Touching with respect and tenderness

The most touching moment for me this morning as I watched the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis is seen in this photo:

Pope Francis, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis, March 19, 2013

He stopped the car, got down, touched and kissed the man with disabilities.

As I contemplate this act, I think of the work of Jean Vanier, who founded the L’Arche communities for people with disabilities.

In a meditation on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, found here, Jean Vanier said:

We are to touch people with a deep respect — to touch them with tenderness. Our hands, and not just our voices, may become vehicles of the love of Jesus. The Word became flesh, that our flesh may become word. Our flesh, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can reveal to people their value — that they are cherished and loved by God.

How can we touch people with respect, with deep tenderness, especially those with disabilities?

How can we do it in a way in a non-condescending way that respects their dignity and allows them to touch us?

In my ministry I find it so important to greet people, especially the women and children. The custom in many places is that men greet each other but not the women or children. It is interesting to see how the children are sometimes surprised at this gringo who wants to shake their hand.

But if God has reached out to us in love and has called us to wash each others’ feet, what else can we do?


One response to “Touching with respect and tenderness

  1. Thank you for posting this. Now I know I am not the only one who has been thinking about Vanier and l’Arche as we see and hear more from our new Pope Francis. It seems that Francis’ attention to the poor and marginalized is a long-ingrained habit. Probably as telling as his stopping to embrace the man (above) is the Mass he held yesterday for the gardeners and domestics of the Vatican- one of them said, “We are invisible”. As each new story of Francis emerges, I start to imagine a meeting between Francis and Jean Vanier, and what that would be like….!

    Thank you, again, for a lovely post. I look forward to exploring your blog. God bless you!

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