Visibílium Omnium et Invisibílium: Jesuit Update on Living and Working with People with Developmental Disabilities

March 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

(Snowdonia, Wales, chosen for its fittingness: the mist and the clouds block a bit of the beautiful view)

“Things visible and invisible”–both are the creation of God. However, there are times when we must wait for the invisible to be revealed as visible. When we stand on the top of a mountain, there are moments of intense cloud-cover. We see nothing. If we wait–sometimes a very long time–the mist dissipates, and the beauty of the landscape comes alive.

So has it been during my first few weeks at L’Arche, a community in which people with and without developmental disabilities live and work together. Upon my arrival the cloud-cover was strong. Though I was full of energy at the prospect of “making a difference” here, it seemed as if my impact would be small. It would only be six weeks. The work would be slow. How could simple acts like cooking or helping in the bathroom or listening to music in a group ever live up to my expectation of significant development and relationship-building? Would I ever be able to “find God” in people with disabilities? And anyways, couldn’t the Author of all things just have made everyone healthy from birth?

Ah, yes. Don’t doubts almost always come when we are most confused about the facts in front of us? It is at such times that it helps me to remember the beautifully simple line of St. Theresa of Avila, “Patience achieves everything.” Just as the sun scorches away the mist, so does the Son of God, Jesus, evaporate our insecurities over time. I wonder, “How did the Virgin Mary feel when she realized that she would have to wait 9 months for God to be born from within her? Isn’t waiting part of being human? God has given us the concept of time for a reason. Time matters.”

Sure enough, now, three weeks into the placement, a few rays of light are penetrating through the overcast. Whereas at first I wondered whether I would be able to see people with disabilities as sharers in the fullness of humanity, now I am confident that they are more human than I am. In people with disabilities, there are joys and pains, rationality and irrationality, faith and doubt, love and hatred. In fact, I witness each of these elements each day to a large degree. (I’ll give some examples in upcoming posts.)

Could it be that people with disabilities are at the deep end of the pool of human experience while I’m stuck in the shallow? Here there is an intensity of life that surpasses most, if not all, of my past!

Yes, the cloud-cover returns from time to time, and that’s the way it has to be. Regardless, once you’ve caught a glimpse of the view, the sight propels your desire to continue up the peak.

Best wishes,

David J.W. Inczauskis, n.S.J.




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