When I read St Paul VI’s (I love writing Saint before his name) encyclical Humanae Vitae last year, the section on “What Love Is …” startled me. As I read his descriptors of what love is, especially what sexual and marital love is, I immediately drew the connection to St. John Paul II’s lecture series “Theology of the Body” (1979-1984). The themes of sexual love within Humanae Vitae mirror Theology of the body. Love is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, & FRUITFUL.
Below is a graphic representation of God’s plan for sexual love according to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical:
My mom and I watched a documentary on EWTN recently called the “Vanier Way.” A group of students from the Canadian Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School: “visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, and immerse themselves in the culture as they partake in workshops in pottery, mosaics, and gardening.” (@EWTN) These disillusioned high school students visit Parisian and French cultural, religious, and historical sights as well as immersing themselves in a few different L’Arche communities around the Paris area. The students were more moved by the L’Arche community than the Eiffel tower. Why? Because they experienced authentic love and joy. They experienced real truth and beauty amid the broken, outcast, and “undesirables” of society.
“L’Arche was not my project, but God’s.”- Jean Vanier
The students are blessed to interact with the Founder Jean Vanier who established the first L’Arche community in the late 1960s outside Paris after visiting local asylums. A female friend suggested the term “L’Arche” or “The Ark” in English indicating a community where people with intellectual disabilities could create a new family and no longer hide in the shadows of society. In 1970, the first L’Arche community opened in India. In 1972, the first USA L’Arche home was founded in Erie, PA. Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen lived his last 10 years at a Toronto’s Daybreak L’Arche home. As the founder states, “L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, other seeds were planted in other soils. . . L’Arche became ecumenical.” All L’Arche communities have a religious dimension to their community even in communities with those of severe intellectual disabilities. “Some communities are one religion, others are inter-denominational or inter-faith. Members are encouraged to grow in their spiritual journeys, and people who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.”
“Without this spiritual dimension and growth in holiness, L’Arche could become simply another group home. It would lose what makes it unique.”- Jean Vanier
The beauty of the documentary lies in the reactions of the high school students interacting with members of the community, how they process those interactions, and the transformative seeds planted. Another beautiful aspect is the insightful and authentic observation and story telling quality of Jean Vanier who speaks with a spiritual depth, peace, and humility few people evoke. He warns about the impact of social media (guilty here) and the power of “the tyranny of the Group.” And provides interacting on a human level with “the other” as an antidote against “the tyranny of the group.” These human interactions, absent of cell phones and social media shake us up and out of ourselves and illuminate the lies and pressure we follow so blindly with or without question.
The heart of the Vanier Way is simply the recognize and live in accordance with the profound recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human being from conception to natural death regardless of form or function. Our job is to love. Love and be loved in return. To love without measure or degree. To love the lovable and unlovable. And to allow love to transform us and inform us. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” – St. John Paul II
“Our community life is beautiful and intense, a source of life for everyone. People with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.” —Jean Vanier
May God bless you and keep you! You are more precious than you believe!
To learn more about the United State’s L’Arche community: LINK
To learn more about the International L’Arche community: LINK
During Respect Life Month, hundreds of thousands of people young and old walked for respect for Life from conception to natural death. Saturday January 28, 2017 marked the 2nd Annual Walk for Life Northwest. Around a 1,000 people attended the rally and walk in Downtown Spokane WA one weekend after the March for Woman drew thousands. Sadly, the latter march denied Pro-Life woman a voice. The “Pro-Life” movement isn’t just a religious movement anymore. Research the Secularist for Life or other related organizations. Sadly, the Northwest along with the entire West Coast is a hotbed for pro-death culture.
At the Mass for Life held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, the pews filled while Bishop Daly led Mass for the respect of life from conception to natural death. By some movement of the Holy Spirit, I found myself reading the First Reading from the Book of Hebrews about the many generations that came from a man and woman deemed infertile (Abraham and Sarah.) Never having lectured at the Cathedral, I found myself reading in front of a full Church in my jeans and snow boots.
My father lightly cried in the pew while I read unbeknownst to me. What my friend the young priest who recommended me didn’t know when I was asked to proclaim the Word of God, my parents were chastised by doctors for my conception and life. My Dad cussed out a doctor in a Philadelphia hospital. Doctors and family members called my parents “irresponsible.”
The doctors worst fears came true. I was born with the same genetic kidney condition my eldest brother and I share. I have been a “burden” on the healthcare and insurance system. My brother and I both defied the odds. He and I are in our late twenties and mid thirties. We are among the first generation of children to survive our particular condition. We are a medical miracle. We are a medical phenomena. But moreover, we have touched the lives of our family and countless strangers and acquaintances. We work. Practice our faith. My eldest brother is married with three beautiful and healthy children. We support and give back to our community and the environment. We pay taxes and practice responsible citizenship. We provide a little extra illumination to the world.
Yes, those grouches deemed our existence a burden and irresponsible. I wonder if these people just had no imagination or just feared the unknown so much it paralyzed them and squashed their ability to dream.
My parents choose life. For that I’m forever grateful. My parents dared to step into the unknown and dream. They dared to be creative and roll with the many many punches. My parents sacrificed money, education, power, success, and prestige for our lives. They sacrificed daily. I don’t know what the future brings or what extraordinary medical interventions my brother and I may or may not need. For now, we are who we are. People. Living breathing created in the image and likeness of God persons.
But because of our irresponsibly responsible lives, other children sharing ours or a similar condition will have a fighting chance at a healthy and whole life. And a dream. Thank you Mom and Dad for choosing life!
In the recent wake of Planned Parenthood videos depicting illegal organ harvesting of aborted babies, I wanted to share a story. Honestly, I’m horrified by the footage but unsurprised or less-than-shocked. The behavior follows a logical and historical pattern of evil, twisted yet fallen human reasoning when a group of people play God and deem themselves more a person than another. Back to the story.
My eldest brother and I share the same chronic kidney dysfunction. My middle brother does not. My brother and I are a medical phenomena that have outlived, out diagnosed, and out performed beyond the wildest imagination of the medical community, which by the way does not know everything. We are walking miracles that would have died and did die previously as “failure to thrive” children just a few years before our births. We represent a new demographic of children that will survive because of medical advances, but our lives are no less cherished or important than the lives of the children with our condition that died before us. For whatever reason, my brother and I live- a testimony to life in the face of adversity and uncertainty. A testimony that life is worth fighting for and the worth of the individual isn’t tied to their tangible, measurable utility.
Such a beautiful success story, right? My parents fought for our lives- my life. A medical professional in Philadelphia deemed my existence, before he ever knew whether or not I actually had the genetic kidney condition, as unworthy and a potential burden to the medical community and cost of healthcare in the United States of America. He debased my parents as “negligent,” “idiots,” etc. This medical professional knew better than anyone else involved, including God. This didn’t sit well with my parents. My father and this man ended up screaming at each other in the medical center hallway. My parents found a new practitioner. And nine months later, yours truly came screaming into Northern Philadelphia. The medical support staff, doctors, friends, and priests commented profusely on my beauty and vitality or how unusual my presence was. Shortly, I did become ill and was diagnosed with Distal RTA. Life hasn’t been easy, but I had a chance because my parents took a staunch position about my fetal dignity and the worth of my in-utero life and the countless individuals already touched by that life. I’m not a statistic or a ICD-9/ICD-10 code; I’m living flesh and blood with soul, mind, and emotions/ feelings. Thank you, Mom & Dad, for fighting for my life.
I’ve learned that life is beautiful in all its forms and function. Regardless of the person’s apparent utility, the worth of an individual is weighed on a divine scale that supersedes all human, limited notions of perceivable measurement of worthiness or substance. Nowadays, since exterminating your child is a “logical” option, parents must fight for the lives of children deemed “unworthy,” “burdensome,” “not human,” “impaired,” “inconvenient,” or “deformed” by relatives, friends, and the medical community. Please, fight for your child’s life whether your earthly relationship with your child lasts in-utero, shortly after birth, or in the years to come. Saying, “yes,” to these children is the most beautiful fiat you and I can utter.