The church isn’t bad. But it’s what some individuals do within the church” and that she hopes this doesn’t reflect badly on the church as a whole.

I feel very badly for this family.  The articles talk about how their son, Adam, gets something out of the mass.  That he responds to the ritual and the routine.  I can attest with my own daughter how true that can be, how calming and wonderfully spiritual mass can be to someone with autism spectrum disorders.  But I suspect the parent’s are not being completly objective.

Their current priest has been serving in this parish for three years; last June he went to visit the parents.  There were concerns with their son’s behavior.  The parish says it offered services through Catholic Education Ministries and Caritas Family Services which the parents refused, that they eventually offered mediation to convince the family not to bring their son to mass and finally had to use a restraining order.   Why would a parish that has been serving this family for over a decade suddenly go from welcoming them to getting a restraining order in the course of a year?

The affidavit filed by the parish states that Adam would spit (his parents claim he made spitting faces), that he urinated in the church (the parents agree he is sometimes incontinence), that he hit a child, that he knocked over elderly pairshioners as he blotted from the mass (mom and dad claim he bumped into them), and on Easter he ran out into the parking lot and started their family car then got into another car and revved the engine (the parents say he is drawn to engines).   The diocese says the restraining order was a last resort, the parents are understandably upset, and the advocacy person, Brad Trahanm (RT Autism Awareness Foundation)  proclaims “It’s unfathomable and concerns me that we’ve taken a situation with special needs and we’re making it into the criminal matter. ”

It is obvious that there is a lot of disconnect here.  The parish sees things one way and the parents an other.  The news reports this as though it were a straight forward two party disagreement, but it isn’t at all.  On one had there are the parents.  They obviously feel serious enough about their faith to attend mass every week (presumably) with a severely autistic child.  And not just that, but they have helped other parents of disabled children by encouraging them to take part in the Mass and their parish’s community life.  Mass is important to the family.  When you are taking a child to mass and you sit in the back pew or the cry room because you know your kid might well have a disruptive meltdown, you bring cloth restraints, you leave during that last hymn to “avoid interacting with other parishioners on the way out” and you sit on your child to calm him — you have a problem, obviously, but that also speaks of a great deal of dedication.  It is terribly unfair to ask this family not to come to mass.

The priest has a responsibility to serve his entire community and I suspect he has heard a lot about the situation from other parishioners.  If parent’s of small children are worried about taking their toddlers into the cry room because there is a boy as big as a man having a meltdown in there, or if an elderly parishioner is afraid to get to close to the kid because he might get knocked down, or you have a teenage boy who “once pulled an adolescent girl — an exchange student staying with the family — on top of him, grabbing her thighs and buttocks” in Mass — the priest is going to be expected, by the entire congregation, to do something.  That something is not going to be to “educate” the community on autism to explain away things like spitting, urinating and running out into the parking lot to rev up the engine of another parishioner’s car.   It is terribly unfair to ask the entire parish to come to mass and have to worry about what Adam will do next.

Then there is the larger community of people with disabilities and their families.  We need to have access to the Sacarments just like any other family.  Already there are too many families not attending mass with their child with emotional disabilities for fear of what others will think.  In the news article another parent, Tim Kasemodel, asks “What are we supposed to do, literally lock our kids away so no one has to see this for the rest of their lives?”   There are a lot of autistic children out there and we will see more and more of these kinds of situations as they grow and hit puberty.  The Church needs to be able to address our families’ needs in a substantive way.

As sad as it is, as much as I hate saying it, the priest seems to be in the right in this situation.  He has the responsibility to make sure that every parishioner can attend mass and feel safe.  While small noises and even a very occasional out burst are acceptable and understandable it sounds like Adam’s situation is beyond that — and perhaps it is of note that a judge agreed.   The boy is big, intimidating and from everything in the article, even the parents’ own statements, they can barely control him.  They have been lucky so far.  Adam could have put the car in gear and killed someone, he could have knocked over an elderly person and seriously injured them, the parents of the child he hit could have filed assault charges.

Puberty and autism can be a cruel mix.  The added size as the young person approaches adulthood, the hormonal changes that can lead to mood changes and aggression, plus the lack of impulse control and the lack of empathy so common with autism can create a situation that is very dangerous.  The child is almost over night large enough to do real harm, unpredictable and sometimes aggressive, with no impulse control and no understanding they they can hurt others, or even that others can be hurt.   I have been there and lived this.  Our family made the very difficult choice to place our daughter in residential care when she became physically aggressive with her younger siblings.  I know other families have faced a similar situation and made the same choice and still others who have managed to deal with their child’s behaviors in home.  Every situation is different, but my guess is that about a year ago Adam Race’s hormonal changes and growth made his attendance at the mass his family had been taking part in for 12 years too difficult for the parish community to manage.

I wish there was a good solution that would allow the family to bring Adam to mass.  But I am afraid that it is in the end asking too much of the community.  I doubt that any amount of education about autism would make a frail, elderly man feel safe if he sees six foot Adam bloting his direction.  I don’t think there would ever be enough explanation that would make a mother comfortable taking her toddler to the cry room if the Races were there with their son in flannel restraints, even if the restraints are calming to Adam.   So does the old man fear if he has to use the restroom that he might be knocked over on the way?  Does the young mother have to miss part of mass because she can’t use the room that was designed to allow her to comfort her fussy baby and still be in attendance? 

I have often observed that the cruelest thing about our daughter Rachel’s autism is how her behaviors make her world smaller.  She can’t go camping like other kids, she can’t go to sleep overs, she misses a lot.  I hope that the Race family can find some solutions that work for them and for their parish.  Perhaps they can alternate masses between the parents so one can stay home with Adam, maybe they can find a special needs mass that would work better for them, maybe they can take Adam to a week day mass.  It is sad and unfair that Adam can’t attend mass with his family as they have been accustomed to, but it would also be unfair to ask the entire parish to have to attend mass in the situation describe in the news articles.  This is one of those times where life is just unfair.

(I originally posted this yesterday, but a lot of incoming links have been coming to this post so I am bumping it to the top)

 

Autism · rants

A little more about Adam Race

Adam Race is the young autistic man in Bertha, Minn.  

The Church of St. Joseph in Bertha, Minn., filed a temporary restraining order barring Carol and John Race from bringing their 225-pound son, Adam, to church. An affidavit alleges Adam struck a child during mass, fought efforts to restrain him, pulled an adolescent girl to his lap and revved the engine of someone else’s car. A parish statement said the legal move was a last resort after church leaders tried to accommodate and mediate, but the family refused.

On Monday, after her court hearing was delayed until early June, Carol Race spent the day lining up legal help and giving interviews to national media.

*****

Update:

My latest update on this story is here.

It is funny how quickly thoughs and feelings can change.  While I disagree with Carol Race’s actions regaurding the media her own words about her situation are worth more than mine. 

If for some odd reason you really want my thoughts on the whole situation they are much better expressed here.

******

This is difficult and sad on so many levels, but lining up new interviews is not going to resolve the issue for her family.  My sense is that the Diocese of St Cloud would have never gone forward with a restraining order without knowing pretty solidly that they had a good case if it goes to court once it was violated.  Anyone with half a brain would see that this would be very bad publicity if it got out of hand.  All of that together makes me think that the situation in the parish had gotten very bad and the priest had exhausted all options.  I pray that this can all work out for the best for Adam, his family and the parish.

(Yes, I have serriously edited this post.  I was angry when I first wrote it, not just at Mrs. Race, but also at the media and how they have turned this into a “faith” issue when it is really not.)

Blogs I Know · Catholic stuff · Mary Mary and Martha · Simply Lovely Fairs

The Rosary

This week’s edition of the Simply Lovely Fairs is being hosted by Sarah at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering. 

 

Lotto Lorenzo, Madonna of the Rosary

This is the time of year where I am so eager to get back outside that spending time indoors seems almost a penance.  Fortunately for me this week looks like it will end up being sun kissed and warm.   One of our plans for the week (weather permitting) is to make a trip over to the The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother known around here as “The Grotto”. 

The Grotto is a beautiful garden of quiet and peace sat in urban Portland, Oregon.  One of the treasures of the Grotto is a Rosary garden. This garden contains a path that wonders through the grounds, around some water features with the three traditional sets of mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious) represented, artfully rendered in (I believe bronze) relief work.   

One of the things I find ever so interesting about the Rosary is the way it is so personal.  I remember hearing a talk by Scott Hahn several years ago where he was speaking about the Church in Ephesus, how Mary live there for some time “Look there is Jesus mother, Mary.”   I found it just an amazing thought.

What would you ask her? What would you say if you suddenly had the opportunity to meet the woman who lived so close to  your God the one who gave birth to the Incarnation, who nursed Him, who was there at His first miracle and His last breath? What an astounding thing that would be.  And it is, and we can speak and ask and learn from Mary.  The Catholic understanding of death allows for there to be a connection to those who have died before us.  The communion of saints doesn’t end at the grave. 

The Rosary takes us there, through scripture and through prayer  we see Christ through His mother’s eyes.  We see him from the human perspective as a human saw him.  But not just any human, the first one to say, “Yes” to him.   

 
Francisco de Zurbarán, Madonna and Child

Catholic Homeschooling

Home schooling doesn’t have to mean school at home.


Winslow Homer Detail from Boys and a Kitten 


Several months ago one of our librarians asked me a really interesting question, “How do you know if your children are keeping up with the kids in school?”   The question itself sort of surprised me because I honestly had never given it much thought.   I guess it just didn’t occur to me that my children should be learning in parallel to students in a public classroom.  The librarian was somewhat surprised with my response “Why should I worry about that?”  Looking back I could see that her question was really “How do you know if you children are learning what they need to know?” but her underlying assumption was that the public school has this information and that there is in fact some fixed amount of knowledge that children must acquire at some rate or they will be “behind”.

Now I will grant you that there are certain things which must be mastered in order to move on to more in depth and complicated knowledge. After all, one wouldn’t expect a child to be able to do division if they couldn’t even count, nor would you expect a child who didn’t know the alphabet to read, but in general knowledge doesn’t have to be acquired in a set in stone manner.  A child’s interest in a subject can in fact be more of a motivation to learning than any set rubric.

Every once in a while I meet with someone who thinks that homeschooling means the children sit around a table and spend their day doing workbooks, reading textbooks or listening to mom lecture on a topic.  Basically that homeschooling should reproduce the classroom in the home.  Since the average American has only been exposed to the classroom model of education there is little surprise that this is the supposition.   Add to that the fact that some homeschoolers really do try to “do school at home” and the fact that the movement is called “homeschooling” and we create the almost certainty that school is the right way to educate and that parents should educate their children the way the state does.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many different methods and theories when it comes to education.  I am a pillager.  I hunt through varrious methods and find what works for us and go from there.  Here are a few of the methods I have shamelessly stolen from.

Unschooling What I like about unschooling is the idea that learning takes place organically.  You don’t need to be following a set agenda at all times for your children to learn important things.  If you provide your children a rich environment they will explore and learn better and more deeply then they would if forced to learn things they in which have little interest in a structured environment.  Basically it is belief that children are designed to learn, they want to learn and all they really need is the tools.  The most important thing I have taken away from unschooling is to get out of the classroom/box mentality, to be very hands-on, to spend time investigating and trying out those things we are learning.   Our science and social studies are very unschool inspired.

Classical on the other end is the classical approach which is usually very structured.  Certain subjects are introduced and mastered then built upon.  There is something the resonates to me very strongly with this method.  Logic and rhetoric, real critical analysis are here, built into the system they are built upon.  We borrow a great deal from this method.  We approach reading, grammar, mathematics and history with a strong classical flavor.

Charlotte Mason somewhere in here is Charlotte Mason.  There is almost nothing I can agree with more than the basic idea that education isn’t about acquiring a set of facts or getting a job.  It is about expanding our minds and our hearts, building our souls and consciences.  Education is every bit as much about forming good habits and excellence in character as it is in learning dates and data.

I am by no means unique in the “take the best of each” approach to education.  My children benefit from different approaches and so does my sanity.

rants

What can you do with 1/4 a yard of fabric?

Make a prom dress!

A Houston teen couldn’t get into her prom because her dress was scandalous (CNN Video) and then got herself cuffed when the police were called because she started demanding her money back (I read that as making a royal scene in the hotel lobby)  The dress, besides being hideous covered about as much skin as a two piece swimsuit and was completely  inappropriate for a high school prom.  The countdown for the inevitable lawsuit has begun.

 

This is more my style.

I went to two proms and seriously they are so over-rated to begin with.   But to get the cops called on you because you insist on wearing the latest “Almost a dress” to a school function says a great deal.  It is just astounding.