July 24, 2012 10:59 AM
Dr. Lejeune - future Down syndrome patron saint?I wrote this last spring and it has just been published:
Celebrate Life July-August 2012
The legacy of Dr. Jerome Lejeune
April 11, 2012, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France: First, the incense, the pleasing fragrance to the Lord. Then the crucifix, a reminder of Christ's sacrifice and a rebuke of our hardened hearts. Then a couple dozen altar boys, most with the beautiful almond-shaped eyes of Down syndrome, leading the procession for a very special Mass--a Mass marking the next step toward beatification of a man who holds a special place in the hearts of those whose lives have been touched by an extra chromosome. [View this touching scene here.]
Jérôme Jean Louis Marie Lejeune--the man they came to honor--was the pediatrician and geneticist who, in 1958, working from the discovery that humans have 46 chromosomes, found the extra chromosome on the 21st pair that causes what was then called "mongolism" and is now called Down syndrome (after the British doctor John Langdon Down, who, in the mid-1800s, described the physical characteristics associated with this disability). Until Dr. Lejeune's discovery, the syndrome had wrongly been attributed to maternal syphilis.
Dr. Lejeune would receive many honors for this achievement, including the Kennedy Prize in 1962 (bestowed by President John F. Kennedy in person) and, in 1969, the William Allen Memorial Award from the American Society of Human Genetics--the highest distinction a geneticist can earn.
As a devout Catholic and father of five, Dr. Lejeune's discovery led him to think in terms of improving the lives of those with trisomy 21. Thousands of families corresponded with him and came from all over the world to seek his counsel. Dr. Lejeune offered them a different perspective than the world's, encouraging them to see that their children were created in God's image and made for eternity, like all of us. He assured them their children possessed special gifts of love and affection.
Dr. Lejeune called them "these dear little ones," and his love for them was authentic. So, he was horrified by the realization that, in this eugenic era, his discovery of the extra chromosome made them targets. He feared it was only a matter of time before tests made prenatal diagnosis possible, resulting in many parents choosing to abort their children.
Science at the service of life
Though a scientist, Dr. Lejeune was first and foremost a godly man who understood that science must be at the service of life--not death. Since the only hope for saving lives would be to find a cure for genetic intelligence disabilities, Dr. Lejeune devoted the rest of his life to this purpose. Today, his worst fears have come to pass, with tests that diagnose trisomies earlier and earlier--and increasing pressure on mothers to abort an "imperfect" baby and "try again." Over 90 percent of babies diagnosed prenatally in the U.S. are aborted, and in France, the rate is at least 96 percent.
Read more at Celebrate Life
We love Dr. Lejeune! Also following his progress toward canonization. Altho it is much more rare, our little girl has what is known as "Lejeune's syndrome", or Cri du Chat.
Posted by: Kate J | July 24, 2012 2:55 PM