Last night, my wife and I attended the vigil Mass for the Immaculate Conception at our parish. We sat immediately behind a family I had often seen but never sat by before, a woman in her forties with Down syndrome and her father. I could not help being moved by what I saw. During Mass, the woman held her father's hand and they both smiled at each other. As people processed up for Communion, a young girl turned and smiled at the woman, who returned the smile and then shared the joy the smile caused with her father. Homilies often talk about love, but here was a very powerful homily on love unfolding right before me: there could be no doubting the deep love the father and the daughter shared for each other. After Mass, my wife told me the woman's name. It is Mary, the same name given to the woman chosen by God to be the Mother of the Word Made Flesh.
Driving home, I was reminded of one of the finest things I ever read on the Internet, the story of Anne de Gaulle as told by the blogger the Western Confucian and those he linked to in that remarkable post. Just like the father who sat before me at Mass, God gave to Charles de Gaulle a daughter with Down syndrome. And just like that father, DeGaulle accepted his daughter as a gift from God, and he surrounded Anne with a fierce, protective love.
And then I had a more disturbing thought. Over 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome while in the womb are murdered before they can be born. It is not difficult to discern what Charles de Gaulle would have thought of this, and what his adversary in Nazi Germany would have thought. Sadly, that seems to make no difference at all.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.