By: Deacon Marques Silva
This past week, I had the privilege of participating in a funeral for a 22-year-old young lady who had an amazing impact on my parish, St. Mary of Sorrows, in Fairfax. Most would expect me to mention her eloquent talks, outgoing personality and maybe even her service to the Church. This young lady, though, was different.
Miss Courtney Elizabeth Lenaburg was born on August 18, 1992, and passed on into glory on December 27, 2014. I know what you’re thinking, “Deacon, you should not canonize people – bad form,” and you are correct. That being said, let me share the rest of the story.
Courtney suffered from a seizure disorder, of unknown origins that began the evening of her Baptism in 1992. The result of the disorder was a young lady confined to a wheelchair, legally blind, and unable to express herself through writing or speech. Through special permission, she even received her first communion when her family took her on pilgrimage to Lourdes from then Bishop Curlin of Charlotte, NC.
Pope Saint John Paul II never tired of sharing that every person has an individual mission that no one else may fulfill and that we were called to spend our life discovering and living it. “Miss Court” (as she was affectionately nicknamed) was never found far from a smile. Her laughter was contagious and caught the attention of everyone in the room. Her service was a ministry of presence. Simply put, anyone who came in contact with her could not help but find a great sense of peace. Love makes room for others and time sitting next to Courtney expanded our hearts…or at least mine.
I took some time during her wake to reflect on what I had learned over the past 14 years I knew her. Here is one of the takeaways. The current utilitarian standards that many within our society live by (Dare I say that this mentality is perpetuated by society?) would say she would blight and drain upon our resources. By society’s standards, she would not have been called productive or said to have contributed anything useful to our society. One of the great lies thrust upon society is that the infirm, disabled and elderly have no value. But our dignity and value is intrinsic to our nature because He made us in His “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:27); the “divine image is present in every man” (CCC 1702). Courtney was a signpost pointing to the Christ if we had “eyes to see and hears to hear” (Mark 8:18).
If we Christians are known by our love (John 13:35) and the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16), then the stories and witnesses family and friends shared at the wake and repass bear testament to her ministry of presence.
As we prepare for the March for Life, it might be worthwhile to remember that the unborn, infirm, disabled and elderly have a great deal to add to the Kingdom of Heaven. They are a constant reminder that our value should not be rooted in what we are able to produce or accomplish, but who we are. Once we exist, we have meaning and dignity, and they are priceless. They are opportunities for us to encounter the suffering Christ. We are bound to serve them. They remind us that we are all signposts to love.
Please join us in praying for the repose of the soul of Courtney Lenaburg, parishioner of Saint Mary of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, in Fairfax. As her mother, Mary Lenaburg, has documented on her blog, Passionate Perseverance, and on Facebook, Courtney has shown us the beauty of every human life, and we thank her family for being a witness to the love of Christ which knows no limits. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.