Mentally Handicapped. That the mentally handicapped may not be marginalized, but respected and lovingly helped.
This month the Holy Father affirms the worth of people who are mentally handicapped. The developmentally disabled, as they are usually termed in the U.S., tend to be marginalized by society — that is, they are pushed aside, put away, and ignored. Their crime is that they happen to exhibit weakness of intellect. Sometimes the mental handicap is accompanied by delays in speech, social skills, and physical abilities. Some of the developmentally disabled lead independent lives in their communities. But many need help to live up to their potential. Some need constant care.
In 1964 French layman Jean Vanier noticed the plight of thousands institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Vanier invited two men to come live with him in his home. He named the home L'Arche, French for The Ark. Now there are 130 L'Arche households throughout the world.
Just what is the value of the mentally handicapped? Jean Vanier puts it this way: "The mentally handicapped … have time to look and think and marvel and love…. They are a sign, by their very being, that peace and joy … are not gained by work alone, and do not depend on wealth. Therefore, they utter a terrible warning; a warning that if men do not use their knowledge and ability to make the world more just, more brotherly, and to bridge the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, then this world will end in agony, strife, and fire."
May we join the Holy Father in praying that the mentally handicapped not be ignored or rejected, but that we might learn to respect the dignity of every human being.
Do you know a person who is mentally handicapped? What might you do to affirm his or her dignity?
Matthew 31:34-36 — "Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'"
Institutes of Consecrated Life. That the Institutes of Consecrated Life in mission countries may rediscover the missionary dimension and generously proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth.
On February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Church also celebrates World Day of Consecrated Life. This month the Holy Father asks us to pray that all priests, brothers, and sisters may generously proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth.
Speaking last year to the bishops of Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI said this: "Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system, but faith in the God who is Love — who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ — is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today."
The Pope constantly exhorts religious orders of the Church to remain true to the original mission of their founders, particularly in their devotion to the Gospel of Christ. "The disciple, founded on the rock of God's word, feels driven to bring the Good News of salvation to his brothers and sisters," the Pope told the bishops of Latin America. "When the disciple is in love with Christ, he cannot stop proclaiming to the world that only in him do we find salvation (Acts 4.12). In effect, the disciple knows that without Christ there is no light, no hope, no love, no future."
But nowhere does our Holy Father express this dynamic of personal faith and social service as beautifully as he does in his encyclical, God is Love: "Love of God and love of neighbor have become one; in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God."
May all religious congregations, especially in mission lands, fearlessly witness to the Gospel.
How does the Gospel contain the answers to the problems of developing mission countries?
Mark 16:15-16 — "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized, will be saved."
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
O Father, we ask you to bless us,
and keep us in your love.
May L'Arche be a true home,
where the poor in Spirit may find life.
Lord, give us hearts that are open,
hearts that are humble and gentle,
so that we may welcome those you send,
with tenderness and compassion.
Lord, through the hands of your little ones,
we ask you to bless us.
Through the eyes of those who are rejected,
we ask you to smile on us.
Lord, on the day of your coming,
welcome all people into your Kingdom. Amen
(adapted from the L'Arche prayer)