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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flying High for Autism

Sister, is there a saint for children with autism spectrum disorders?

No, there isn't.

This is where I come in! I love patron saint matching! I dug around for quite awhile trying to think of who it might be. I had something stuck in my head about a saint who had a really troubled childhood because of his behavior. A saint that started with the letter "J".....

It finally struck me! St. Joseph Cupertino! Everything about his early life was unfortunate. His family was dirt poor and there was just something...not right...about Joseph. He couldn't learn to read or write. He couldn't concentrate long enough to finish a sentence. He became a burden to the family. He was given to fits of temper. In the town of Cupertino, no one wanted to be around him. Even his mother had had enough.

He was apprenticed to a shoe maker, but he never learned to make or fix a shoe.

He was taken in at a Franciscan monastery, but they didn't know what to do with him either, because he would stop whatever he was doing and just stand in a stupor. He couldn't even pass out the bread at dinner time, because he couldn't remember the difference between white and wheat bread.

Poor fellow. He was even kicked out of the monastery. He went back home and his mother kicked him out of there. Nobody wanted him. But God wanted him.

His mother took him back to the monastery and gave them the what for. This time, the friars put Joseph in the stable to care for the monastery mule. And this time, things went very well. He became cheerful. He calmed down. He learned to read with great difficulty.

Here is my favorite part: He couldn't be a priest because he couldn't read well enough to pass the oral examine given by the bishop. He couldn't remember passages from the Bible and all of that. There was only one thing in the Bible that inspired him. The words in Luke "Blessed be the womb that bore Thee".

When he went before the bishop, the bishop's eye fell on those words, randomly selected and he asked Joseph to talk about that passage. Joseph could talk endlessly about that passage and only that passage. He became a priest.

God chooses who He wants.

It turns out that the reason Joseph had these 'stupors' was that he he was ultra sensitive to the world around him and the supernatural that exists in this world.

Ring a bell, those of your who are familiar with the autism spectrum?

As time went on, every little thing sent Joseph into a stupor, and then an ecstasy. The sound of the church bell, the utterance of the word "God", a candle, a lamb.

And then...Joseph would rise off the floor. And then ....Joseph would fly.

Yes, I said fly. He could fly straight up and kiss the cross on the top of the altar. He could fly across the church and hover in front of the Mary statue. He levitated before the Pope.

It wasn't long before he could no longer say Mass because he would float around and fly around, every moment of the Mass sending him into further ecstasy. He could read souls and bilocate.

He was a very special person. Very, very special.

How's that sound for a patron saint for autism? Difficult and misunderstood, with problems controlling temper but a host of special gifts locked inside waiting to be discovered.

A perfect match.


eaucoin said...

Thank you for the information about this wonderful saint. I am on the spectrum and had so far found St.Germaine Cousin, patron of the marginalized. I grew up not knowing that I have Aspergers and it used to bother me whenever I heard that quote about "you can tell the measure of a man by how many friends he has," because I never had a lot of friends even though I wanted them. Since my conversion, the Holy Spirit has been introducing me to many new friends (the communion of saints) and I keep a metal ring of medals in my pockets as a reminder that I should speak to my friends every day (St. Anthony, pray for us, St. Bernadette, pray for us, etc.) To the mother of the child with autism, please encourage him/her to remember that each time someone introduces him to another saint, it is because God wishes him to know just how many really good friends he has, no matter how the world treats him. The world unfortunately does not know it's *** from its elbow.

Anonymous said...

Oh this post brought tears to my eyes. My three year old is autistic and just barely beginning to talk. But the rosary has always calmed him and he points out every cross he sees amd says "Jesus cares" (I taught him the Jesus part but the cares part he added on his own, don't know where he got it from but that's ok) Autistic kids do have a certain spirituality about thim.

Mrs. deSouza said...

St. Joseph Cupertino! I will remember that one for my daughter with Asperger's Syndrome and my autistic students! I'm still waiting for the day that my daughter looks forward to church. She still looks like we're pulling her teeth asking her to go - and she's 18 years old! I will remember to ask for St. Joseph Cupertino's help. :) Sister Mary Margaret, you are my hero! Thank you so much!

Katney said...

How timely this is for me. We have a family who have brought their autistic child to us to prepare for the Sacraments. God has inspired a very prayerful and patient parishioner to respond to the call to work with him. We have our Catechist workshop on Saturday--I will print this out to share.

JP said...

Sister this is marvellous! My ds is not on the autistic spectrum...because he makes great eye contact! But other than that...

I never would have thought of St. J of C...but this is such an inspired match.

I agree, such as these can have wonderfully developed spirituality. My ds was permitted to receive his First Communion early on this account.

Blessings to all parents of these special people, and blessings to those who work with them!

Meg said...

Oh my goodness, Sister! This is so providential that you share this. My cousin's 5 year old daughter is a special needs child (she doesn't have aspberger's--but they can't determine what's wrong either). This is a great saint that I will have to share with them. Thank you so much. God is truly amazing. Blessings and all things good, Meg

Mary Bennett said...

Excellent detective work!!! Thank-you for visiting my blog before. I felt so honored!! :)


Fr. Tom Fish said...

Sister, your saint selection is superb. You are amazing that you can find the saint to apply to any situation and I enjoy that very much. I've always loved that about the saints, too. They were so human, such inspiration for the rest of us, warts and all.
Speaking of warts and if it doesn't embarrass you too much, could you take out the second "s" in your autism article title? You see, I'm a writer and it's a burr under my saddle to see misspellings and such. But, I love your blog. Please come visit mine! This week I talk about church visits! Thank you!

Pentimento said...

This is just perfect, Sister - thank you so much.

Oh, Eaucoin, this lovely post was in response to a question I asked Sr. MM on behalf of my son, who will most likely get an Asperger's diagnosis soon, as soon as he sees a developmental pediatrician -- long wait.

God bless you, and all of us who are -- or whose loved ones are -- on the spectrum.

berenike said...

Also patron saint of getting questions you can answer in exams. (no really).

Anonymous said...

Sister, Just tried to leave a comment and I don't think it went through. I wanted to thank you profusely for pointing us towards St. Joseph of Cupertino! We have asked for his intercession often in school, for exams etc, but haven't thought about asking for his intercession when it came to our son who is on the spectrum.

We struggle long and often with him and having a friend in heaven who truly understands will surely help the entire family!

Thank you!

TheFiveDays said...

I'm the mom to three children, two with autism. I love this, thank you!!

mel said...

Ah, thank you Sister....we found St. Joseph once before...we found him in a stack of Holy Trader cards and just from the short little blurb on the back I could tell he was a saint for my boys! One is autistic and one has some general learning delays and ADHD. That whole stopping what he was doing and staring in a stupor thing...we see that a lot around here. :) Though she's not canonized, I also really like the story about St. Therese's sister Leonie (Is that the spelling?). She also had a hard time growing up and a some temperment/behavior issues.

Frances said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Sister. It means so much to me as a mother. I've always said that my sweet little boy is a saint, more angel than human. Now I know that there is a precedent for the canonization of this type of saint!

Nissa Annakindt said...

Hi! I have Asperger Sydrome but not for long as it's being replaced by autism spectrum disorder.
I was wondering about a patron saint for autism/aspergers, I hadn't remembered about St. Joseph Cupertino although I had run across his name just the other day while doing research for a novel I'm writing about Catholic vampires....

Now I'll have to find a good picture of him to put up on my blog.

QUIZ: saint of the day--- St. Dominic (I played Vatican Wars on facebook this morning)
Word Verification Word: dilings
(I collect word verification words. Because I'm weird.)

Anonymous said...

Good choice of Patron, especially since I read something the other day which ended "I am Autism, watch me fly."

I've always thought that S. Christina the Astonishing is a good Patron for Autism too.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is incredible. My son is autistic and we needed a Saint for a confirmation name. My son loves planes so I thought St. Joseph Cupertino. Then I tried to see if there was a patron Saint for people with autism and your article was the first one I found. I think we found a confirmation name. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget St. Christina the Astonishing!