It can sometimes feel impossible to relate to the holy men and women who make up the most visible part of the communion of saints, especially when you or your child has a disability. But take heart, because there are saints with disabilities, and this post will introduce you to four of them.
Saint Kateria Tekawitha was the first Native American women to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church. Her whole family contracted small pox when she was young. Her immediate family died, and she was left partially blind and with scarring on her face. She was then raised by her uncle who was the chief of the Mohawk tribe. He tried to marry her off several times but she always refused, much to the frustration of her family. At the age of 19 she converted to Christianity and eventually moved to a Christian settlement near Montreal where she lived until her death at age 24. Her feast day is July 14 in the US and April 17 in Canada.
Saint Germain Cousin was born in France in 1579. She had a limb difference; her right hand was misshapen and paralyzed. Her mother had died and her father remarried a woman who despised Germain because of her disability and her ill health. Her stepmother was cruel towards her, and Germain’s father did not stop the abuse. Germain was forced to sleep in the family’s barn and instead of going to school, she was required to watch her family’s sheep. But despite her poor health, her hunger and thirst (because her stepmother wouldn’t give her enough to eat), Germain wasn’t bitter or angry. She would leave her sheep in God’s protection everyday so she could go to Mass. Despite her lack of education or religious instruction, she developed a close relationship with God. She died at the young age of 22. When her body was exhumed 40 years later, it was incorrupt and miracles started being attributed to her. Her feast day is now June 15.
Saint Joseph Cupertino was born in Italy. As a child, he was considered a slow learner and had a bad temper. When he got older, he tried to learn to become a shoemaker but failed. He entered a religious order but struggled with his duties and was dismissed. Eventually he was able to join the Francisican order and study for the priesthood. Although a holy man, Joseph had a hard time learning and studying for his exams. Eventually, he was ordained and he experienced visions and levitation. These miracles attracted people to him, but his superiors found his behavior and the crowds of people distracting, so he was forced to live a solitary life. He is the patron of the intellectually delayed and his feast day is September 18.
Blessed Alexius Kim Si-U is one of the 124 Korean blesseds. There are also 103 Korean saint martyrs. Alexius lived in the early 19th century during the Eulhae Persecution. He had became a Catholic early in his life, and taught his sister and other people in his village about the faith. He was paralyzed from birth, and it was hard for him to make a living. He would use his left hand to transcribe religious books, but often relied on the charity of other Catholics to survive. When the police came to his town to round up Catholics, they didn’t take him. He voluntarily surrendered himself to them because he wanted to be with his fellow Catholics. He said, “I am also a Catholic. Why don’t you arrest me? Is it because I am disabled?” He was imprisoned and tortured, but he never stopped proclaiming his faith. He preached to the prison guards and the governor finally ordered his jaw to be broken so he would stop talking about the Church. He died in prison from starvation when he was 33. The 124 Korean blesseds are celebrated on September 20.
St. Kateri, St. Germain, St Joseph Cupertino, and Bl. Alexius Kim Si-U are proof that God’s kingdom has room for us all. We all have talents and abilities that we can use to honor Christ’s Church, even when our families, our superiors, or society fails to recognize those gifts because of a disability.
If your child wants to learn more about these saints, I invite you to check out our new saints book, Friends and Intercessors. You’ll be introduced to saints for every month of the year through a short entry, a hands on activity, and recommended resources for further learning. Click the image to learn more.
This post is also avaible as a video. Watch it now on our YouTube channel, and let us know in the comments below if there’s more saints we should cover!