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Letter to a Lebensunwertes Leben

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 12, 2005

Dear Miss Irishwoman,

I peeled your photo last week from a news source I've now forgotten; it was one of a series of images showing worldwide mourning for the Pope, and the caption indicated you were part of a memorial Mass in Dublin. Your picture stuck with me -- perhaps because of its contrast with the perfect hair and brilliant false smiles of the network media stars reporting on the funeral. It's obvious that you're afflicted by Down Syndrome. In a curiously final way, most of what I consider noblest about the just-ended pontificate finds expression in your pleasingly unpleasing face.

For starters, you exist. That itself is no small achievement. There are a lot of very rich, very powerful, very intelligent people who would turn you into surgical waste with no more thought than putting down a kitten. Your life, in their eyes, is a life not worthy of living. You will accomplish none of the things that they value. You will win no prizes for cello or dance. You will pay no taxes. No Jesuit university president will congratulate you for staging The Vagina Monologues and challenging patriarchy. You're a burden. That you're alive at all is due to the belief that you're more than a burden. Perhaps no man did more to diffuse that belief -- in increasingly hostile territory -- than the one you're praying for.

I see your mother has dressed you warmly and is tidying your hair. Small acts of kindness, but not the less telling for that. Had she freed herself from her burden, from you, she might be traveling or shopping or doing that art history course in Siena she always dreamed of taking. Instead, she brought you to church.

You have a rosary, I notice, as does your mother. Either she doesn't know, or doesn't care, that our theologically credentialed betters assure us this reflects a retrograde pre-Conciliar spirituality. Pope John Paul, as it happens, shared the same ignorance (or unconcern). Is your mother's stubbornness in regard to her piety unconnected with her perseverance in tending to you? I doubt it.

Do you understand much of the prayers you pray when your mother coaches you through your beads? It's not easy to say. I'd be slow to discount their value. An uncredentialed but otherwise well-informed source has taught us, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father." Will the Father in question turn a deaf ear to your prayers because they're mixed with your mother's prompting and gap-filling, or because you're fuzzy about the meaning of the Fifth Glorious Mystery? Possible, but I can't bring myself to believe it.

In fact, Miss Whoever You Are, I'd be inclined to think there's less pride, less self-pity, less cussedness in your "assisted" prayers than in those of us microsofters. So I'd ask you, in your innocence, to pray for us cynics, that our eyes be lifted above the spectacle of ecclesiastics placing the Body of Christ on the plump tongues of professional assassins, and that we might share, however sporadically, the vision that your eyes see, might speak the blessings that your lips speak.

Your fond uncle,


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