Sunday, April 7, 2013

Homily - Divine Mercy Sunday - Carly's Voice

Act 5:12-16
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31

This past Tuesday was Autism Awareness Day.  In fact, the entire month of April is Autism Awareness Month.

Last month at St. James Cathedral, Archbishop Peter Sartain held a Mass for all those with Special Needs throughout the Archdiocese in Western Washington, including those with autism.

What does all this have to do with today’s Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday?  Well, allow me to show you. 

There are many Doubting Thomases in our world today.  To them, the resurrected Christ is nothing, but a myth.  You may have a few of these people in your family.  I know I do.

But what if I were to show a modern day example of God’s abundance of divine mercy? 

What if I were to share the story of a young lady with autism and show how God revealed His divine mercy in her suffering and her pain and her transcendence? 
This is the Good News about Carly Fleischmann.  She’s a twin who was born in Toronto, Canada.  Doctors told her parents Carly would always be developmentally delayed.  In fact, doctors said Carly always would have the mind of a six year old.  In short, she would always be lost in her own world.

For the first eleven years of her life, Carly’s parents only knew her by her shrieks, her constant rocking, her flailing arms, her pounding of her head on the floor, her temper tantrums, her agony.

Carly was never able to speak a word or connect to the world around her.  It was painful for her parents to watch. 

Friends told her parents Arthur and Tammy to put Carly in an institution.  Lock her and her painful daily struggles away, out of sight, out of mind.

But her parents refused.  Her father saying, “How can you give up your kid?”

Instead, they put her in daily therapy sessions with specialists in a desperate attempt to rewire Carly’s brain.  To make a connection. 

Her parents said they could look into Carly’s eyes and see innate intelligence.

So, for 40-60 hours a week, Carly had intensive, one-on-one therapy with three or four therapists.  The costs would soar into the tens upon tens of thousands of dollars.

Her doctors told her parents they would do their best to help Carly to function better in the world around her.  But even they had little hope of a normal life.

Years went by and little or no progress.  Just the same temper tantrums, pounding of her head on the floor, rocking back and forth, flailing arms, shrieks and shouts of anguish.

It was almost too painful to bear. 

But her parents never gave up.

Then one day during a therapy session at home, Carly walked up to the family computer and struggled to spell out two words.  The first word:  h-u-r-t (hurt).  The second word: h-e-l-p (help).

Then she ran away from the computer, hid behind the couch and threw up.

The shadow of Peter fell on Carly that day and a miraculous breakthrough happened.  Carly had a voice.
          Therapists started to work with Carly on using her words, employing tough-love tactics.  After agonizing months of consistent prodding, Carly began to communicate.  Slowly at first, but eventually, Carly was communicating in full sentences, one letter at a time, “with fluency no one could believe.”

And what she said was remarkable.  

Here’s just a sample:

“I am autistic.  But that is not who I am.  Take time to know me before you judge me.”

What this told doctors and her parents was there was a lot more going on inside of Carly than they ever knew.  “She started to realize that by communicating, she had power over her environment, ” one doctor said.

And Carly could be quite profound.  She wrote:

“I think a lot of people get their information from so-called experts, but if a horse is sick, you don’t ask a fish what’s wrong with the horse.  You go right to the horse’s mouth.”

Through her words, Carly would explain her wild behavior like banging her head and flailing her arms.  She wrote:

“It’s a way for us to drown out all sensory input that overloads us all at once.  We create output to block out the input.  Because if I don’t… it feels like my body is going to explode.  If I could I would stop it, but it’s not like turning a switch off… it’s like I have a fight with my brain over it.”

And Carly expressed her inner most hopes and dreams for herself:

“I want to be able to go to school with normal kids, but not have them getting upset, or scared if I hit a table or scream.  I want to be like every other kid, but I can’t because I am Carly.”

For years, her parents had spoken in front of Carly like she wasn’t there.  Clearly she was there all the time.  That innate intelligence they perceived was soaking in all of it.

This opened new doors of communication between daughter and parents with astounding results.

Now, she loves to have online conversations with her mom and dad during their days at work.  And like any teenage girl, Carly, now 17, asks for the usual things.

Finally, a father gets to truly meet the daughter he never knew and his life is changed forever.  A mother gets to bond over conversations about boys and dating and her life is changed forever.  And a twin sister gets to witness who her sister really is.

Carly’s dad Arthur said, “I stopped looking at her as a disabled person, and started to look at her as a sassy, mischievous teenage girl.”

Her dad says Carly would like the world to see her as a normal child locked in a body that does things she has no control over.

She wrote her dad something recently that will likely bring a tear to your eye. 

“Dear Dad:  I like when you read to me.  And I love that you believe  in me.  I know I’m not the easiest kid in the world.  However, you are always there for me, holding my hand and picking me up.  I love you.”

Arthur said, “I’ll go through many sleepless nights to hear that.  I’ll spend every penny we have to hear that.”

As we heard in today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles, “many signs and wonders were done among the people” so they would believe in the Risen Christ.

Carly is now happier.  Calmer.  More independent.  She still cannot speak, but has found a voice, typing with one finger one letter at a time. 

In Revelation we heard a heavenly voice tell John, “Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.”t judge a person by appearance: her IQ has been confirmed to exceed 120 and her "inner voice" is funny, insightful and passionate. Rather than being placed in supported living, Carly now attends a mainstream high school where she takes advanced and gifted classes.t judge a person by appearance: her IQ has been confirmed to exceed 120 and her "inner voice" is funny, insightful and passionate. Rather than being placed in supported living, Carly now attends a mainstream high school where she takes advanced and gifted classes.

Carly just finished a book called, “Carly’s Voice:  Breaking Through Autism,” co-authored by her father.  Carly did most of the writing. 

Her dad says, “I think Carly knows she now has a voice that can help other kids.  Now she looks at herself as someone who can make a mark on the world.”

Carly has her own blog and is on Twitter, answering people’s questions from all over North America. 

To one autistic person she wrote: “I think the only thing I can say is don’t give up. Your inner voice will find its way out. Mine did.”

Carly now attends mainstream high school where she takes advanced and gifted classes.   Her IQ has been confirmed to exceed 120.  She now dreams of going to college.

As we heard in John’s Gospel today, Jesus tell His disciples, “Peace be with you.” Carly is experiencing that peace now.

The divine mercy of God can silence even the doubting Thomases of our world.  And turn unbelief into belief in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who makes all things new again.   

Alleluia, indeed.

Carly's Homepage
Carly on Twitter
Recent story on CTV in Canada:

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