It is the duty of all Catholics to practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Among these is our duty to bear wrongs patiently as we live out our identity in Christ, which is tough for everyone, but particularly if there’s a disorder like Asperger Syndrome in your way.
The Spiritual Work of Mercy we look at this week is to bear wrongs patiently. The “wrongs” that we can include under this work of mercy are: offenses against our person, persecution, mockery, racism, bigotry, insult, injustice, immorality, maltreatment, discrimination. These and many other evils are the wrongs we have to endure because of the reality of sin in the world perpetrated by other persons with whom we are in relationship or who we encounter in life. As a spiritual work of mercy, we are asked by the Holy Spirit to live our Christian identity by a willingness to bear these wrongs patiently. One of the many ways we reveal our Christian discipleship is the way we react to wrongs done to us or against us. Patience as a fundamental Christian virtue provides us other virtues such as endurance, longsuffering, fortitude, temperance, and strength.
As a Passionist, I understand the importance of patience. The word “patience” comes from the same word as “Passion.” Our Lady of Sorrows gives us a great example of patience at the Foot of the Cross. Having Asperger Syndrome, I have a great deal of tenacity in some things, which is sometimes mistaken for patience. Tenacity is not patience. On those things that I am not tenacious about, I give up very easily. Also, I do not get to pick and choose what I am tenacious about. It is not the choice of someone with Asperger Syndrome to be tenacious about “topic X” or to not be tenacious about “topic X” whatever “topic X” may be. It just happens that I am tenacious about certain things and there is nothing I can do about that but suffer through the reactions of others toward it. It is in that suffering that I learn patience. Our Blessed Mother could not control the Roman soldiers who drove the nails into our Lord. Neither do I have control over my disorder.
The thing that I am tenacious about is my Catholic Faith. I have come to understand within myself that I am tenacious about Catholicism because it is what God wills for me, for His holy purposes. Otherwise, I would have a choice in the matter. I could choose to “shut up” about it whenever a “reasonable” person would think it’s time to shut up about it, if not for this disorder. I don’t have that choice.
This is not to say that I am some kind of “prophet” or that I am always right in the things I say. It could be that I am very often wrong in the things I am saying. For whatever reason, though, God has willed that I be tenacious about the Catholic Faith as I understand it. Somehow, He is using this disorder in me to bring about His purposes in my life and the lives of others, just as He uses any cross in someone’s life to bring about His purposes. Some people with Asperger Syndrome are tenacious about geology or about outer space or about (insert a topic here.) With me, it’s Catholicism. I don’t ever wish it were another topic. I do sometimes wish I didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome, but at the same time, I know God has His plan in this, and I work on finding peace in it.
It is a suffering to be unable to control your own tenacity. It’s a suffering to not be able to shut up about something, and not being able to let something go. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of religion, which is a topic a great many people are uncomfortable discussing. Even if they are comfortable with discussing it, they may not be Catholic or may even hate the Catholic Church. Whatever the case, I am who I am, and I have to be what God wills for me, regardless of what you may have chosen for yourself.
A lot of people with Asperger Syndrome suffer from depression in the midst of it because people WILL reject you when you manifest that behavior. People will also reject you if you firmly hold to a religious belief, whether or not you have a disorder like Asperger, particularly in America’s culture today, and particularly if that religious belief happens to be Catholic. So be it, I say, but for a lot of people, it really is not good for one’s self-esteem to know that others think of you as a freak show because you can’t let something go and because you cannot give others what they want from you. For me, though, it hurts the most when it is Catholics who are doing the rejecting, considering that I figure they should know better.
Rejection by others is where the Passion often is for anyone with Asperger’s, but it is in knowing that God loves you and has made you for His purposes, even when others see you as a freak, that peace is found. My Christian identity is there, in that. That is where the Passion is for me. It is in understanding that I am tenacious about the things God wants me to be tenacious about — my Catholic Faith — and in understanding that my “freakishness” is being used for His purposes somehow, even if it is not visible to me.
I know that a lot of people who know me would insist that I’m not a freak, at all. I can assure you that for as many of you who would say that, there are at least that many who would disagree with you and say that it is actually very “Catholic” to kick someone like me to the curb. Fortunately, I know that neither praises nor being kicked to the curb are what make me who I am. What makes me who I am is doing what God asks of me, come what may. May I never fail in doing His will….no matter what anyone else may think, whether good or bad. As I understand it, that’s really the way we’re all supposed to walk through life anyway.