Archdiocese of Washington Hosts Ninth Annual White Mass Honoring Special Needs Community

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Cardinal Donald Wuerl celebrated the ninth annual White Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass honors the Deaf community, all those with disabilities, and people suffering from mental illnesses, as well as their family members, caregivers, and advocates for the special needs community. Monsignor Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish in Washington was the homilist. In his homily, Monsignor Pope spoke of how the day’s Gospel, Jesus’ curing of the blind man, shows us our own blindness, yet also the courage it takes truly to see as God sees.

“It’s important that we are here today, because if we’re not careful, we can be that blind person,” Monsignor Pope said. “We see only disability and we miss the ability. We see disability and we don’t see the dignity. We see people with special needs and forget they are also specially gifted.” This courage to see includes recognizing the dignity of all people from conception to natural death. “Today in this culture of death, we have to have the courage to see,” monsignor said. “[…] We have to start seeing things differently, more as God sees them.”

Included among the prayers at the Mass were for leaders in our communities, our nation, and our world that they may champion dialogue, policies, and laws supporting a culture of life: for children yet to be born, refugees, the elderly, people living in institutions and all those marginalized by others.

After communion, two members from the disabled community presented Cardinal Wuerl with a painting titled “The Band-Aid,” which depicts a boy placing a Band-Aid on the wound on Jesus’ hand. They are surrounded in the painting by children with disabilities.

The Church continues its ongoing mission of speaking about social justice and social teaching in the public square. In 1995 and updated in 2017, the Catholic Bishops issued the Sacramental Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities, which states: “By reason of their baptism, all Catholics are equal in dignity in the sight of God and have the same divine calling.” Those attending the Mass were invited to wear white as a symbolic renewal of their baptismal vows.

The Department of Special Needs Ministries, which hosts the annual White Mass, provides support to parishes and organizations that enable the Deaf community and those with disabilities to utilize their many gifts and talents. The archdiocese has a proud legacy of serving Catholics and community members with special needs. The desire is to foster a place of welcome and belonging for every individual, and for nearly three decades, the archdiocese has provided outreach to clergy, parish, ministry and nonprofit partners, including support for mothers who receive prenatal diagnoses of a disability, parish-based catechetical programs for students with special needs, adult faith experiences for deaf Catholics and veterans with service-related disabilities or service-related PTSD.