Director: Documentary film by Jonathan Karsh
MY Flesh and Blood got me thinking about saints, and how lucky we are that we never rubbed shoulders with them too closely.
It’s my hunch that many of them would not pass the documentary test.
On one reading Susan Tom is a saint. She is a single parent, divorcee and mother to 12 children.
Eleven of her children are physically or mentally disabled. And we are not talking small disabilities here.
Joe is 15. He has cystic fibrosis, suffered from chronic depression and attention deficit disorder.
Faith is eight. She is a severe burns victim with no hair and a badly damaged hand.
There are the twins who have no legs, a son who has dreadful genetic skin disease and then there is Margaret, 18, who is the only abled-bodied young person in the house.
Could Susan Tom be more heroic? Yes, when we find out that Margaret is her only child. The rest of Susan’s family has been adopted or fostered.
This film chronicles a year in the life of Susan Tom and her children.
It has great joys and relatively monumental triumphs, enormous domestic conflicts and great heartbreak.
Film-maker Jonathan Karsh loves this family enough to save us from feeling we are watching a modern version of a freak show, but raises and never settles many questions about what motivates Susan to take on the commitments she has.
See what I mean about sanctity? If we had access to some saints and could ask about their motivation and psychological profile, we might not think they should have been canonised.
Instead, we trust that “by their fruits we shall know them”. And on this score Susan Tom is marching into heaven well ahead of many of us.
Go and see this conflicted, arresting and inspiring film.