Year of Faith
Pope Francis' One-Minute Lesson from the School of Love
Paul Gondreau is a professor of theology at Providence College. His education prepared him to intellectually understand a moment like this, but his experience as Dominic's father was no less instructive.
But how can a disabled person show us how to love in a way that only a disabled person can? Because the Cross of Christ is sweet and is of a higher order. Christ's resurrection from the Cross proclaims that the love he offers us, the love that we, in our turn, are to show others, is the real reason he endured the Cross in the first place. Our stony hearts are transformed into this Christ-like love, and thereby empowered to change hatred into love, only through the Cross. And no one shares in the Cross more intimately than the disabled. And so the disabled become our models and our inspiration. Yes, I give much to my son, Dominic. But he gives me more, way more. I help him stand and walk, but he shows me how to love. I feed him, but he shows me how to love. I bring him to physical therapy, but he shows me how to love. I stretch his muscles and joke around with him, but he shows me how to love. I lift him in and out of his chair, I wheel him all over the place, but he shows me how to love. I give up my time, so much time, for him, but he shows me how to love.
I was fortunate to meet the Gondreau family at Camp Care, a semi-annual gathering of families with special needs children at Crossroads Physical Therapy in Connecticut. I was impressed by how Paul, his wife Christiana, and their children gently cared for Dominic, played games with him while basking in his cheerful presence. Paul told me that his work took him to Rome for a semester, and it was thrilling to see Dominic singled out for attention by the Holy Father. As their embrace was cheered by the crowd, I let out a shout of joy, waking my family with, "Pope Francis gets it, he knows the amazing gifts our special needs children offer the world and he wants the world to know too!"
Thank you, Professor Paul Gondreau, for the exegesis on the power of the Cross, and thank you, parent Dominic Gondreau for the lesson on love. May God grant us the humility to learn from all of his professors and parents and popes.
You can watch an interview with Dr. Paul Gondreau, talking about his son's encounter with Pope Francis, here.