Disabilities and Catholic Church – Aleteia

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‘God’s Wild Flowers’ author Pia Matthews suggests that sanctity flowers under sever challenges.

“Disabled saints and the blessed, working in the field of social action, witness to a true solidarity and so demonstrate heroic virtues when they answer the needs of all human beings whether abled or disabled,” Pia Matthews writes in a book called God’s Wild Flowers: Saints with Disabilities. As the title suggests, disabilities can be a great flowering of sanctity in human life, families, and communities – and certainly in the Church. Matthews, a lecturer in theology, philosophy, and bioethics in the United Kingdom, talks about some of diverse ways of holiness in the midst of even quite severe challenges.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why is Saint John Paul II so important when talking about people with disabilities?

Pia Matthews: At the end of the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II said he used to watch the pilgrims queuing to go through the Holy Door and he used to try and imagine their lives of difficulties, struggles and hopes. In his rather extensive writings, the saint also took time to write about people with disabilities and notably people with intellectual disabilities. As part of what he saw as his task of implementing Vatican II, the Holy Father speaks passionately about the vocation to holiness as a vocation all human beings have. It is not a vocation reserved only to a few.

You write about St. Camillus de Lellis, who founded a ministry to plague victims. How relevant is his life to anyone today?

Matthews: Saint Camillus is one of the patron saints for sick people, hospitals, nurses, and physicians. If you read his life story you can see a man who had been addicted, who was clearly frustrated in not being accepted into monastic life, who was also very angry. But he really did see the suffering of other people and he did something about it, including working on reforming an unjust system. Possibly harnessing his anger and…

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