On our way to church on a Saturday morning, Nicholas made a request for some music or a Bible story CD or something else to listen to. “No,” I said. “Not this time, Nick. Let’s just have it quiet as we get ready for Mass.”
drove on, but I could sense Nick getting restless in the back seat. Finally, as
he turned toward the window and spotted a drugstore, he blurted out, “Good
whole episode reminded me of that scene in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus was
entering Jerusalem and the Pharisees were trying to shush the crowd. “I tell
you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out,” was Jesus’ reply. And if
stones can’t help filling a silent void when joy overflows, neither can a
nine-year-old boy who’s excited about making his First Holy Communion the next
Sunday. Good morning, Walgreens, indeed!
has Down syndrome, and he is exuberant, naturally upbeat, and gregarious—all
traits commonly associated with Down’s kids. Every day is truly a gift, and
they treat it as such. Every encounter, a privilege; every discovery, a wonder.
And the drive to Mass? Not a time for silence, but a time for celebration and
joy and flinging out greetings to anyone (and anything) within earshot.
there particular challenges associated with raising a child with Down’s? I suppose, but I’d prefer to put it this way:
That Down syndrome itself is the
challenge, not the kid affected by it. Sure, there are special therapies, and
sometimes special surgeries and medications—all true. But raising any child is challenging—and every child
has particularities to deal with, as do we all.
Besides, children are always a gift—the supreme
gift of marriage, as the Council fathers taught us in Gaudium et Spes. And their status as supreme gift is not affected
in the least by what and how many “particular challenges” they arrive with.
Unlike our sad culture that has adopted a consumerist mindset toward kids—expressed in its slavish devotion to contraception, reproductive
technologies, and abortion among other things—our Faith affirms the inherent
dignity of every child, every human person, no matter their physical or other
Nick? He is truly a conduit of smiles—you can’t help it when you meet him. I
noted already that he’s receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion for the first time
next Sunday, and I can’t tell you how many strangers he’s informed of the fact.
Catholic or not, can you imagine receiving that kind of news from a kid like
Nick without a rush of warmth? Maybe some tears even? And how long can I be
down in the dumps, no matter how hard my day, if Nick comes over, plops down in
my lap, and asks me to read another saint story or a chapter from Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Not long, that’s
Very briefly, say just a matter of hours after
Nick’s birth, my wife Nancy and I gave some thought to how we’d adjust to
having a child with Down’s. But you know what? It was really just the same as adjusting
to all our other newborns—adjusting to receiving a gift, a fantastic, glorious
gift. And that’s a welcome challenge any time.
A version of this story appeared on MyYearofFaith.com, Diocese of Fort