A new book by Dr. Pia Matthews reveals how the marginalized are more than capable of answering God’s call.
The CDC reported there are 53 million adults in the United States living with a disability.
Medical treatments, medicines and scientific developments aren’t enough to keep the problems at bay – but one book reveals how physical and mental ailments aren’t insurmountable.
Dr. Pia Matthews’ “God’s Wild Flowers: Saints with Disabilities” “brings together theological reflection on disability with stories of 141 saints.”
The book includes the many blessings each disabled saint received as they struggled with depression, learning disabilities, mental frailty and physical maladies.
The first story is a personal account of caring for her own disabled daughter, which several reviewers found both touching and evidence of Dr. Matthews’ compassion.
Speaking to Francis Phillips with the Catholic Herald, Dr. Matthews admitted she was inspired to show how disabilities are “simply one aspect of humanity.
“All human beings are made in the image of God and are wonderful creations. Above all, all human beings are in relationship with God so all have a spiritual life, even if it is not easily expressed or identifiable.”
Dr. Matthews added people often think of Saints as perfect people but Pope John Paul II wrote of disabled people often and “made it quite clear that we are all called to be saints – becoming the person God wants you to be.”
With this reasoning, she concluded: “if sainthood is for every human being, then it must also be for people with disabilities.”
When asked if she was writing to a particular audience, Dr. Matthews shared she was interested in “the theology around disability, about people who seem to be marginalised and who may think that the Church has neglected them.
“We are, after all, a Church of saints and sinners (who are trying to be saints) and the different stories of the saints illustrate how discrimination, prejudice, misunderstanding or fear are always present – but can be overcome.”
Dr. Matthews went on to explain why God never healed the Saints of their afflictions – an extremely important question worthy of much consideration.
“[S]ainthood is for everyone,” she repeated. “Disability is not a punishment from God; people with disabilities are loved by God for who they are, not for what they can achieve by themselves.
“Jesus himself is resurrected with his wounds: our Saviour is disabled. Not being cured is not significant. What detracts from sainthood is not disability but spiritual sins like pride, avarice, greed, malice and so on. It is these that need healing.”
In closing, Dr. Matthews explains the overall message of her book is one of hope.
“[W]e live in a time of a throw-away culture where anything deemed not working is discarded. We are fearful of losing anything deemed not working is discarded. We are fearful of losing control, of being thrown on the ‘care home’ scrap heap.”
“God’s Wild Flowers” was created in the spirit of “hope, because the stories show that God can work with any person and that every person has been given a special vocation.
“No one is abandoned by God. People need a source of hope and community. [Wild flowers] all add to the beauty of the garden. Like God’s garden, each of us is unique yet we are all deeply connected. Whatever our situation we are here to glorify God by our lives.”
The information gathered in “God’s Wild Flowers: Saints with Disabilities” was discovered through Vatican biographies and other reliable sources.
Dr. Matthews delivers lectures in Theology, Philosophy and Bioethics at St. John’s Seminary and St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, London.