You shared in the celebration of a Mass last weekend at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville for the new group called God’s Northshore Blessings.
You had to be impressed by the turnout of families with their special needs children.
I truly was. For about 12 years, there’s been a group on the southshore organized by Joy and Jay Zainey called God’s Special Children, and they’ve been gathering one Sunday a month for Mass. We realized there was a growing need on the northshore for a similar movement, and a group was formed by Dr. Jan Lancaster with Dana Vidal’s help called God’s Northshore Blessings. This is an opportunity for us to recognize the great blessings of special needs children and for the church to reach out to them. Quite frankly, we, as church, have done some things for special needs children in our schools, in our churches and in our religious education programs, but we haven’t done enough. We’re very aware of the fact that the Lord is calling us to do more, and we want to respond to that call with great enthusiasm. In preparing for the liturgy last Sunday, the planning committee told me it expected anywhere from 50 to 75 to 100 people to attend. Well, we had 277! That’s very significant! There were people who had slight disabilities and people who had severe disabilities. At moments like this, I have to say, as St. John Paul II said, “In the faces of others, I see the face of Christ.” It’s very easy for me at these Masses and gatherings to see the face of Christ in those who are both young and old but who are innocent and very much affected by physical weakness. It’s also a reminder to all of us that Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me.” He did not say if they look like me or if they are completely able to function. He didn’t say, “Let them come to me if they have a certain IQ or if they come from a certain class or are free of disabilities.” It’s very clear that Jesus is saying, “Let the children come unto me.” Let them all come to me – now.
What should our response be as church?
By Jesus saying what he said so clearly, it is our responsibility to make sure we treat them, love them, see them and pray for them as they are called by name by God. One of the things that always inspires me when I talk to some of the parents of special needs children is that, a few of them at times thought about or were strongly counseled to have an abortion when they found out their child would have a great disability. Recently, a woman told me people had encouraged her to have an abortion, but she said she knew she was carrying life in her womb, and she wanted to give that life to the world and to God. That is so inspiring. This teaches us all about the dignity of human life.
Dominican Father Charles Latour, who is the principal of Archbishop Hannan High School, will be the regular celebrant of the Mass for God’s Northshore Blessings. What did he say in his homily?
He reflected on the Sunday Gospel about John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as people were lining up to be baptized in the Jordan River. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Father Charlie talked about the critical importance of recognizing Jesus. He said when John the Baptist recognized Jesus, he sort of yelled out and said, “Hey, Jesus!” And, he got to know him. So, we are called to do the same thing in our daily lives; we are called to look out and see Jesus walking among us – and we should call out to him as our friend.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.