If you have Asperger’s Syndrome, ordinary social interactions can be very difficult— like going to church, interacting with the people there, and making friends. And if you are a Christian or even just a spiritual seeker, that makes you feel bad because you feel you are left out of the group and not very welcome— even though the other people who seem to be shunning you probably just think you want to be left alone, or even that YOU look down on THEM (because you are not making eye contact in the correct neurotypical way….)
For a long time I haven’t been making it to my church each week even though I wanted to. And I also felt the need to go to confession so I could properly receive communion. I got up the courage to face the scary priest in the scary confessional. OK, it was a bit embarrassing when I couldn’t say the act of contrition because I haven’t memorized it yet. [The ‘act of contrition’ is a special prayer to tell God you are sorry about the stuff you did that was morally wrong.] But for my penance I got to say a decade of the rosary— which is a devotion I really like to do anyway. I took that as a sign of encouragement from God.
I went to the Latin Mass last Sunday. I prefer the Latin Mass because the church isn’t as crowded then. Daily Mass is also good for Aspies who don’t like crowds. For Protestants and others, maybe there are Sunday evening and weeknight worship opportunities if the Sunday morning service is too crowded.
I really wanted to get involved in some smaller group activity at my church and I saw in the church bulletin that a group called the Legion of Mary was meeting Wednesday morning in the ‘Church Hall’. So I decided to go.
The first thing I discovered was that ‘Church Hall’ was in fact a code word for the church basement. It’s a nice room and I’ve been down there when they have coffee and doughnuts after Mass. (Almost nobody goes to that at my church either, it would be a good meeting-people opportunity except for the temptation to actually eat one of the doughnuts.)
The Legion of Mary group was a small group of older ladies. They were very glad to have a new person thinking about joining them, and before long I had volunteered to do some computery things for the church. Our pastor, Fr. Timock, joined us for the meeting. We did a bunch of prayers, including the rosary, which members of the Legion of Mary are expected to pray at home every day. And then we talked about the exciting stuff.
The Legion of Mary is supposed to be active in evangelism. And next month, we are going to be having some big evangelization stuff going on. Two Sisters from a religious order called Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate are going to be coming to our parish for two weeks to do door-to-door evangelism. Yes, Catholics do that. I was somehow emboldened to mention that I had once been a ‘sidekick’ on a door-to-door evangelism campaign when I was a Lutheran in college (Concordia College, River Forest IL). So it looks like I’m going to be doing more evangelism sidekick work with a REAL NUN playing the role of Superhero.
I also showed off some of the rosaries I had been making and the ladies said they might be just the thing for the nuns to distribute. So I’m busy making more rosaries. I like to make rosaries but with my Asperger’s Syndrome you can imagine that it’s hard to find ways to distribute them.
I realize that not all people with Asperger’s Syndrome are going to be able to do things like volunteer for a door-to-door evangelism campaign. Though it is surprising what we Aspies can learn to do when we try. But there are quiet things you can do. For example, a lot of the Legion of Mary ladies volunteered to make casseroles for the nuns on different nights, and one lady offered to take them grocery shopping so they could have the food they liked for breakfast and lunch.
No matter how disabled you think you are with your Asperger’s Syndrome, there is probably some church activity you could do that would help you make friends. Sometimes there are groups which just pray together.
I really feel more upbeat and less depressed after going to the Legion of Mary meeting and deciding to join. I hope any readers out there— and sometimes there ARE readers out there— are able to find something at their own home church that they can do. [If you don’t have a home church and are looking for a good ‘Bible-based’ church, try a Catholic one! 😉 ]
Question: If you have Asperger’s Syndrome (or another disability) have you ever had trouble fitting in at church? Have you found anything that helps? Please, share in a comment!
I actually prayed the rosary before I became Catholic. There is even a special rosary called the Anglican rosary which is a Protestant variation on the rosary. Though most Protestants who pray the rosary use an ordinary Catholic one. The Hail Mary prayer which some Protestants don’t like to use (even though it is based on 2 Bible verses) can be replaced by the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. This prayer is in very ancient use in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Rosary— Not Just for Catholics on Facebook.