To be perfectly honest, I’ve never really had a one-on-one conversation with him before…I just sat at his table during an ECF class one night and heard him talk about despair and then he turned to me and said, “You look like you’re dying to ask something here!” And terrified, I just said, “No. I’m good.” The next week I sat at his table during the discussion–we received a paper about Sts. Peter and Paul…I grabbed a pen and started filling it out. Someone in my group became a little bit impatient with my eagerness to fill out the questionnaire. He said, “Love is patient!” I contacted him later that week with a note of appreciation.
I came back to the parish today…it’s difficult for me to come because I just feel so distant and absent from God but Fr. Kimel had requested prayer and I felt like lighting a candle for him–this candle might have burned the longest. After the liturgy, everyone goes to the parish hall for a luncheon where conversation occurs…conversation in a large society. I get some coffee because I’m about to fall asleep and this young father a few years older than I calls me to sit with him and he tells me how he eventually came upon St. Thomas Byzantine Catholic Church. Small talk…I’m just trying to wait for an escape when all of a sudden the deacon comes over to me and invites me to talk with him alone…yes, alone!
He leads me into the parish office and tells me that he wants to be a father figure for me and to tell me about my life at this point. Okay, simple enough. Just be a child like Mother says. Let someone else take care of me. I share with him the scars on my arms and progress with my relationship with my father–rough. We’ve played catch with the football and baseball in the past but he always pushes me to be what he wants me to be and according to the deacon, this is not what God wants for me–he wants me to be who I want to be. This is not to say my dad’s a bad guy, he’s not–I think he’s misguided but not bad.
At this point, he breaks in with an interjection in the conversation–in truth, we really haven’t communicated that much…I’ve sent a couple e-mails expressing myself and where I was at in my life journey and with the cuts on my arms and my attempted suicide all so recently as well as interest I have in studying liberal arts, specifically law and church law. His interjection–“I’m just throwing this out as a guess here, but I’m going to say that you’re high-functioning autistic and that you like a lot order–specifically, order of the right kind. Have you been diagnosed with high functioning autism?” I’m thinking at this point, “Oh my God, this guy’s psychic–err, not a psychic, just right!” He also then guessed quite accurately–recalling when I first came to the parish when my mom presented me as the one interested in Catholicism–that I was looking to the church because I believed then that it could help me!
Me in my head: YES! I believed that the church could help me with the most important thing to me then that was fading away! My SPIRITUALITY!
I was devolving into a state of decadence intellectually experimenting with all different sorts of ideas in my mind despite attending an Evangelical Covenant Church–liberal Protestantism, Satanism, radical atheism, Luciferianism, etc. I wanted God to be my own! I wanted to be my own God! I wanted to say I was good without God! But all of this exploring brought a devastating end to my spirituality and so to recover it, I sought the church! So yes, I did believe that the church could help me.
At that point though, the parish priest came into the office and so the deacon and I re-located to the parish. He and I had that conversation I was hoping to have with my parish priest when he went to a state of arrogance. The deacon wanted to know who I was and what I was. He correctly identified me as an introvert, intelligent (all people with high-functioning autism are intelligent, all people who are intelligent are introverts), good with languages–that is, learning them is easy for me, someone who prefers deep conversations, and someone looking for hope. And he offered his hand out to me as one who wants to lead me into Christ and so I listened all the while in my head…
Me: Oh, crap, I hope my younger sister isn’t waiting too long for me!
But I quickly brushed that thought to the side…I needed to listen to him speak for now. I felt genuinely loved. By more than just someone who was a member of the clergy but by an actual, father–at least to me at that point. For the first time in a long time, I’m hearing the Gospel and it’s damn good news! Sweet news! The demons are afraid more of me than I of them. Satan hates losing people to God and so I struggle with Satan as did numerous other saints such as St. Francis of Assissi. Speaking of which, the key to renouncing these thoughts of suicide, my deacon explains to me, is mocking Satan. It’s not God who wants me to think these thoughts, it’s Satan telling me that I want to cut myself, that I want to kill myself–do as St. Francis did and tell Satan to shut up or you’ll defecate in his mouth. Out of the mouth that spews crap, crap will go into it.
He tells me about how different varieties of Christianity use these breathing exercises called prayer–Protestants prefer citing Bible verses to remind them that God is there, Roman Catholics use the rosary, Eastern Christians use some variety of the Jesus prayer…not to favour one set of devotions above the other but to provide help. He tells me how Michael mocked Satan when Satan tried to take the throne of God challenging Satan in mocker with “Who is like God?” At this point, I reach into my pocket and pull out my rosary–I show him the medallion, it’s St. Michael. He encourages me to memorize the prayer to St. Michael and not to have these suicidal thoughts and remember most importantly to share with people my wounds and victory over them as Christ did. “Share the wounds of Christ!”
I got an iconography lesson that day–“See that icon? Christ is on the gates of Hell! Satan is a loser and hates what God loves and so he attacks God’s creations! He wants to make us losers!” “See this icon? Thomas is touching the wounds of Christ! The world looks at a wound and wants to correct it but Jesus looks at a wound and responds in love!” “See this icon? Only one person was created to die! He’s wrapped up like a mummy, on something that looks like a tomb!”
Later that day, my friend comes over. She knows I’ve been struggling with cutting. I’m standing while eating and everybody else is sitting–we invite these friends of ours over for dinner each Sunday. I tell her about my accomplishment–that I haven’t cut in two months! It’s a triumph…the marks though are going to be forever lasting, I’m afraid. But my friend celebrates that I haven’t cut myself in so long. She gives me hugs which I love.
We’re having a game night that night. And as we’re playing, her mother puts the married people on teams together and the single people are on their own. I lament because I want my friend on my team. Eventually, after round 1 of Scattergories, her mother decides to let the single people form teams together so my younger sister and her boyfriend are on a team together and now, me and my friend are on the same team together.
I forget about awkwardness at some moment and I ask my friend if I can just lay my head down on her arm. Auntie says girls like touch so it won’t bother them as long as I don’t misinterpret. My friend lets me and I feel close to her–I feel loved by her. I say, “My friend loves me.” Then I wait briefly, and inform my friend that she’s supposed to pat my head with her hand and say “Yes I do.” I entrust myself to my friend’s love. My mom seems concerned and says to me, “Daniel, you have a huge brain, your head is heavy!” My friend doesn’t mind that–“My friend loves me,” I say. “Yes I do,” and she pats my head with her hand. I’m being protected by her for now. I know that I receive love and this is what I need right now. Regretfully, we got to the last round and my friend had to leave but she gave me a goodbye hug for the night. “My friend loves me.” “My deacon loves me.” “This is Mother’s mantle stretched out on me, Mary’s veil protecting me.”