Unconditional love

Annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities held at Holy Cross Church
By claudia mathis / SUN staff writer

DEWITT — It was standing room only at Holy Cross Church Sunday, Sept. 23 for the annual Persons with Disabilities Mass. Bishop James Moynihan was celebrant and homilist.

Those with disabilities were well represented in the celebration of the Mass. The disabled youth who served at the altar exhibited a sincere, joyous faith.

The Mass began with a procession of the Knights of Columbus Color Guard down the center aisle of the church.

Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel welcomed those in attendance, which included people from all over the diocese.

Bishop Moynihan began his homily with a mention of the book, Fragile Innocence, by James Ruston Jr. The book details the journey Ruston and his wife took in defending their severely-disabled daughter’s right to a certain quality of life and her essential reason for being. Ruston and his wife grappled with a host of complex issues that come with severe disability: what it means to live a worthwhile life, how success is measured and even why people love one another.

“I mention this today, at this Mass, as we pay special tribute to persons who live their lives with disabilities,” said Bishop Moynihan. “This is an extraordinary Mass, and Ruston’s book is an extraordinary book. It teaches something about the value, even the redemption, to be found in the lives of the severely disabled and what they bring into the lives of those who care for them. Most of all though, it’s the story of a father’s discovery — the discovery that love trumps terror, that love finds expression despite seemingly impossible circumstances. It is, in the end, the story of a father’s love for his daughter.”

Bishop Moynihan said the holiness he felt in the church that day reminded him of the song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“This is what the saints could well look like,” said the bishop. “Those who, in their innocence, do not sin at all, and those who spend their lives in such tremendous self-sacrifice, 24 hours, seven days a week, without ceasing, giving support, nourishment, emotional care, mental, moral and spiritual assistance, and of course, physical and material assistance as well. These families are people who pour out their lives for the support of those dependent on them.”

Alluding to the reading from the First Letter to Timothy, Bishop Moynihan stressed the importance of how one should be enterprising, energetic and resourceful when it comes to caring for the spiritual and material well-being of one another. “We often keep silent rather than offer a word of encouragement; we claim to respect the privacy of others, and so we don’t get involved with people who seem to be headed for harm; we forget that our faith in the Christ who comes to us in the needy, as His parable of the last judgment shows us, calls us to care for each other in body, soul, mind and spirit,” said the bishop.

Bishop Moynihan went on to say that St. Paul encouraged early Christian communities to become spiritual in his first letter to Timothy. “Our society may be materially rich, but spiritually poor in so many ways,” said Bishop Moynihan. “Even so, God wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Part of that truth is that when we have less room in our heart for ourselves, we have more room for God and others, more spiritual resources to share with others. Our true wealth, our salvation in Christ, is not something we earn by our own efforts, but rather, is the free, generous gift of God. Our truth, fame and fortune are not from this world, but are God’s spiritual gift to us in Jesus Christ. God has told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”

The bishop recalled a story he had heard at a recent banquet at a school which serves learning-disabled children in Brooklyn, N.Y. At the banquet, the father of a disabled child recounted an instance in which some boys playing baseball in a nearby park allowed his son to join their baseball game. With the boys’ assistance, his son made a home run. The father, tearfully ending his story, said, “That day, those boys reached towards God’s perfection. I believe that when God brings a child like mine into the world, the perfection He seeks is in the way people react to him.”

Bishop Moynihan concluded his homily by saying, “St. Paul says the Lord told him, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ If we could look at the weak things of this world from God’s point of view as Jean Vanier (of La’Arche) looks at the mentally challeng ed, as Sister Nirmala looks at Calcutta’s poor and dying, if we could look at ourselves as also weak and wounded, perhaps we could love others, and ourselves, and so reach out as those boys did towards God’s perfection.”

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