There were three key components in my faith formation: my school, my own study and research, and the lived experience of the faith that I encountered.
When I was fifteen and was in Catholic school, I expressed a desire to get baptized. School helped me grow in my knowledge of theology which enriched me in the Catholic faith and helped me connect the meaning of prayers.
Many Autistic people have specific things they are intensely interested in. I have several, and one of these is theology and Religion. I suppose it was this that motivated my passion to study further in the Catholic faith. I feel a connection with Jesus and his life and with the mystery of the Trinity, and I read as much as I could. I remember searching for books written by mystics and saints, reading John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, and various others. I continued this learning and still am doing so to this day, this time with lectures and podcasts about mysticism, social justice and Catholicism, Vatican II, and the papacy of Pope Francis and its impact. Age and experience have given me increased self-knowledge to understand what I missed in the past and given me humility and an open mind with which to learn and grow more.
As I grew, experienced, and encountered different kinds of people and deepened my prayer life, I began to understand that the Catholic faith is not a set of rules, but rather a life lived with love and in love—made for loving others.
I think an important aspect of faith formation is providing different resources for people to learn throughout their life, including during childhood. My learning grew when I connected prayer, Scripture, history, and more. I believe that for faith to become a living thing it must be integrated in a personal way in our lives, not simply something confined to books and memorization. We need to live and contemplate the teachings and prayers of the Catholic faith to encounter the living God as a friend and nurturer, not simply as an abstract concept, to remember always God is always living within and among us.
Beginning August 16, Father Matthew Schneider, the “Autistic Priest'' and Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology at Belmont Abby College, will provide an inside look at students with an autistic mind and offer insight into how they learn, experience faith formation, and understand the Catholic faith. This FREE virtual event will help you learn how to help special needs and autistic students in catechesis in two classes. In Class 1—Seeing Autism from the Inside you’ll learn more about the perspective and perception of autistic children through a sensory, social, and cognitive lens. In Class 2—Practical Tips for Special Needs and Autistic Students you will learn how to put this understanding to work to make accommodations in catechesis, prayer, and the sacraments.
Register for Helping Special Needs and Autistic Students in Catechesis 2-Part Masterclass hosted by Father Matthew Schneider now!
This Masterclass is in English. For resources in Spanish, watch La catequesis para personas con discapacidades as an alternative.
The shared voices and perspectives of the many Catholics on the Autism spectrum help enlighten unique faith journeys. Understanding and responding to these perspectives open all of our eyes to faith formation that engages different learning needs and leads more Catholics to experience faith, in the words of our guest author, as “a life lived with love and in love—made for loving others.”