Excerpts from the Message of the Holy Father for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters!
As we celebrate your International Day, I would like to speak directly to all of you who live with any condition of disability, to tell you that the Church loves you and needs each of you for the fulfilment of her mission at the service of the Gospel.
Our vocation arises from our friendship with the Lord. He has chosen us to bear much fruit, fruit that will remain (cf. John 15:16). As the true vine, he wants every branch, in union with him, to bear fruit. Yes, Jesus wants us to attain “the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 1).
The Gospel is also for you! Its message is addressed to everyone; it is a word of consolation and, at the same time, a summons to conversion. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the universal call to holiness, teaches that “all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity… In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ… They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor” (Lumen Gentium, 40).
I know that some of you live in situations that are not easy. I would like to speak personally to each of you, and I ask that, if necessary, your family members or those closest to you read my words to you, or convey my appeal. I ask you to pray. The Lord listens attentively to the prayers of those who trust in him. No one should say: “I don’t know how to pray,” because, as the Apostle says, “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26). In the Gospels, Jesus always listens to those who turn to him, however haltingly, even with a small sign (cf. Luke 8:44) or a cry for help (cf. Mark 10:47). Prayer is a mission, a mission accessible to everyone, and I would like to entrust that mission in a particular way to you. There is no one so frail that he or she cannot pray, worship the Lord, give glory to his holy Name and intercede for the salvation of the world. In the sight of the Almighty, we come to realize that we are all equal.
Dear brothers and sisters, today your prayers are more urgently needed than ever before. Saint Teresa of Avila wrote that “at times of difficulty, God’s friends need to be strong in order to support those who are weak.” This time of pandemic has clearly shown us that we are all weak and vulnerable: “We have realized that we are all on the same boat, fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed; all of us are called to row together.” The primary way to do so is precisely by praying. This is something each of us can do; and even if, like Moses, we will have need of support (cf. Exodus 17:10), we are confident the Lord will hear our plea.
To all of you I send my prayerful greetings and good wishes. May the Lord bless you, and may Our Lady watch over you always.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 20 November 2021