“Jennifer,” who regularly comments on this Blog with profound insights, left a comment this morning on yesterday’s post. I just had to share it with all readers, it is so rich. I also appended a brief interview with Jean Vanier, who, as for Jennifer, is a personal hero of mine. Thank you, Jennifer, for opening up the mystery of “almsgiving” (literally, mercy-giving) for us this Lenten day, radiant in the life of Judith Snow. May she rest in the peace of the new creation.
During grad school and after I left, I earned money by working in two group homes for adults who had developmental and intellectual disabilities. I had been profoundly moved by the writing of Jean Vanier, specifically, “Becoming Human”. I completed a diploma in the field of social work pertaining to people with such challenges. During that time I crossed paths with an unforgettable woman named Judith Snow. She was an incredible advocate for people living with profound disabilities, especially those who couldn’t use words to communicate. She herself was born with a type of dystrophy that left her quadraplegic and very tiny her entire life. She was incredible, intuitive, brilliant…a force. While she extremely intelligent, because of her physical limitations and the era she was born in she grew up with the unique experience of being surrounded by other children who were profoundly intellectually disabled. She was a keen observer and dedicated herself to learning how to communicate her silent peers. She took me under her wing for which I am so grateful. (Here’s her bio from when she had an art exhibit at Canada’s premier museum: https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/whos-drawing-the-lines-the-journey-of-judith-snow). Sadly she passed away suddenly a few years ago. Huge loss to this world!
From Judith I learned (or at least she tried to teach me) soulishness. I don’t know how to call it. It’s that kind of uncomfortable silent being with another until you “get”one another deeply without talking. She taught me to really feel in my bones the lie of utilitarianism in determining the value of a life. I understood through the people she introduced me to what Vanier was speaking of; I learned the inherent worth and dignity of every life as a bearer of God’s image. These people were heralds of light in this world that is too quick to discard and objectify others
This morning I came across this reflection from B16 that I thought encapsulated the truth of our identity in this vein.
The Enlightenment was sated with demands for morality. It sought to reduce religion to morality. But morality was even further reduced—this time to utilitarianism, to the concept of human well-being. Morality was the measure of the useful, and immorality, accordingly, of the foolish. The definitive and decisive factor for the individual, and in particular for his well-being and happiness, was not feeling good, but being good. Man is not made greater by a promise of autonomy, but smaller, for he is truly himself only when he transcends himself. He belongs more truly to himself when he belongs to God than when he wants to belong only to himself. Morality cannot mean that we ourselves determine what seems useful to us and to the world; on the contrary, it must be a listening to the words of God in the words of creation. We must not and we may not adjust creation to our own liking so that it will be serviceable to us, for in that way we destroy the world and ourselves with it—we have experienced this in our own day. To listen to the words of God means to conform ourselves to God. When we become conformable to him, creation continues to be good and we ourselves become good. The Lord himself has come to meet us and his commandment is simple: that we conform ourselves to the truth. It is his commandment that we correspond with the love he has offered us, and all his commandments are but signposts directing us to the secret of love and so to the foundation of truth. Morality lives thus from the mystery, from the manifestation, of the love of Jesus Christ. When it is separated from this mystery, it becomes fanatical and narrow. When it loses its relationship with this mystery, it becomes just a compulsion in man; and how inhuman morality can become when it is just a compulsion to force hope on the world—of that, too, we have had ample experience in our day. From: Homily for May 16, 1985, in Ordinariatskorrespondenz, no. 15, 1985