Thursday, July 15, 2010

St. Giles (c.650 to c.710)

Before I knew about being "politically correct," the kids in my neighborhood and at school used the word retarded to describe something or someone who was dumb or stupid. It might be the outcome of a baseball game, a new kind of candy, or a song by Queen or Kiss. If we didn't like something, it was retarded.
I never really thought about it much until I was at my grandmother Isabel's house with my cousins and her friend, Mary, would be coming over for lunch.
"Please, whatever you do, kids, don't use that word," Grandma would remind us.
Mary's grandson, who was my age, was born mentally retarded. He couldn't speak and could barely walk. We were children and had no idea that we were offending Mary. I never said the word, but once in a while my cousins did and Mary would sit them down and tell them they were terrible and then explain her grandson's illness.
This wasn't the only time I was exposed to the mentally challenged.
Before my mom went back to work full-time as a elementary school teacher, she would substitute teach and take me with her. Once in a while she'd work in the special education classroom.
I could read and knew my numbers when I was three-years-old. So, when my mom would tell the class to turn to page 20, I did it on my own. Some of the children were 10 or 12-years-old and couldn't count.
They would ask how I knew what to do, and not knowing they were any different (I'm glad that my mom never said anything to me), I would sit right next to them and show them.
St. Giles is a patron saint of mental illness and disabled people. He was born in Athens, Greece c.650. He was a hermit who lived in solitude in a forest in France and spoke to God. St. Giles had one companion. It was a deer. Legend says that the animal was his only source of sustenance because it provided milk.
St. Giles performed many miracles and his popularity spread throughout France. Eventually, he founded a monastery. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and died c.710 in Languedoc, France. The feast day of St. Giles is Sept. 1.

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