Monday, July 21, 2014

The Eucharist and the “Ghost in the Machine”

As an autistic, I have the unenviable ability to almost completely compartmentalize my intellect from emotions. I go into a “machine mode.”

My friends often have a very unfortunate experience with that. They talk to me while I am in the middle of “implementing my agenda,” and they see that I do not acknowledge their feelings at all. Friends who know me well stop me and say, “Hey, I just poured out my heart to you,” or “I just disclosed something hard for me to say,” and of course, I collapse into a sea of apologies. I don't realize what I did, but of course I want to acknowledge the feelings of my friends!

My autistic reality is not all that different from neurotypical reality. Humans minds work very much like computers, which is why computers are designed based on how our logical intellect works. Our minds are different from computers because emotional drives can dominate our experience. I know all about that too! I have been known to immerse myself in emotion and the “lever” that makes my brain work seems to snap completely off, while emotions drive my life. Whether we are emotionally driven or intellectually detached, we are all divided, unintegrated and crippled in our human experience.

Until we insert the variable of “infinity.”

Infinity. Yes, infinity. The God who exists outside space and time enters our reality in the Eucharist. The God who exists outside space and time enters my body in the Eucharist. The infinite God who created me enters me, body and soul, and begins to thread his infinite Self into my bones and cells. This creates a “jolt” that literally drags me to my knees. I am grateful to know the impact of His infinite love moving through me, joining Himself with my lowly soul.

How must Mary have felt when the infinite God found His home in her womb? I will never know the magnitude of that experience, but I can receive a “taste” of it through my experience of the Eucharist.

Why am I Catholic?

The Eucharist is why. When I was a young protestant, I received the Eucharist without knowing what it was. I immediately wept because I felt in that moment in union with God. It's always been that way for me. The effect of the Eucharist is a stab in my heart that kills me and brings me to life at the same time.

For that instant, I am integrated. I am whole. 

I walk out the door of church and become once again the struggling Secular Carmelite in formation who has difficulty staying dedicated to prayer. I amble about my daily life, continually wondering why my experience in the Eucharist does not stay with me. Thankfully, I let that concern go fairly quickly now, because I realize maintaining a life of service to Him is more important than what I happen to feel, but I still remain bewildered.

Sometimes, it is unclear what really moves me. Once years ago, someone who was working with me started to call me, “The Machine.” That was because I always had a relentless agenda for him to follow. And by relentless, I mean relentless. I should never be in a supervisory position over people. I've always been considered to be hard-driving and that is because “The Machine” that is my mind likes to go nonstop. (Thank God for helpers in my life who help me find balance beyond hyperfocus!) My new study of Xcode to program smartphones is a beautiful haven of structure and logic. I like to enter and shut the doors to the world. But, often, it is difficult for all of us to turn all that off and enter into the softer side of contemplation the machine of our mind longs for.

Human beings also have free will. This is what separates us from animals. Our souls have only one essential choice to make here on earth, "Will we serve God or will we serve ourselves?"

If we do not receive the Holy Spirit in our human lifetimes here in life, the seeds are not planted for eternal life. There is no “Ghost” in our machine. What is our soul apart from God's soul, who created us? How can it survive in any meaningful way? There are many who believe their soul IS actually God's soul and that their mind creates the world. People who take this position live in a counterfeit reality, sadly. Others, who see the Eucharist as a merely “symbolic meal,” or an experience that somehow incorporates “Real Presence,” without being the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ miss out on an immense experience as well.

The Eucharist is more than a “feel good experience,” thankfully. The Eucharist is fuel to go about serving God, infused and strengthened by God Himself. The Eucharist provides the deepest and most intimate connection that man can have with God.

Without that connection, we are alone in our weak human state. We act selfishly. We hurt people's feelings. We damage relationships because we are callous. There is no infinite God to appeal to who can forgive, heal and strengthen us. I constantly and reliably fail but at least that is not the end of my story.

We are more than machines. We need a healthy soul. The soul runs best on the fuel of the Eucharist and nothing else will do.


  1. Thanks to a homework assignment for using social media in ministry, I came across your blog. I'm glad I did. Beautiful writing. I also am a secular Carmelite and perhaps that is the reason that much of what you write resonates with me, including this about your experience and perspective on the Eucharist. Keep writing, please.

  2. Thank you, so much. I appreciate the encouragement.