As the mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome the cause of Professor Lejeune is dear to my heart

A mother plays with her daughter who has Down Syndrome (CNS)

I am reading an absorbing book: “Nothing Short of a Miracle” by Patricia Treece, published by Sophia Institute Press. It is about amazing stories of inexplicable cures that have taken place through the intercession of the saints. It makes me realise that we can get so taken up with politics in the Church, the rules and who is breaking them, that we can forget the fundamentals of faith: God’s love for us and his longing to make an impact in our circumstances – indeed, to transform our lives. He often chooses to achieve this through the medium of his special friends – the saints.

Take the example of Fr Solanus Casey, an American Capuchin who, through the power of God, brought about hundreds of healings of seemingly hopeless cases. In one instance that occurred in 1940, a toddler who had fatal leukaemia was instantly cured when he held her and blessed her. Tellingly, he asked the parents before the healing to “thank God now for what He will do in the future, whatever that may be.” Fears and despondency in the face of sorrow impedes the work of divine mercy, Fr Solanus emphasised; to trust God in all circumstances is the way to hope and healing.

It is well known that the late Pope John Paul II lowered the requirement for beatification to one miracle and the same requirement for canonisation. This, Treece states, is “in order to put relevant role models before the world more quickly.” Heaven knows, we need saints today more than ever, especially those whose charism is bound up with the dignity of each human life, however vulnerable. Indeed, there is a future saint for this purpose waiting in the wings.

Aleteia magazine draws attention to him in a recent article, “A Saint for the Cause of Life: Jerome Lejeune.” What a great pro-life saint he would make, as the geneticist and paediatrician who discovered the extra chromosome in the DNA of children born with Down’s syndrome. But his scientific discoveries and the initial fame they brought him did not disconnect him from his clients whom he called “my little ones”, and from his wish “to gain for each patient the best and richest life possible.” The article relates that Lejeune “took with religious seriousness the medical vocation…to do no harm, to serve the cause of life and to put the interests of the individual patient first.”

He was devastated when the research into Down’s syndrome that he had pioneered led, not to increased understanding and therapeutic intervention as he had hoped, but to the development of pre-natal screening tests specifically designed to abort those babies detected with the syndrome. He rightly denounced such an abuse of science as “chromosomal racism.” Like all the saints he was to suffer, both for his faith and for his reverence for life. His daughter Clara relates in her biography of her father that it led to professional isolation: “He was banned by society, dropped by his friends, humiliated, crucified by the press, prevented from working for lack of funding” – and all because he championed the right to life of the weakest members of the human family.

Lejeune’s cause for beatification is underway. He needs a miracle. The rules for the authenticity of miracles, according to Treece, are very stringent: the illness/disease must be at an advanced stage and resistant to medical intervention; and the cure itself must be instantaneous, complete and permanent. As the mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome, the cause of the late Professor Lejeune is naturally dear to my heart. But what an inspiring role model he would also be for doctors, the medical profession, pro-life societies and geneticists.