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Catechesis for Persons with Disabilities
As St. Paul says, our attitude must be that of Christ. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became man in order to save us from our sins. He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” and died on a cross (Phil 2:7-8). During his short time on earth, Jesus cured lepers, as well as people who were blind, deaf, and lame. In the Gospels, we can find specific miracle stories, and it would be safe to say that Jesus cured many others whose stories were not told. And yet, he did not cure all of them. He taught us that neither the sins of the disabled nor the sins of their parents were the cause of their disabilities (cf. Jn 9:1-41). Most importantly, he taught us to love one another. Catechesis should always be a loving act: we are not merely teaching about Jesus but leading those we teach into a relationship with Jesus Christ, who loves us all. Despite Christ’s example and teaching, in our 2000 years of Church history, we, as members of the Church, have not always loved persons who had disabilities. Up until the nineteenth century, in Christian countries, the disabled were left to die or to beg or to be imprisoned in institutions where they were treated no better than animals. For the most part, people with physical or cognitive disabilities were not permitted to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. There were individuals and religious congregations who tried to accept and care for the disabled, but this behavior was not widespread. Despite the almost total lack of compassion for persons with disabilities, there exist a few examples of the attitude of Christ in this regard.