Faith allows light to shine through life’s storms

July 12, 2016

HOUSTON — On the afternoon of Sunday, June 12, thunderstorms were pounding through the Archdiocese, keeping most Houstonians indoors, longing for better weather.

At Corpus Christi Catholic Church, however, happiness glowed in contrast to the grey clouds. Youth and young adults with disabilities handed out programs, passed out the baskets for the collection and were gift bearers, all with bright smiles on their faces. Led by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, faithful from all around the Archdiocese braved the storm to celebrate the Mass, and there was no doubt the event was a joyous occasion. 

June 12 had been declared by Pope Francis as a day to celebrate a Year of Mercy Jubilee Mass for the Sick and Persons with Disabilities.

Pope Francis, who celebrated the Mass at the Vatican at St. Peter’s Square, said, “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ — not to mention fake — people live there, but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.”

Limitations are part of being human, he said, yet today there is a widespread notion that “sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment.”

“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model,” the pope said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.”

People with such attitudes, he said, “fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.”

And for Jesus, he said, the sick and the weak, those cast aside by society... are precisely the ones He loves most.

Terry Keane of Christ the Good Shepherd in Spring, who proclaimed the First Reading and whose daughters participated as gift bearers during the celebration in Corpus Christi Church, said it was a special for their family to be part of the Cardinal’s Jubilee Mass.

“We have always believed that persons with disabilities have a great deal to contribute to the spirituality of the Church,” he said. “We believe that our daughter, Kelly, who has Down Syndrome and autism, has a very profound spirituality, and that she has a very real positive effect upon others with whom she interacts.”

He said bringing gifts to the altar as a family was an honor.

“Kelly, in particular, was radiant, knowing full well that this was a special occasion,” he said. “Having mom, dad and her big sister all together at Mass is a happy and secure time for her, and for all our family.”
For Nancy Kircher from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Richmond, who has been offering outreach to the Richmond state supported living center for 30 years, said this opportunity for the faithful to gather and pray together is greatly needed.

“What a wonderful opportunity for Cardinal DiNardo to meet and be with his flock and for them to meet Cardinal DiNardo as well,” she said. “So many of the people I work with have never been to church or it has been many years. This is a big event for them, the beauty and quietness of the church, the music, meeting others with disabilities, meeting Cardinal DiNardo — I guess it is the frosting on the cake.”

Sharon R. Pavlik Buckle of St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Missouri City, who assisted with communion at Mass and whose daughter passed out programs, said celebrating the Cardinal’s Jubilee Mass together as a family reinforces that faith will see them through the challenges that are faced daily.

“I want my children to know and see that our worst day may be someone else’s best, and appreciate our blessings,” she said. “Attending the Jubilee Mass also affords us the opportunity to witness Cardinal DiNardo exemplifying a confident personable leader despite his own disability. We especially appreciate the chance to worship with those walking similar journeys. At this year’s Mass, my family was uplifted by the reverent yet positive atmosphere of the celebration. Lastly, every time we (attend) the Cardinal’s Jubilee Mass, we all leave feeling very grateful for what God has provided our family.”

Buckle said her daughter Anne Marie, who has autism, struck up a conversation with Cardinal DiNardo and happily asked to help with the programs.

“This minor role brought her so much joy. Not only getting to meet people as they arrived; but, also knowing that she helped with the celebration filled our daughter with pride and a sense of purpose,” she said. 

— CNS contributed to this report