Linking up with the ladies of Like Mother, Like Daughter!
Some of my dearest friends have been people who have faced some really significant challenges. One such friend is my friend Joy (whose name I'm changing for privacy, obviously). Joy lives in a residential community for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has severe cerebral palsy and also faces intellectual challenges. She's also just about my age (maybe a few years younger). And I have learned so much from her. She is a beautiful young woman through and through (and was also a bridesmaid in my wedding!).
I spent a couple of summers working where Joy lives, and the second summer that I worked there, I had the privilege of being a sort of spiritual director for Joy. Mostly, I was just a spiritual friend/companion to her.
Joy's love for God was and is extraordinary. And she is not the only individual with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental disabilities) who I have met that has a deep thirst for God.
(Pictures are mostly unrelated, but...sun! And warm! So, I thought I'd share.)
I think I may have mentioned before that I'm a member/co-chair of the Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) through the NCPD, which is to say that I find myself thinking about those in the Church with IDD, as well as those with any sort of disability. Most of the ministry work that I did, prior to deciding to stay home with Therese, was in the area of adaptive catechesis, and I could tell you tons of stories about individuals and their families and the unique roles that each of them plays in the life of the Church.
Suffice it to say - I've seen firsthand that those with disabilities have a place in the Church. But more than that...they have a role to play. Those with disabilities - even very significant ones (I'm thinking folks who are non-ambulatory and non-verbal) have a vocation.
Right now, we're not in a place in the Church where there are religious orders that will accept people facing the sorts of challenges that Joy faces. I sincerely hope to see that change in the years to come. There are some people with developmental disabilities (not intellectual disabilities) that have mild enough disabilities that they can join a religious community or be ordained to the priesthood or get married. But in the society we're living in, there are a lot of people that that is not the case for. What this amounts to is the fact that a lot of people with IDD or the like never have anyone talk to them about vocation, or think about them in the context of vocation.
But I'm here to tell you that if you are baptized - you have a role to play in the Church. You have a vocation.
Those with IDD and similar challenges need to grow in holiness as much as the rest of us. They aren't perfect angels without sin. They are born with original sin, and need baptism, and need on-going opportunities for growth and grace. They are called to be saints, just the same as every member of the Church.
(I love that Maria is so eager to get outside that she's backing down the step to get out the door...)
So, why exactly am I telling you all of this? Because there is no us and them.
There isn't a "person with a disability" and a "person without a disability" in the Church. For one, all of us are only a breath away from any number of physical/mental/intellectual challenges. Any of us could lose the ability to walk, or talk, or process things intellectually. Some of us have those challenges now, some of us may have them in the future, some of us may never have those particular challenges. But all of us, regardless of our state or station in life will have to face challenges. All of us have aspects of ourselves that are weak.
Yes, some of us have weaknesses that are visible. Many of us don't, but that doesn't make them any less real.
Yet we all...every single one of us...has a vocation!
I know a lot people get so overwhelmed by their own weakness that they refuse to move forward. They focus so much on what they can't do, that they forget to see that God chooses those who the world deems weak in order to show His strength. As Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, "Whenever I am weak, then I am strong."
So, I'm here to tell you...embrace those things that the world deems to be weaknesses. It may be through those very "weaknesses" that God makes you into a saint.
Okay, and on that note....baby girl got herself some fancy gear to (hopefully) help her build up enough strength and stability to walk unassisted. Hooray for her! Unfortunately, they are very wide and make finding shoes difficult (and she has to wear shoes whenever she's wearing these so she doesn't slip). Any good shoe recommendations from fellow parents of SMO wearers? Thank you in advance!