CCC 166 Faith is a personal act — the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.
In 2002, I , the mother of two girls, became the mother of a baby girl with Down syndrome. It was something I never imagined I could handle, I rationalized that I didn’t have enough patience, that my marriage could not withstand the stress, nevertheless, one Sunday morning, while attending Mass halfway through my pregnancy, I heard a voice in my heart, which said, “You are going to have a baby with Down syndrome.” I doubted this voice, and tried to shrug it off, but a few minutes later, I was in the Communion line and the voice said, “I want you to accept this child as a gift from My Hand.” I accepted God’s will and His Body in tears saying, “yes, Lord, but please bring my husband along for the ride”. God used even my reluctant fiat to accomplish His will in my life.
Four months later, Christina was born and the voice was proved to be prophetic; Christina did have Down syndrome and was tiny at 5 lbs, but was otherwise healthy. I was surrounded by an embrace of love. Phone calls came, meals arrived, and over one hundred people attended her Baptism, in the pouring rain on Mother’s Day. Their faith kept me afloat when I was weak, recovering from a C-section, dealing with her jaundice and nursing issues, as well as supporting family members who were still coming to grips with the fact that she had Down syndrome.
My pastor connected me with the mother of a lovely 20 year old young lady with Down syndrome who calmed my fears by telling me that Kristin was happy, working a job a local bakery, busy with family activities, and a godmother three times over. Another friend sent an Elizabeth Ministry package with a book and CD “Sometimes Miracles Hide” which was full of testimonies of parents of special needs children. My faltering faith was buoyed by a loving tide of support from my faith community.
Once I regained my stride as a mother, I began to notice that other mothers of babies with Down syndrome are not given such support.. I took Christina to her older sister’s softball game and brought tears to the eyes of a mother who had felt unequal to the challenge of bearing a child with Down syndrome, and made the tragic choice of abortion. My baby made this mother realize she had made a mistake; between 75-92% of moms who received a diagnosis of Down syndrome choose abortion. I resolved to share my story with moms like this who feel overwhelmed, as I did, but who do not have the beautiful community of support I enjoyed. I learned that my doctors were not going to pass my phone number to their patients, so I took to the Internet. There I found a place to share how my little child with Down syndrome was a blessing to my family and the larger community. I shared how she was an example of faith by her simple prayers to God in times of need, her unconditional love of all those she met, and her boundless joy at Mass. Soon other parents shared their inspiring stories with me, and I collected them into a book A Special Mother is Born a collection of 34 stories from Catholic parents of special needs children who share what a blessing they are.
So many women have told me that these moving stories strengthened their faith, making them additional links in the chain of believers, and I am grateful to God for the grace to say “yes” to His gift of Christina a little girl with Down syndrome.