A convent in France offers women with Down syndrome a place to flourish

A convent in France offers women with Down syndrome a place to flourish

“What if someone decided innocence was worth holding onto and built a whole way of life around it?” 

– William McGurn

200 miles outside of Paris, nestled in the quaint bucolic town of Le Blanc, there lies a special refuge. Here, innocence is cherished, and women with Down syndrome can flourish, living vocations of quiet contemplation. In a recent article, Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn highlights this special community, called the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb (Les Petites Sœurs Disciples de l’Agneau).

A Small Beginning

When the order was founded in 1985, it only had two members – the prioress, Mother Line, and Sister Véronique, who has Down syndrome. Because of her genetic condition, Véronique could not find an order that would accept her – and they decided to change that. After they set up a small house together, their community grew and was officially recognized as a contemplative religious order in 1999. Now, nearly 35 years later, they have 10 members – eight of whom have Down syndrome. Mother Line, tells McGurn:

The smiling faces of our little sisters with Down syndrome are a great message of hope for many injured families. Our smallness will also say that we are made for very great things — to love and to be loved.

The Little Joys of the Little Way

Mother Line says that the purpose of the order is “to allow those who have the ‘last place’ in the world to hold in the Church the exceptional place of spouses of Jesus Christ.” In their little refuge, “those whose life is held in contempt to the extent of being in danger from a Culture of Death,” may “witness by their consecration to the gospel of Life.”

They follow in the “little way” expressed by Saint Therese of Lisieux, who remarked:

 I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful — that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden.

The convent is adapted to give women with Down syndrome the resources to practice contemplative vocation and industriousness, whether through gardening, weaving, or pottery – the “little things” that bring so much joy to their lives.

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