Evoking the kindness that keeps us human 10/30/2015

October is the month designated by the Catholic Church as Respect Life Month. Perhaps providentially, October is also Down syndrome Awareness Month.

This year’s Respect Life Month program includes an article entitled “A Perfect Gift” written by a mother of a child with Down syndrome. She says, “Many parents want perfect children. Our culture is obsessed with perfection—a superficial perfection. Photos are airbrushed, and social media sites depict seemingly perfect lives. God calls us to seek perfection, too. He does not call us, however, to perfection of appearance or abilities, but to perfection in love.

“Christians know what perfect love looks like,” she continues, “Jesus offering himself on the Cross. Love in a family where one member has a serious disability may look unappealing from the outside. Indeed, love in any family is messy; there are faces to wipe and sacrifices to make. It’s natural to fear that such sacrifices will require too much. But this is where the deep mystery of sacrificial love becomes apparent.

“In our family we have found that our hearts, rather than being weighed down, have become larger. Caring for Charlie has given us more patience, more compassion, and more love for others—especially those on the outskirts of society, whom Pope Francis so often calls us to care for.”

Two years ago, Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), sent out an email during October offering some of the most powerful thoughts I’ve read on the beautiful and unique contributions of persons with Down syndrome.

“The devil wants [children with Down syndrome] dead,” he said. “Why would the devil want them dead? Because they are messengers sent from God to teach us about love. First, they are joyful people. Sure they have bad days like all of us. But for the most part, they are happy and joyful people and so loving it would knock your socks off. They love unconditionally. The devil really hates that. He hates that the most.

“Second, they teach us how to love. It is a hard thing to think about raising and caring for a person with Down syndrome. It is a lifetime of work and frankly it scares those faced with such a task. But, what parents and siblings of such children tell you, it is an amazing experience. It brings you out of yourself. They teach you the joys of sacrifice. And the devil hates that. He hates it when people learn to sacrifice for others. The devil hates it when we place ourselves second or third or fourth.”

Ruse also referenced a paragraph from a novel called “The Clowns of God” by author Morris West. In the book, Jesus sits down with a child who has Down syndrome and says this,

“What better sign could I give you than to make this little one whole and new? I could do it; but I will not. I gave this mite a gift I denied all of you -- eternal innocence. She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. She will remind you every day that I AM WHO I AM.”

“So this is why the devil wants them dead,” Ruse asserts. “This is why up to 90% of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are killed by the abortionist’s knife. The devil wants that. He likes that.”

This Friday, the Bishops’ Pro Life banquet is celebrating the life and work of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome. Recognizing that this discovery may lead to the aborting of these children, Lejeune dedicated his life to helping the world understand the dignity, beauty, and rights of every human life— especially those with Down syndrome—from the moment of their existence at conception.

A cause for Dr. Lejeune’s canonization was opened in 2007. May his example and, God-willing, eventual canonization help our world to appreciate and protect the sacred dignity of every human life.