05 September 2009

Jesus heals a deaf man

Today's gospel shows us Jesus healing a deaf man who had a speech impediment. I grew up knowing those who were profoundly deaf as 'deaf and dumb', the term that some still use. However, 'dumb' has come to mean 'stupid', quite probably because people who were deaf were perceived as such.

Those who are profoundly deaf describe themselves as a group as 'The Deaf', wtih a capital 'D', not 'heaing impaired, which is not quite the same thing. Many become hearing impaired as they grow older. while they have difficulty in communicating, they have had a life-long experience of sharing a common language with those around them. The Deaf don't, not even within their own families. The only 'native signers' I have met have been children of one or two deaf parents, who learned Sign Language as they learned to speak.

Those of us who have all our faculties tend to think that blindness is 'worse' than deafness. But deafness is isolating in a way that no other physical disability is, as those born deaf cannot share the language of their family and community.

Father Joseph Coyle, a Columban who worked for many years in Negros Occidental here in the Philippines, pioneered pastoral ministry to the Deaf here. Though there is a small but growing number of priests who can sign Mass, including Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of Jaro, very few are aware of the Deaf among us. I know of priests and people who won't allow interpreters for the Deaf at Mass, as 'they are a distraction'. This is not general but it does happen.

St Francis de Sales is the patron saint of the Deaf - and of journalists - because of his friendship with a deaf servant, Martin. He came to know the great humanity and faith of Martin.

Father Joseph Coyle died in December 1991 but his work was continued and developed by Mrs Salvacion V. Tinsay. Tita Salving, as everyone knew her, died in August last year.

St Mark in today's gospel uses the Aramaic word that Jesus used in healing the deaf man, 'Ephphata!' 'Be opened', emphasising the importance of this event.

St Francis de Sales

Health Care Council Presents International Conference

By a happy coincidence, the Vatican announced a new initiative in reaching out to the hearing impaired - I guess it includes both those who are born deaf and those who become deaf later - as reported in Zenit:

Vatican to Focus on Hearing Impaired

ROME, SEPT. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).-The Vatican recognizes that people with hearing impairments have muchto offer the Church, and will stop to consider this contribution duringa November conference.

Officials from the Pontifical Council forHealth Care Ministry presented their 24th international conference toBenedict XVI last Wednesday after the general audience, L'OsservatoreRomano reported today. The theme, drawn in part from Mark 7:34, is"Ephphata! The Deaf in the Life of the Church."

During thepresentation, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the health caredicastery, explained that the purpose of the conference is "to offer anopportunity to the Church to appreciate the contribution of deaf peoplein the various areas of apostolate."

Among the participants willbe Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, Great Britain, president ofthe International Catholic Foundation for the Service of Deaf Persons.

Alsopresent will be the past two presidents of the Vatican's health carecouncil: , Cardinals Javier Lozano Barragán and Fiorenzo Angelini.

Thecongress will reflect, on one hand, on the medical, psychological andsocial aspects of deafness and, on the other, on the pastoral needs ofthis group.

Specialists from around the globe will contribute,as will catechists, priests, families and volunteers dedicated to thepastoral care of the deaf.

Among them will be Spanish FatherJaime Gutiérrez Villanueva, a priest of St. Mary of Silence church inMadrid, a parish created in 1973 by two deaf priests and a dozenfaithful with this impairment.

Mk 7:31-37 (RSV)

Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."

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