Providence College News:
In videos and photographs transmitted worldwide, a son of Providence College faculty member Dr. Paul Gondreau is pictured being embraced by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following Easter Sunday Mass.
Dominic Gondreau, who is 8 years old and has cerebral palsy, is seen being held and kissed by Pope Francis while smiling and struggling to put his arm around the pontiff in giving his own greeting. The pope was greeting hundreds of thousands of visitors from his pope mobile.
Dr. Gondreau describes this beautiful act of kindness [Click here for his video interview]:
“Small acts with great love,” Mother Teresa was fond of saying. Pope Francis bestowed an extraordinary Easter blessing upon my family when he performed such an act in embracing my son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy. The embrace occurred when the Pope spied my son while touring the Square, packed with a quarter million pilgrims, in the “pope mobile” after Mass. This tender moment, an encounter of a modern Francis with a modern Dominic (as most know, tradition holds that St. Francis and St. Dominic enjoyed an historic encounter), moved not only my family (we were all moved to tears), not only those in the immediate vicinity (many of whom were also brought to tears by it), not only by thousands who were watching on the big screens in the Square, but by the entire world.
… our culture often looks upon the disabled: as weak, needy individuals who depend so much upon others, and who contribute little, if anything, to those around them.
Pope Francis’ embrace of my son yesterday turns this logic completely on its head and, in its own small yet powerful way, shows once again how the wisdom of the Cross confounds human wisdom. Why is the whole world so moved by images of this embrace? A woman in the Square, moved to tears by the embrace, perhaps answered it best when she to my wife afterward, “You know, your son is here to show people how to love.” To show people how to love. This remark hit my wife as a gentle heaven-sent confirmation of what she has long suspected: that Dominic’s special vocation in the world is to move people to love, to show people how to love. We human beings are made to love, and we depend upon examples to show us how to do this.
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. …
The lesson my disabled son gives stands as a powerful testament to the dignity and infinite value of every human person, especially of those the world deems the weakest and most “useless.” Through their sharing in the “folly” of the Cross, the disabled are, in truth, the most powerful and the most productive among us.