To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Susan Saint Sing was a promising athlete with a love for sports when she suffered serious injuries as a gymnast. But she was determined not to let the accident impede her: She turned to the Sacred Heart and St. Francis in search of healing and understanding, then went on to write about what she learned.
BY EDWARD PENTINROME CORRESPONDENT
Sing was a promising athlete with a love for sports when she suffered serious
injuries as a gymnast. But she was determined not to let the accident impede
her: She turned to the Sacred Heart and St. Francis in search of healing and
understanding and went on to study for a Ph.D. in sports history and become
manager for the U.S. National Rowing Team for the World Rowing Championships in
Now, almost fully healed, Saint Sing
has written several very popular books, including one entitled Spirituality
of Sport: Balancing Body and Soul. She spoke to the Register
recently about her remarkable story, just before giving a presentation at a
conference in Rome hosted by the sports section of the Pontifical Council for
What is your talk about?
I’m going to give a personal talk
about basically my life and how a personal experience with God intersects with
sports. I broke my neck and back as an athlete, and what I’m going to talk
about mainly is how we take these lessons from sports and put them into
real-life situations and crises. I spent 10 years in a pain-control center. I
will draw on some of my training, […] not giving up and things like that were
needed to get out of what was a dire situation — of being almost a world-class
athlete to someone who was stilled in a moment.
So I will talk about the joy of
movement, handedness and footedness that we have, and which to me is part of
the energy of God. God created us to play, and play is intrinsic to our
understanding of God. Play matters, and we should play as if it matters.
How did your own experience help
you better appreciate the value of sports?
It gave me a new appreciation, not
only for what we learn as an athlete, but that when it’s taken away from you,
what that means too, because other things are then forced upon you — patience,
gratitude, some things that are not inherent to sports. You don’t hear about
patience in sports very often.
How did your faith help you to
I spent 10 years in a pain-control
center and was obviously in a lot of pain just to even enter into a
pain-control center. Partway through that I told my doctors that I just
couldn’t handle it anymore — it was just too much; I had too many injuries. I
had almost 200 [surgical] procedures. So I left and went to Assisi. I said I
just had to go and talk to St. Francis and ask him: “Why? Why was my life
altered so much?”
It was a personal tragedy for me to
go from being what I wanted to be — an Olympian — to almost a quadriplegic. I
was paralyzed for a while, and I kind of always said that when I die, I would
like just to have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with God to ask some
questions. So when I went to Assisi, I just spent time trying to figure things
out, trying to talk to St. Francis.
You seem physically able now.
Would you say you were effectively cured through prayer?
It has been through prayer. I think
when I was in Assisi it healed me spiritually. When I got off the train at
Santa Maria degli Angeli, I took my cast off, I threw it in a garbage can, and
I took my sling off (because I was paralyzed in my right arm), and threw that
in a garbage can. I was healed spiritually there. I can’t really explain it,
but I started to understand creaturehood and being created — that we’re all
part of God’s greater plan, and we have to kind of accept where we are to be
part of that plan and not fight it.
Then, over the years, I was prayed
for a lot by people. Francis McNutt [founder of Christian Healing Ministries],
who has spoken at the Vatican, has the gift of healing, and he has prayed over
me many, many times. So I walk and I talk, and I’m not a quadriplegic, and I’m
Have you totally been healed
from your injuries?
Pretty much. I have some residual
pain. I think that’s left as a reminder, which is a good thing. It humbles you
— pain keeps you grounded.
Did you pray to a particular
saint, St. Francis perhaps?
I’ve always prayed to St. Francis or
the Sacred Heart; predominantly probably to the Sacred Heart.
When you look back on what
happened, do you see God’s hand behind it — and that good fruit has come of it?
It definitely got my attention! I
write, and when I was in college, I was a double major in fine arts and
physical education. I was never going to be in physical education, so I started
to write. The only thing I could to make a living was to write, so I’ve written
eight or nine books now, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m here is
because of the books I’ve written.
I would never have done that if I
hadn’t been hurt. I would never have gone into rowing if I hadn’t been hurt. I
would have been in some other sport.
What would your advice be to
those sportsmen and women who would perhaps do more sports if they weren’t
worried about being seriously injured?
I’ve spent a lot of life being
afraid, even before being hurt. Courage is really not that you’re fearless, but
that you understand fear and that you enter into it anyway. So you discipline
Sports can be very scary, such as
gymnastics — I was hurt in a gymnastics accident. If you’re not afraid as a
gymnast or as a diver or football player, you really shouldn’t be there. It
gives you a good respect for what you’re doing.
Fear can be a very healthy thing. I
wouldn’t let fear hold you back from sports. You can get injured just standing
here — the building could fall down.
Edward Pentin writes