I ran into Sarah Palin a week or so ago.
Well, not the Sarah Palin — and not comedian Tina Fey, either. Temporarily away from my mission work and visiting old friends at an Irish parish, I was enjoying the (rare) sunshine after Mass, greeting parishioners as they left church, when I noticed a young mother pushing her daughter in a baby carriage. Her child — like all children — was radiant to me, with a shock of orange hair and a smile of beautiful wonderment at just about everything. Her head rolled back and forth as if taking in every bit of Creation around her.
But the young mother’s face was tired and careworn, and she looked many years older than the years she had lived so far.
Her lovely baby clearly had Down Syndrome. As does Sarah Palin’s son, Trig.
“Isn’t she a rose!” I exclaimed as I walked over to them. The mother, who said her name was Bridget, brightened a bit and introduced me to to her daughter, Mary. “She’s ‘special,’ you know, Father. I was late for Mass — could you give her a blessing?”
“She is as blessed as you are, Bridget,” I said, drawing the Sign of the Cross on Mary’s forehead, and then, on her mother’s. She thanked me with great kindness, then hurried away.
I remembered this moment after I made the long journey back to my work, and read about Sarah Palin’s new book, and, inevitably, of the darts thrown at her — sometimes with what seemed great cruelty.
Now, Sarah Palin is a politician, and she has given as good (or as badly) as she gets. Such is the sad reality of a life in the public eye — or is it the public lie? In truth, there is probably not a great deal about her politics and mine that match.
Or that matter.
Life and love do matter, though — more than anything. For they are gifts from Our Loving Father. Politics, while it occupies an important place in this strange world we have created as a poor substitute for God’s Perfect World, is built from human perception. God does not perceive anything; He knows.
This is why God does not see “defects” in His Own Perfect Creations. When we see as He does — or if we simply try to see as He does — our lives move closer to the peace and love that is our birthright from Him.
And it is quite clear that Sarah Palin — whatever one may think of her politics — has shared the Thoughts of God by letting Him bring Trig into the world when she might have done otherwise. And by loving him as God loves His Dear Children: without condition.
Sarah Palin and her husband knew Trig would have Down Syndrome when she was four months pregnant. When she gave birth, she said this:
"Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed."
But at first she did not tell anyone, other than her husband, that Trig had Down Syndrome. Of course, it was all very painful. It is indeed faith-challenging. But when he was told, husband Todd Palin quickly said, "We shouldn't be asking, 'Why us?' We should be saying, 'Well, why not us?'" Indeed!
“You know we will still love him,” Sarah Palin said then.
And she has been as good as her word.
Many laughed when theologians warned that the disrespect and contempt for the Life which God creates that is evident in abortion and “mercy killing” was a “slippery slope” that would soon escalate.
Of course, it has. I do not know whether her doctors made any suggestion to the Palins that the early diagnosis of Down Syndrome should make them consider an “alternative” — but I know that others do. The same conversations hover near the “terminally ill,” and the slippery slope gets ever more slippery.
But for Sarah Palin and her family, at least, there was no attempt to out-think God — truly a fool’s errand. Instead, they embraced His changeless and unchangeable Love.
They are worlds richer for it. And for that, Sarah Palin, you are a hero.
God bless you all!
— Father Tim
Father Tim is a Jesuit missionary, trained in New York and Boston, who writes about the spiritual side of life. An Irish-American, he loves hearing from readers – not about theological arguments, but real-life issues that matter to you. He’s a friend you can trust, and you will always be in his prayers.