Today is Blessed Mother Teresa's "Inspiration Day". The day she was taking the train to a retreat in Darjeeling and Jesus spoke to her about her 'call within a call' to leave her safe convent with the Sisters of Loreto, where she taught wealthy girls and to begin a radical new life, serving the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta. It was truly courageous of her to do this, she had no precedent besides the examples of the great saints, no agency, no funds, no place to bring the homeless dying people whom the hospitals rejected when she carried them in from the street. Yet she placed her trust in the loving words of Christ, stepped out in faith, and persevered in her apostolate, even when He seemed distant, and her work bore fruit that even the world acknowledges as extraordinary.
I like to compare the vocation of parents of special needs children to Mother Teresa's 'call within a call'. We Catholic parents are often aware that our vocation to parenthood is a holy call, but sometimes Our Lord speaks to the hearts of certain parents, asking us to trust Him even more deeply as He blesses them with a special needs child.
Sometimes it comes as a pre-natal diagnosis of special needs like Down syndrome as this mother had. Other times we are called to adopt a child with special needs as the Watkins family did. Sadly the first mother, initially accepted the call to give birth to her son Joseph with Down syndrome and autism, but allowed his father to cast doubt on that call, and she ultimately rejected her son, aborting him at 18 weeks, for fear of losing her lover. So much sadness and grief replaced what could have been amazing joy. They said "no" to what Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, Superior of the Sisters of Life, in the Foreword to my book on this topic, calls, the "surprising encounter with Christ" and have nothing but grief, and a dead son where faith and a relationship not only with a special boy, but a living Christ could have transformed their lives. I doubt their relationship will survive this loss unless they turn to Christ for forgiveness. May He have mercy on them. The Watkins family , on the other hand, said "yes" to the call to parent not one, but two children with Down syndrome. They found Anna, 9 and Vlad, 10 in a Ukrainian orphanage and brought them across the Atlantic Ocean to a happy home already blessed with four siblings to love them.
“We just knew immediately that’s what we were called to do,” Andrea said of adopting children with a developmental disability. “We kind of always felt like this was something we wanted.” That desire, or calling as the Watkins describe it, was born of the family’s Christian faith and experiences with their own siblings. Kevin’s brother has Down syndrome and Andrea’s brother also has developmental disabilities.
Children multiply joy and expand hearts; they don't divide parents if they are willing to trust in Christ's call to share their hearts, their homes and their futures.None of us knows what the future holds, but we know of Christ's great love for us. The important thing is to love Christ enough to know, as He told me in my heart when He revealed the baby I was carrying a decade ago, had Down syndrome, that "this child is a gift from My Hand."
Thank you from the bottom of my hear to Jesus whose gifts are infinitely better than our greatest dreams!
Happy Inspiration Day!