The special needs community of the Archdiocese of Washington gathered on Oct. 27 for the 10th annual White Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, which recognizes the dignity of persons with special needs as well as their families and those who care for them. 

At the beginning of the Mass, celebrated by Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory and sponsored by the archdiocese’s Department of Special Needs Ministries,  Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the cathedral, welcomed those in attendance for the “special landmark” of the White Mass that for 10 years has acknowledged the value of all the sons and daughters of God.

“The Mass has the color designation ‘white,’ recognizing that at our Baptism, when we put on the white garment, we became equal in dignity in the sight of God,” he said. The Mass included a rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water in memorial of the baptismal promises. 

In his homily, the archbishop spoke of the day’s Gospel from Luke, which distinguished between the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector. 

The Pharisee’s prayer -- “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity” -- exhibited a kind of violence, the archbishop said, noting that the Pharisee “could only imagine himself as a worthwhile person because he thought he was better than someone else, and not simply good in his own self and with the talents and gifts that were his.” 

Unlike this man, the archbishop noted, persons with special needs help other members of the Body of Christ to discover their own importance and to rejoice in their differences. 

“They remind us that we all need to rediscover our own personal worth and goodness,” Archbishop Gregory said. “As we each realize our own dignity and promise, I hope that we have also begun to see the fine person we already might be is not in any way threatened because God has fashioned other people with other gifts. The great diversity of God’s world is a sign of God’s own splendor and goodness.” 

Just as the tax collector’s humble prayer was one of hope despite his sinfulness, so can all gathered, the archbishop said, live on in courage and endurance through the trials and joys of life. 

“The tax collector was opened to tomorrow, and my prayer on this Sunday, my beloved sisters and brothers, is so are all of you,” he said. “You give wonderful example to all of us of the glory and wonder that is God.” 

Members of the special needs community participated in the Mass as altar servers and lectors, and brought up the offertory gifts and read the prayers of the faithful. The first reading was proclaimed in American Sign Language. 

One of the altar servers was William Caro, son of Hector and Sara Caro, who are members of St. Mary’s Church in Landover Hills, Maryland. William took altar server training at his home parish and has been serving for almost a year. Hector Caro said he is glad the White Mass provides the chance for persons with special needs, like his son, to participate and to be recognized as a meaningful part of the Church. 

“It is great for the archdiocese to bring out all the people with disabilities, give them the opportunity, and show the rest of the community,” Hector Caro said. 

As the archbishop noted, Hector Caro said things can be quite different and difficult for persons with disabilities, but that does not hinder them from engaging, and from allowing the greater community to understand and appreciate the gifts they can bring.