All Christians are called to walk together in hope, trust and forgiveness, accompanying those who struggle and the marginalized in society, said the homilist at the eighth annual White Mass.

“We live in a culture that is so often market driven and materialistic. It’s a culture that minimizes or devalues those who are not competitive and materially productive. Our Gospel this morning reminds us that the actions of materialism and market belong to Caesar. The actions of accompaniment and charity belong to God,” said homilist Jesuit Father Thomas Gaunt, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. “The Gospel challenges us to that question: To whom do we belong? To whom do we give our attention? And what is our relationship with our neighbor?”

The liturgy to recognize the gifts of persons with special needs was celebrated Sunday, Oct. 22 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, N.W., drawing hundreds of persons with intellectual and physical disabilities, as well as their families, friends, caregivers, and those who work in special needs’ parish ministry.

The White Mass is sponsored by the archdiocesan Department of Special Needs Ministries.

“The lessons of the Scriptures today, the witness of saints throughout the centuries and words of Pope Francis remind us as Christians, our religious and spiritual lives must never be dulled to needs and struggles of our neighbor, especially our neighbor who is poor or marginalized,” Father Gaunt said. “We must be guided by the love of Jesus Christ to journey with our neighbor to fullness in Jesus Christ Himself.”

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, serving as the main celebrant, was joined by Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the cathedral, and several archdiocesan priests, all wearing white vestments to symbolize the connection to the Baptismal promises of all those present.

“(At) this White Mass, simply look around and we are reminded of the symbols of our Baptismal garment worn when every single person becomes a brother or sister of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “We are recognized as a special child of God. God sees each us with the same love and care. How blessed we are to be manifest in God’s glory in all the different ways in which He has created us.”

During the Mass, local Catholics involved in special needs ministry who have passed away were also remembered. They included: Patricia Sullivan, Mattie J.T. Stepanek, Carl and Antoinette Ruppert, Tom Draper, Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Colleen Welch, Flynn Fry, Evan Finn Gardner, Gina Marie and Nancy Bleggi, Angela Mayer-Whittington, Francis and Cubby LaHood, Maria Gillis, and Andrew Vocke.

On Oct. 21, at a Vatican conference, Pope Francis condemned the eugenic mentality in today’s society, which he said, leads to promoting abortion for pre-born infants with disabilities. “An often narcissistic and utilitarian vision unfortunately leads not a few to consider people with disabilities as marginal, without perceiving in them the multifaceted human and spiritual wealth.” He said the Church must always be a place of welcome and care for persons with disabilities.

“We know the great development that has taken place over the last decades concerning disabilities,” said the Holy Father. “Growth in the awareness of the dignity of every person, especially the weakest ones, has led to brave positions for the inclusion of those who live with different forms of handicap.”

Monique Bourque, a parishioner of Holy Redeemer Parish, College Park, attended the White Mass for second time with her husband, Robert, and their children, 13-year-old Philip and Renee, their 9-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome. “This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our family and be with other families,” she said. “(The White Mass) reminds us of the support from the Church for our families.”

Carola Cerezo-Allen, a catechist for the special needs ministry at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, N.W., came to the White Mass with 20 members her parish. She said the White Mass is an important occasion as it reinforces for persons with disabilities that, “We are all part of Jesus Christ, the Church – no matter what we bring and what talents we have.”