Earlier this year I became acquainted with the work of Fabrice Hadjadj, a French Catholic writer of some renown in Europe. I reviewed his first book of scriptural reflections to be published in English, The Resurrection: Experience Life in the Risen Christ, on this blog a few months back. This post is a continuation of this effort to raise his profile in the English speaking world.
I recently came across an article he wrote in 2014 about two individuals, one fairly well known, one, not so much: Dr. Jerome Lejeune and Claire Fichefeux. Dr. Lejeune was a medical doctor and geneticist, and a discoverer of the chromosomal anomaly that causes Down Syndrome. He later became an outspoken opponent of the use of prenatal screening to facilitate the abortion of children with chromosomal anomalies such as Trisomy 21.
Claire Fichefeux was a French woman with Down who died in 2014. Professor Hadjadj had some acquaintance with her. Claire was apparently adopted, and served in a civilian capacity in the French military, and may have been working towards becoming a lay member or consecrated religious of a French Catholic organization known as the Community of Emmanuel. She apparently was an eloquent witness for the faith and spoke at a few conferences, including one with Professor Hadjadj.
Hadjadj offered a tribute to Claire some months after her death, and the Lejeune Foundation posted an English translation at their website. The translation is a little awkward in parts, but Professor Hadjadj’s insights come through. The article is primarily a tribute to the then recently deceased Ms. Fichefeux, but also a reflection on the work of Dr. Lejeune.
In his usually creative way, Hadjadj critiques science for causing us to miss the forest for the trees. In limiting our alphabet to G, A , T, C, and S, we cannot spell “human,” but we can build a prison like Gattaca. I will provide a few excerpts, but its best read in its entirety:
You have understood that focusing on the alphabet causes one to forget about the poem. One ends up seeing in a living being only a “physiological bag”, a “genetic sequence”. You no longer see the unique and interesting shape one doesn’t need glasses to see: the radiant daisy, the fascinating spider, the peacock, the ostrich, the rhinoceros, the orang-utan, etc.
Before we saw a person, now we see an error in a genetic sequence:
Before people used to say: “he is a Mongolian” and, yes, maybe it sounded a bit too anthropomorphic, as if people were being classified into races, making a very debatable and dangerous assimilation. At least they were called after a statement made from a visible appearance: we could still see a face. People marvelled at these little beings who looked like descendants of Gengis Khan suddenly appearing in a perfectly French family… Nowadays, they are named after a person who studied their disease: Down. We now only see an incorrect code, a bad move on a chess board, a typing error which, therefore, needs eliminating.
Hadjadj closes with a request that Dr. Lejeune and a child with Down be beatified by the Church. All the more appropriate as Claire and those like are “not Down but, Up, up in Heaven.”
Having read much Bernanos lately, I completely agree. Our Church is the Church of the Saints, and the recognition of a Saint who had Down Syndrome is a worthy effort. What defense do we have against a world well armed with microscopes but the child like holiness of a forever child saint. Perhaps it is Claire? I cannot speak French, but if you can, you may listen to a 30 minute homily given about her by the French Catholic monk Daniel-Ange.
So if you find yourself in a tight corner, a prayer for Claire’s intercession may be in order. It takes two miracles to be canonized, and maybe you can be her witness. It may even be your mission in life.
Read the whole testimonial here.
From Aleteia Media.