In August, I had the privilege and pleasure of pre-reading a book about Blessed Margaret of Castello — excuse me, Saint Margaret of Castello. Through a process I’m calling “What Do You Mean, She Hasn’t Been Canonized Yet?” the Catholic Church finally declared her a Saint this year, 700 years after her death. I have previously reflected on this obscure lay-Dominican, born with dwarfism, lame and blind, shut away from the world by her parents who later abandoned her, and I’ve recommended a book about Saints with disabilities that features her story within. So, having special affection for Margaret, I naturally jumped at the chance to read Child, Unwanted before the author made her final edits.
But wasn’t I supposed to be focusing on my own book?
Corinna Turner is an author I admire, however, so I believed that only good things could come from this diversion. And I was right. Yes, she deepened my affection for Margaret through her fictionalized portrayal of her, and yes, the main story of another unwanted child in the twenty first century was both gutwrenching and heartwarming. But what I am most pleased and grateful to take away from the tale is a new way of thinking about the Saints themselves.
Having just celebrated “Halloween,” All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, this is a great time of year to share the theory presented by Turner…
A hairsbreadth away…
The book’s main premise is that a modern-day teenager has a real encounter with a Saint who lived on earth. But how? Without giving too much of the book away, the boy, Miri, becomes hospitalized and receives visits from an odd little woman that he doesn’t know, the visits occurring while he’s actually unconscious and again while he’s under heavy medication. As he gets better, he also receives a visit from an older boy, Daniel, who is in and out of the hospital, and who eventually helps Miri understand what is happening to him. Daniel tells Miri about having a conversation with two Blesseds and when Miri, who doesn’t know who Margaret is yet, thinks that Daniel is crazy for acting like he really had a conversation with dead people, Daniel explains:
I have read and been told that saints are with God, praying for us, but the thought that they are simultaneously all around us is … well, it’s kind of a bit creepy — but also rather beautiful. The veil between the living and the dead, between Heaven and Earth, is but a wisp, a mist, a mystical barrier that is no barrier at all. Human souls depart from mortal bodies, and where do they go? Not into the dirt to decompose. Not into a rocketship to get launched out beyond the cosmos. We remain very real, very present, united with infinite and eternal God — and right here. “Just a hairsbreadth away…” An interesting and very powerful thought.
This book that imagines St. Margaret of Castello is the third book in Turner’s young adult series, “Friends in High Places.” I haven’t read the others, but I can see them being read in a faithful Catholic family, making our Saints more intimately real, relevant, and approachable in different ways. Child, Unwanted, in particular, deals with some very heavy and grave subject matters within the context of a young man’s life, giving preteens and young teenagers, as well as their parents, an opportunity to explore what it means to be human, what gives human life true wholeness and joy, and why it’s important to embrace every human being, at every stage and age, and in every appearance and level of ability.
Challenges and suffering are very real and inescapable parts of being alive. Should they be avoided at all costs? Or should they be embraced as integral parts of life, helping us to grow in compassion and wisdom? Love is the key to answering these questions truthfully. Love is always the way, the truth, and the fullness of life. For God, who is Love, no child is unwanted.
You may be wondering how my own book is going, the kind of follow-up to It’s Good to Be Here, which is sort of like a How I Got Here. Well… the rough draft is not complete. Not even close. But it is in progress. And I am committed to this work-in-progress.
May I also be committed to the saint-in-progress that I am — that we all are.
© 2021 Christina Chase
[i] Turner, Corinna. Child, Unwanted (Margaret of Castello) (Friends in High Places Book 3) (p. 66). UnSeen Books. Kindle Edition.
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.