Thursday, June 13, 2013
Why are Some Children Born with Disabilities?
This is a question that I found myself asking some years ago. As I myself was born with a genetic disability that in my 20s began to fully manifest itself into significant limitations requiring help from my family for many normal tasks. Recently, my 6 year old son was diagnosed with this same genetic condition. Yet there are children born with even more severe disabilities than mine which present in a profound way from birth. Why should these children suffer from the moment they enter the world? What would be the reason for this? Several years ago I heard an answer at Mass which came from the Gospel of John:
As He passed by He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:1-3).
Today at the funeral Mass of Patty Schweitzer I understood these words in the most beautiful way. Little Patty was born with severe disabilities preventing her from speaking or caring for herself. The doctors told her parents that she would never be able to do anything or understand what was being said to her. However, Patty came from a loving Lord and was born into a loving family with two gentle parents and later 5 siblings. Today at her funeral Mass her siblings would say she was the center of their family. Patty taught them compassion and love. For those who knew her and her family we would say her family taught us so beautifully through their example the deepest and most sincere form of love tested through suffering and sacrifice. Yet all this was done with a joy that could not be missed. Despite the heart break that clearly was visible on the faces of Patty’s parents today there was a joy that their sweet angel was flying high. Although Patty was on this earth 51 years she looked very much like a child. Her casket was tiny and one would expect it only to fit a 6 or 7 year old child. During visitation hours last night she lay with her favorite doll and stuffed animal in her pretty pink tulle dress.
During the funeral there was so much love present in that Church that for a time the Kingdom of Heaven dipped down right into our midst. Tears rolled down my face but not out of sadness. To be in the presence of that much love brings weeping of joy at the taste of something so pure and good. Yes, this is when I understood the words the Lord had said to the apostles. As Ave Maria was sung I looked at Our Lady depicted holding baby Jesus and one could feel the love of Our Lady for her children. Through Patty the love of Our Lord could be felt and that of His Mother for her children. It was true, through children such as these “the works of God might be made visible”.