Embrace the Cross and be Transformed
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple “
Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism when she was a child. The doctor who officially diagnosed her, following the protocol of the time, recommended that she be institutionalized. But her mother would not hear of it. Despite the dire diagnosis, Temple’s mother and a few far-visioned teachers recognized in her a young woman of exceptional talents and abilities and helped Temple unlock them.
Most comfortable around animals, Temple grew up to become a sought-after animal behaviorist and livestock consultant.
Temple Grandin tells her story in her best-selling books, her autobiography Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism, and her memoir Emergence. Her extraordinary life is also the subject the award-winning HBO film called Temple Grandin.
What is so different about Temple Grandin’s story is the fact that she is successful not despite of her handicap but because of it. She credits autism for her achievements, arguing that she would never have been so attuned to animal sensibilities or the fine points of agricultural engineering without the distinctive vision and hypersensitivity that marks her autism. Temple grew up largely oblivious to emotions like humor and sorrow — but she had a camera-like brain that enabled her to take a permanent mental snapshot of anything she saw. She could also find and interpret patterns and designs within that snapshot.
Animals are sensory thinkers, thinking in pictures, smells and sounds. They don’t think in terms of language — and neither does Temple Grandin. Her unparalleled vision enabled her to see the world from the perspective of the animals in her care; and as a result, she was able to design humane stockyards, ranches and slaughterhouses.
Overcoming the fears and sensitivities of her condition, Temple Grandin has revolutionized cattle farming in the United States — and is a model of hope for parents and teachers of autistic children.
Today we hear about the conditions for following Jesus from St. Luke’s gospel. Christ, by suffering for us not only gave us an example so that we might follow in His footsteps, but He also opened up the way to achieve its transforming effects. If we follow that way, then life and death become holy and acquire a whole new meaning.
The way the Christian follows is that of imitating Christ. We can follow Him only if we help Him carry His cross. We all have the experience of suffering, which can lead us to unhappiness unless it’s accepted through the lens of Faith and against the backdrop of eternity – in other words, with a Christian supernatural outlook! The Cross is not a tragedy: it’s God’s way of teaching us that through suffering, we can be sanctified and saved, becoming one with Christ and winning and expanding the capacity to be happier in heaven as a reward for practicing such virtue.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, embrace the cross and it will transform you! Through the lens of her own “cross” of autism, Temple Grandin has brought startling insight into two worlds — but she did so not by overcoming the “cross” of autism, but by embracing it and learning from it.
We tend to think of the crosses we bear as disorders, complications, and disappointments; and even people we are forced to endure. Our crosses demand so much time and energy from us! Most days we would just like to lay our crosses aside and never pick them up again. But our real crosses — be it a chronic illness, lesson plans, a soup kettle, a talent to serve, an ability to listen — can be sources of hope, of joy, of discovery, of life, and of resurrection for ourselves and for others.
Christ calls those who would be His disciples to imitate His spirit of humility and gratitude by picking up those crosses for the sake of others who are stumbling under heavier crosses than ours.
The faith we embrace by our baptisms is the unfailing hope that we can transform whatever crosses we carry in our lives into instruments that make us holy and will lead us to the day of resurrection.
Mary, Virgin most Faithful, pray for us!