Archbishop Kurtz shines a positive light on disabilities.
As this month is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which calls to mind the importance of being a more inclusive and compassionate community, we wanted to share a story of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’s wonderful response to a 6-year-old girl as to why her brother was born with autism.
Recently reported by the Catholic News Agency, the little girl’s question is one of those innocent queries similar to those so many of us ponder when we find ourselves experiencing hardship, or coping with something that doesn’t seem to fit with societal norms: “Why me?” “Why would God let us suffer?”
The archbishop from the archdiocese of Louisville shared his response to the question in a video with EWTN News in Depth that you can see below. And his response is one that can be applied to so many of our own “why” questions.
Here are 5 key points that the prelate made that help us see disabilities and difference in a whole new light, and a way to celebrate those who might need that little bit of extra love and attention:
1We get to ask the questions
First, Archbishop Kurtz didn’t dismiss her question, but allowed the young girl to feel that she wasn’t alone in her curiosity. “I said, ‘Well, you know when you and I get to heaven, and I hope we both do,’ I said, ‘we have a lot of questions to ask.'”
2Look for the positive impact a person with disabilities can have on us
The archbishop, whose older brother George had Down syndrome, asked the little girl if she loved her brother. Answering “yes” Kurtz then pointed out that through this love, she’d be “changed because of the love we have for our brother.”
3Show gratitude for this gift
With this positive change in her life he added: “That’s a gift you can already begin to say ‘thank you’ to God for.”
4Learn from those with disabilities
Reflecting on his own relationship with his brother, the archbishop shared: “I can’t imagine two brothers that got along better than the two of us did,” adding, “The reality is that when we linger with someone, and especially with someone who labors under a disability, that person has a lot to teach us.”
5Look to the Church teachings
The prelate explains how the very basis of the Church is founded on “the great dignity of every person … We don’t measure people by how much money they have or what exactly their job is, and so whether a person is alive with a disability or not, that person is great in God’s eyes and so we treat each person as precious.”
And Archbishop Kurtz noticed a sea-change in the Church in 2018 when “we began talking about not the disability as a problem but the person as a gift.” Having those with disabilities receive the sacraments is good not just for them, and their spiritual life, but for the Church as a whole.
In referring to the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities from 1978, which was reaffirmed in 2018, Archbishop Kurtz shared: “The emphasis very much in the new document is about belonging – not just including people who are excluded – but actually having every one of us see that we all have a deep desire to belong to Christ and to belong to one another, to a family of faith.”