Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some of the Most Beautiful People Are Missing...

At Mass today, I realized something. I was sitting in a side chapel with my fidgety girls, when a family across the chapel caught my attention. I have seen them before, but something really profound and beautiful struck me today when I saw them. A mother, a father, a boy of maybe 7 years old. The boy was the most noteworthy among them. He cannot speak, he cannot walk, and peeking out from just about the waist of his pants was a sight familiar to any mother -- the trim of a disposable diaper. But the most striking feature of the boy is that, every time I have seen him, he is smiling. The boy sat on his father's lap during Mass today, with his dad gently rocking him most of the time, and when it came time for communion the father carried the boy in his arms to receive the Body of Christ.

Tears came from my eyes. There was no thought behind the tears -- they came forth as a natural response to the mix of beauty and pain and suffering and love that I was beholding. And come to think of it, the response may have been more than natural. This boy and his family clearly pointed to the supernatural, to something beyond this valley of tears (which they most certainly have tasted rather bitterly) to a grace that both sustains them and directs them to something greater and more permanent than this transitory existence. That boy was cleansed from the stain of original sin at the time of his baptism, and he will (presumably) remain free from sin throughout his earthly life. When he received the very essence of the Godhead in Eucharistic communion, I could only imagine how tenderly and with what joy God communed with that innocent boy's soul.

I was transported back in time to the year when, while traveling with NET Ministries, I was at a Mass at a church in Louisiana. I saw a little girl and her mother enter the pew near me, but did not pay much attention until the little girl, completely out of the blue, scooted over to me to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I looked over at the little girl, who had a big smile on her face, and I could not help but be won over by her guileless affection. She had Downs Syndrome, and her mother apologized profusely for the girl's unexpected display of affection, but to me there was no need for an apology; on the contrary, I wanted to thank that mother for bringing that beautiful girl to life and to Mass -- like the man born blind of the Gospels, this girl was born in the way she was "so that the works of God might be made visible through" her.

And as my mind returned to the chapel today, and to the boy and his family,  I realized something really shocking. I'd thought of it before, but today it became so real. Why do I not see more children like this boy, and why do I not see more families like this family? Perhaps not all families with profoundly disabled children go out as much as these people do, to be sure, but still, deep in my heart, I knew the real reason. Many of those children were aborted. And my tears continued, not as a sadness for this family and the difficulties that they have had to endure, but for all those families who never got to know their beautiful disabled child, and for all of us who have missed out on knowing them, too. I realized that, while many people talk about the famous people who could have been lost to abortion (Steve Jobs, for example), very few talk about the disabled who also could have been lost or the countless whose lives were lost prior to their birth.

Anyone who knows me (or even who regularly reads Coffee Talk) knows that I am not sharing this experience as some sort of rhetorical platform against abortion -- that's simply not my style. I share this as a true and profound moment of sadness, as a way to thank the families who have chosen to bring profoundly sick or disabled children to life and to care for them (National Catholic Partnership on Disability offers resources), and as a way to reach out to all the people who have suffered the tragic loss of abortion. Rachel's Vineyard offers retreats which facilitate an experience of post-abortion healing to those in need (post-abortive mothers, fathers, family members -- no matter how long ago the abortion was).

The mercy of God knows no bounds, for those who seek it with a sincere and contrite heart.

Peace and all good,


  1. Carrie-Ann HoudeshellJanuary 23, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    Thank you, Leslie, for sharing. On the anniversary of a sad day, 39 years of Roe V Wade, thank you.

  2. Thank you for appreciating life the way you do. It is truly a blessing to have the privilege of caring for a special child... Never a burden.
    God bless all the children born, unborn or deceased...

  3. Your post brought tears to my eyes. We are friends with a Catholic family, in which there are 10 kids. Yep, that's right 10. The youngest one has Down's Syndrome. Steve and I were chatting with the parents while our five (Theresa wasn't there) and their 10 were running around. The dad said, "Our most important work as parents are to guide our children to be saints." He looked at the youngest, "He will never have a mortal sin on his soul." It was a touching moment.

    How many are missing because of disabilities. How many more because they were thought to have a disability, but were the casualty of a false-positive test? Were any of the spouses for my children aborted?

    God is abundant Love and infinite Mercy.