His Disability Was a Gift

His Disability Was a Gift

The Dominican friars are members of the international mendicant Roman Catholic religious family called the Order of Preachers. With the Franciscans, they were part of a new religious movement of Church renewal and reform in Europe in the 13th century. 

The Order of Preachers was founded in Toulouse, France in 1216, by the Spaniard, St. Dominic Guzman. After his death, the Dominicans spread rapidly throughout Europe, Africa, and other continents throughout the world.

A physical disability can result from a disease, injury, accident or be present at birth. A Dominican, Brother Vincent, of the Irish Dominican province, is a splendid example of how a person with a physical disability can foster harmony and goodness in those with whom he lives and works. 

In A Spirituality of Suffering and Healing (Religious Life Review, September-October 2012), Father Timothy Radcliff, OP, writes: 

“Vincent was blind from birth. He never saw another human face. He entered the Order when he was young and soon became one of the most beloved members of the province. This is partly because he was a deeply lovable person, who was strong and humorous, and had utterly no self-pity. 

When I was provincial every community asked me if I would assign Vincent to their community. Not only was it because he was loveable, Vincent gathered community around him. You cannot have someone in the community who is totally blind unless you really are a community. You have to ensure that nothing is in his way when he feels his way down the corridors, and that the milk in the fridge is always in exactly the same place, so that he can find it. All our decisions about our common life had to have Vincent in mind. 

And this is not a burden but a joy, since around him we discover each other. He summons us beyond the silly Western illusion that anyone is self-sufficient. In his needs, we discover our own need for each other. He frees us to be brothers, mutually dependent. 

Because he was blind, he depended upon his hearing. He heard sound bounce off the walls. He navigated around the rooms with his ears. And this meant that he was wonderfully sensitive to what the brethren say. He was appointed to the Formation Team, because he could spot what was happening in the lives of the young, their strengths and weaknesses, more than most of us. 

His disability was a gift. He picked up the nuances that others miss. He heard our secret fears and hopes in our voices. We are all blind and deaf in some way, and sometimes the blind teach us to hear and the deaf teach us to see, and the lame give us the courage to take another step.” 

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Written by
Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.

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