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Friday, 9 September 2011

What qualities would make you think of someone as a saint?

I used to know a disabled Irish lady called Marie. I used to call on her on Saturday mornings to do a bit of shopping for her. She had been a nurse, I think, but her life had changed utterly one day. As she was coming down the stairs on a bus that fateful day, the bus had lurched and she had lost her footing and fallen down the rest of the curved stairwell. The damage to one of her feet entailed surgery. Then further surgery. Then more. A complicated bone problem developed. She couldn't walk much and was in pain and often lost her balance and so spent most of her days in her flat. When she fell down, she would, as she put it, 'say a little prayer and get up again'.

She asked me once to make a phone call for her. I did so and during the call I explained to the person on the phone, that Marie was a cripple. It was a crass expression to use and not one I would use these days, but I knew no better at that time. - Marie quietly interrupted me: "Say that I'm disabled, dear, not crippled."

She had a brother but he did not live nearby - except in her heart. Every week she would record a cheery little tape to send to him and he would do the same for her. They had both mastered whatever arts there are to making a tape recording sound pretty much like a normal conversation.

Marie was a courageous woman, kind and truthful, patient and cheerful in adversity. Years ago when I went to her (Roman Catholic) funeral, the priest described Marie as a saint, and I realised that he was right.

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