Updated: Jun 19, 2021
When I was a teenager, I remember sitting in the back of church on a pew with my dad. A little girl with Down syndrome came running up and gave my dad a big hug. We didn’t know her. Dad looked at me afterwards and said, “You know, Erin, I really believe that people with Down syndrome are angels that walk the Earth.” Almost 25 years later, I would give birth to a child with Down syndrome and my father’s words have echoed in my ears every day for nearly three years since my little Andrew was born.
Andrew is my third and youngest child. Since his birth in 2018, I have seen my own husband embrace his call to fatherhood in an even stronger way. Through Andrew’s health challenges and diagnosis, Jason has proven his ability to stay strong when I am weak. Jason is calm and collected when I am beyond stressed. Jason advocates for Andrew and people with Down syndrome in a greater way than could ever be imagined and I am blessed that he is the father to our three children. My husband reminds me of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph was a great father who advocated for Jesus and for all children; to this day, St. Joseph still advocates for us by bringing our prayers to Jesus. St. Joseph fought ridicule when Mary was pregnant with Jesus before their marriage. Showing strength, coolness and calmness, St. Joseph kept Mary by his side and protected her. He raised Jesus as his own son and taught him the skill of carpentry. As special needs parents, we can rely on St. Joseph to bring our prayers to Jesus so that we may have the strength to navigate the waters of uncertainty with a joyful disposition.
On our journey as special needs parents, we are blessed to have priests who bring us the sacraments that will bless us with grace. With this sacramental grace, we are equipped with the strength to carry out our unique vocation. When we do our Father’s will, it is not easy. But we receive words of comfort from our Eternal Father. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Having children with special needs is exhausting, but God helps us along the way. When we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and make a frequent Confession, we are united more with our heavenly Father.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing father’s who love their children in the spirit of St.
Erin Thielman is a mother of three, and speaker, who blogs at www.erinthielman.com.