Peter J. Smith's article in the May 24 issue describes how parishes can incorporate children with disabilities into their celebrations of the liturgy and the sacraments. In 2008 America awarded its "Case for God" essay prize to Lyn Burr Brignoli for her powerful account of teaching religious education to a young boy with Down Syndrome named Dragen:
I had come to faith as an adult in a time of intense emotional pain. My childhood was also intensely painful. And I began to see that a lifetime of spiritual and emotional suffering had prepared me for this encounter with Dragen. From my own childhood I knew how “otherness” felt. Somehow I knew what it was like to be a child with Down syndrome in a culture that all too often regards people like Dragen with withering glances, that tosses out careless, unkind remarks, which are not lost on someone as sensitive as he is.
My own pain, transformed, was now a gift. It enabled me to see something in the core of Dragen’s being that was so magnificent I wanted to shout it out to a mostly deaf and blind world. My own pain had enabled me to draw closer to Dragen, to transcend the boundaries of doctrine and enter into the heart of God, where I had had to let go of the question of suffering and simply live out the tough day-to-day reality of it.