The Catholic Herald
Jan 26, 2022
St. Augustine said, “the sacraments are visible signs of an invisible reality.” The church, the body of Christ, is a living reality encompassing a variety of people, including children and adults who are emotionally, physically or mentally challenged. The body of Christ is enriched when we welcome those challenged with disabilities to venture with us through the waters of baptism, the oil of confirmation, the Eucharistic table and the healing of reconciliation. All persons with disabilities have gifts to contribute to the whole church and when they are invited, embraced and welcomed to participate fully in all aspects of parish community life, the body of Christ is more complete.
“The Father’s love for the weakest of his children and the continuous presence of Jesus and evidence of the Holy Spirit give assurance that every person, however limited, is capable of growth in holiness” (National Directory for Catechesis, 49). Despite having disabilities that may impair the ability to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church, they can still have a profound love for Jesus. The National Directory for Catechesis says that children with cognitive disabilities often have an unusual, innate understanding of the sacred and somehow intuitively recognize that Jesus loves them just as they are.
Jesus is our model for inclusion in church — the Gospels of Luke and Matthew record the many ways that Jesus embraced people with disabilities, praised them for the strength of their faith, and called his disciples to take note of how they should be treated and included in church.
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