Archive for October, 2015

Catherine’s Pascha: “Loving an Autistic Child at Church”

The author of this article, Charlotte Riggle, is an Orthodox Christian; she is writing to all of us who worship side by side with families with autistic children. And it should go without saying that these exhortations from a mother who has grownup  children with autism apply to adults with autism and their families as well, for we are to love one another without exception, even those whose behavior seems strange to us. And we are especially called to render loving assistance to those in need. We all know this. Don’t we?

To access:

If we truly know it, we’ll do it.


 Four Ways to Help “that Mom” at Church


 Orthodox Christian Network: For of Such are the Kingdom

Connect with the Catherine’s Pascha and Charlotte Riggle on




Picture from  J. C. Kuehn Miller

“Adult, Autistic, and Ignored”

There were 2 comments on the October 9th post, Orthodox Christian dvd on autism and worship

The first: “what about autistic adults?”

The second: “While I think this is wonderful, [the dvd] what is EVEN MORE needed is advocacy for the MANY MANY adults with autism in the Orthodox Church. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism, it does not somehow magically vanish at age 18. As an Orthodox autistic at age 53 I have had some HORRIBLE experiences in parishes across the United States, some real mistreatment. I hope and pray that this changes.”

This Orthodox Christian autistic man is sharing a very disturbing message with the American Orthodox Christian community. Now while the Orthodox Church is the “fullness of the faith,” the vast majority of us are beginners in the journey to appropriate this fullness, and we often fall into sin. But we are called to repentance from our sins, from unloving behavior such as this man describes. 

I will tell you a personal story. Many years ago I was involved in what was known as “the Jesus Movement;” unfortunately the group I joined was a dysfunctional one; we were strict and harsh with one another, and pushy and selective in our efforts to win converts; we sought young people. One evening, on the streets of Manhattan, I initiated a conversation with a man walking beside me, seeking to evangelize him. He turned to face me, and I saw that his face was unusually large, and distinctly displeasing to my eye; he was also older. He responded to me, seeking to engage me in conversation, but I responded with a short Christian platitude and ended the conversation. 

I felt guilty for what I had done to this man; and I still feel shame over my unkind response. I imagine that many people this man had encountered in his life would have done something similar to what I had done. But this man would remember my response in conjunction with empty Christian words. 

The Good Samaritan, who belonged to a group hated by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, proved to be a neighbor to the Jewish man who had been robbed and beaten and left lying along the road half dead. He did not allow the prevalent religious animosities between his people and the Jews to dictate his response to the victim he found along the road. Instead, he fulfilled completely the law of love in his provisions to the man, despite their differences.

People with autism in the Church will not relate to us in coffee hour in the same was as a fellow neurotypical person will. And they may do things during Divine Liturgy that we may not think are appropriate. Nevertheless, they are our brethren; and as we are called to love our brethren, our neighbors, and even our enemies, we are certainly called to make every effort to try to understand the situation of our autistic brethren and visitors, and be there for them to the best of our abilities, to resist the temptation to criticize and condemn the differences they manifest, that they may feel welcomed and loved.

There is a prevalent misconception in the general culture that autism is childhood condition, something one can grow out of; we are more tolerant of autistic children than of autistic adults.  Many of the government support programs for them end when they become adults. According to a September 5, 2015 New York Times article (which can be accessed below) 90% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed. This factual article is also a personal story; the life of an autistic man, Joshua is inter-weaved with the facts presented. 

While reading the article, reflect on how you might respond to an autistic adult in your Parish, in light of Joshua, the 53 year old Orthodox Christian man, and the facts of American adult autistic life.

To access: New York Times: Adult, Autistic, and Ignored 

Picture from: crawltothemoon.wordpress 

Ancient Faith Ministries: The Least of These


A discussion with Maura Oprisko, a writer, in regard to raising a child with autism in the Orthodox Church. She speaks of her entrance into the Orthodox Church, the first years with her child with autism, the initiatives she took when it became clear to her that her son William is autistic, and also about her writings and future writing projects.

To access:  Ancient Faith Ministries: The Least of These 

To explore further about her work and her life with her son and family, read her blog: 

THE LEAST OF THESE: Raising autism in the church, with dignity


Orthodox Christian Network: Embracing All God’s Children, by Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski

Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski wrote a thesis concerning persons with disabilities. It is  the very opposite of a dry thesis; it is a writing full of life, containing stories as well as information. In my opinion, it is like a book that you’ll want to read to the end.  I

The sites below, from the Orthodox Christian Network, contains excerpts from this work:

Embracing All God’s Children, Part 1

Embracing All God’s Children, Part 2: Definition of Disability

A webpage on which one can find Parts, 3, 4, and 5: The Sounding  And there may be more.

The entire thesis can be accessed here: Embracing All God’s Children: Orthodox Theology Concerning Disability and Its Implications for Ministry with Special Needs Youth in the Orthodox Church 

Venerable Gerasimos, Intercessor for those with mental illness

St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia

October 20th/November 2nd
Venerable Gerasimus the New Ascetic of Cephalonia
We pray to The Venerable Gerasimus to intercede before the Lord to strengthen and heal our brothers and sisters in Christ, who live with mental illness.

Let us praise divine Gerasimos the protector and champion of Orthodoxy, / An angel in the flesh and a God-inspired wonder-worker. / He received from God the gift of healing / And grants cures to those who honor him!

from Facebook: Fighting the Good Fight of the Faith 

icon from a..sinner: Venerable Gerasimus the New Ascetic (also a source of further information on St. Gerasimos)

Ancient Faith Ministries: Orthodox and Schizophrenic – An Experience of God’s Love

A recent Ancient Faith Ministry podcast, with Dr. Albert Rossi, interviewing Alexis, the person with this illness. My wife and I attended one of his retreats, and I would have to say that it was one of the best retreats in which we participated.  Alexis shares about facing her inner contradictions; she also speaks of how knowing God has given her strength to deal with the rejection she faces because of her illness.

From Alexis:

It’s not a matter of the content of your thoughts; it’s a matter of your love of life, and the love of God …

What the chemistry is is one thing; what the person is is another …

I never gave up; I never stopped receiving the Eucharist. …

God is with those who suffer, and with those who do not suffer. …

One more thing. God is in the illness. He is in the nethermost Hades. He waits to be gracious.

Listen to the entire 21 minute podcast for the full context of her words and Dr. Rossi’s. Words that are spoken are much more powerful than words that are merely written. To access: Orthodox and Schizophrenic – An Experience of God’s Love 

More from Dr. Rossi from Ancient Faith Ministries: Becoming a Healing Presence: Through Christ, We Learn to Bring Healing to Others


October 20, 2016: A Webinar: The Church and Families of Children with Special Needs

(Definition of Webinar: Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software. A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements — the ability to give, receive and discuss information. Contrast with Webcast, in which the data transmission is one way and does not allow interaction between the presenter and the audience. from )

This webinar will discuss the role of the church in meeting the needs of parents and caregivers with children that have special needs. This will be the first of many conversations addressing the many issues families/caregivers of children with special needs face as they seek to engage in their Orthodox Christian Community. This panel will include Fr. James Kordaris, Presvytera Melanie DiStefano, and Angie Giallourakis with Melissa Tsongranis moderating.

Time: Oct 20, 2015 1:30 PM (GMT-4:00) Eastern Time (US and Canada)

To register:  Webinar Registration 


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