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LE BLANC, France (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bucking the trend of modern-day eugenicists working to eliminate those with congenital defects, a French religious order is welcoming women with Down syndrome into their community.
The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb (Petites Soeurs Disciples de l'Agneau) live in Le Blanc, a town 200 miles west of Paris. They are the first contemplative community in the world to welcome people with Down syndrome into consecrated life, making France, the Church's eldest daughter, the first to do so.
"The smiling faces of our little sisters with Down syndrome are a great message of hope for many injured families," Mother Line, the prioress, has said. "Our smallness will also say that we are made for very great things — to love and to be loved."
The order was founded in 1985 with a community of two, Mother Line and Sr. Véronique. The young Véronique felt a vocation but could not find an order to accept her because she had Down syndrome.
The two nuns set up a small house in a little village in the Touraine region, surrounding Tours.
Mother Line says she felt their unique religious community would be bound to attract others. Most existing communities had neither the infrastructure nor a way of life adapted to suit women affected by Down syndrome. But in 1999, the order received the status of a contemplative religious institute.
Today there are 10 sisters, eight with Down syndrome, who now live in their convent in Le Blanc.
The purpose of the order, according to Mother Line, is "to allow those who have the 'last place' in the world to hold in the Church the exceptional place of spouses of Jesus Christ."
She adds that the order "allow[s] those whose life is held in contempt to the extent of being in danger from a Culture of Death to witness by their consecration to the gospel of Life."
The sisters draw their spiritual inspiration from St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her "little way" as well as St. Benedict, father of the Church's monastic rule.
All the sisters perform the same daily activities and tasks, each according to her own abilities.
As St. Thérèse said:
I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful — that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord's living garden.
Their extraordinary vocation is expressed in the little things of life. They engage in such activities as weaving and pottery and have plans for beekeeping. They also grow vegetables and have created a garden of medicinal plants.
"Thirty-four years have passed since I heard the call of Jesus," Sr. Véronique says. "I have tried to know Jesus by reading the Bible and the gospel. I was born with a disability called Down syndrome. I am happy. I love life. I pray, but I am sad for the children with Down syndrome who will not feel this same joy of living."
Estimates vary, but in the United States, anywhere from half to 67% of children whose Down syndrome is detected in the womb are aborted. The lethal discrimination against babies with Down syndrome is a worldwide phenomenon on the rise.
Iceland has bragged about completely eliminating people with Down syndrome from the island; Denmark boasts that 98% of unborn children with the condition are aborted; and Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, England and Belgium all have abortion rates for Down syndrome pregnancies exceeding 90%.
Church Militant reported on the case of John Franklin Stephens, a person with Down syndrome who addressed the United Nations in 2018.
"See me as a human being, not a birth defect, not a syndrome," Stephens implored.
"I don't need to be eradicated. I don't need to be cured. I need to be loved, valued, educated and sometimes helped," he said, adding: "Provide job training ... until we learn to work on our own."
"Most of all," he said, "expect competence, not failure."
In Morris West's 1981 novel The Clowns of God, Jesus returns to earth, where some people recognize Him but others do not. At one point, Jesus goes to a school for children with Down syndrome and picks up a child.
"I know what you are thinking," He says to disbelievers. "You need a sign. What better one could I give but to make this little one whole and new? I could do it, but I will not. I am the Lord and not a conjurer. I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you — eternal innocence. To you he looks imperfect, but to me he is flawless."
Speaking of this "mite," Jesus continues, "He is necessary to you. He will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. His infirmity will prompt you to gratitude for your own good fortune."
"He will remind you ... that my ways are not yours," Jesus continues. "This little one is my sign to you. Treasure him!"
The sisters "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Apocalypse 14:4), according to their website. They encourage discernment among all young women who feel "touched by the spirit of poverty and devotion, and who are ready to offer their lives serving Christ in the persons of their little sisters with Down syndrome."
Mother Line particularly asks for prayers that able-bodied "young American girls" might consider life among her flock.
The sisters keep busy, minding St. Benedict's advice: "Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you."
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