|The father of this Dominic pictured with Pope Francis wrote a great article describing how the vocation of people with disability is to teach the rest of us to love. The title of this blog is taken from the words a woman said to Dominic's mother after this encounter. I could not have said it any better: "you know, your son is here to show people how to love."|
Unless you live under a rock (which I do by the way), no doubt you've seen these images. Pope Francis embracing a little boy (who coincidentally is named Dominic as well) with cerebral palsy after the Easter mass last Sunday, stopping the "pope-mobile" to show Christs' love to the poor, as he has the habit of doing. Why has this gone viral? Why do people care? I would dare to say it is because he is doing what everyone else secretly wants to do but is too scared to- loving the poorest among us.
I would dare say we all suffer a grave sort of spiritual poverty that leaves an unquenchable thirst in our souls that all our empty attempts to fill cannot possibly satisfy. This emptiness, I believe, is why people stare at us in public. Some look out of curiosity, some look out of pity, but most, most look with a yearning to care for the "poor." People are drawn to Dominic. They want to be with him, to touch him, to speak to him, to hold him. The brave ones embrace him, others wait for permission by my eye contact before they become immersed in his goodness. The ones that dare not approach him are left with a hurt, I see it in their eyes. Perhaps they hurt from their guilt of having healthy children, or their reality of not doing anything for the "poor" among us. Maybe they flee from the sting of repulsion that is so natural at a first encounter with someone who is not like the rest of us. Perhaps they feel helpless, scared, unwilling, unable or unworthy to love the ones like Dominic. But I can say with all certainty, the brave ones who take the step to know Dominic, and ones like him, leave happy, fulfilled at doing what we were made to do- loving another person selflessly, for he has nothing to give in return- he is poor, in the truest sense of the term.
His poverty stems from the reality that he must rely on another person for every basic need in his life. Now and, I can only assume, as he grows, he will most likely be unable to do much of anything for himself. It is this poverty that causes the rest of us to grow in love, for though this is a joyful cross, it is still a cross none-the-less. The ones who carry these crosses stumble and fall, are bruised from their weight, sometimes wish for relief, but in the end are rich, for they have loved the poor.
The often contorted bodies of the physically poor point us to the cross- the reality of sin in the world and the necessity to carry our cross with Christ. The joy they most often posses and the love they teach the rest of us shine light on the empty tomb- the hope we all possess of the resurrection and Christs' conquering sin and death.
As a mother of one of the physically poor, I give you all permission to go out and let these brothers and sisters of ours teach you to love. Speak to them when you see them, hold their hand, treat them like people. Don't be scared, just love them. If you stare, follow it with a hello and a smile. Be brave! Go and love, blind to the deformities, the uncomfortableness, the sometimes unsightly necessities that go along with this type of poverty. See Christ in them and they will show Him right back to you!