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Paralympian’s reflection on his faith and his disability is a must-read

GOALBALL

A.RICARDO | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 08/20/21

Recent Catholic convert Matt Simpson inspires on and off the court.

On August 24 the Tokyo Paralympic Games will begin. Men and women from all over the world will be gathering to impress millions and show their sporting prowess. Among these sportsmen and women, some will be taking part with missing limbs, such as the swimmer Jessica Long, and others will be competing with disabilities, such as blindness.

One thing all these athletes have in common is they don’t let their disabilities stop them from achieving greatness. And, among this year’s competitor’s is a young athlete, Matt Simpson, who recently converted to Catholicism, along with his wife.

Simpson, who was born with severely impaired vision, will be taking part in his second Paralympics in a game designed specifically with the visually impaired in mind — goalball.

The game is a cross between dodgeball and handball that relies on hand-ear coordination. Initially it was devised to help WWII veterans in rehabilitation programs, but the exciting sport has proved popular ever since.

Players rely solely on the sound of the different bells within the nearly 3-pound ball to be able to judge where it is and either block it with their bodies or hit it into the opposing team’s goal. Considering the ball can go up to 50 miles an hour, the three-per-side teams have to keep their wits about them!

“When you realize just how hard that ball is and just how fast it’s going…it is an extremely physical sport. It’s a rough game, for sure,” Simpson explained in his interview with The Pillar.

Simpson, who is a law associate, is hoping to “challenge the assumptions” people make about those living with disabilities, according to a report in Reuters. But the 31-year-old also wants to use his position on the Olympic Team to highlight the importance of getting a good education.

“As a person with a disability, I’m keenly aware of the fact that my greatest asset is my mind,” he shared. “Many times, I’m at a disadvantage. I’m blind, and I deal with various limitations. But education is the easiest way to maximize my advantages.”

However, the sportsman, also explained in an interview with The Pillar the extent his relationship with God has in giving him the strength to face his disability.

“Being able to recognize that I need help, both in a blindness sense and also in a salvific sense, but also recognizing that God has prepared and equipped me, exactly as he saw fit, and that being contrite or kind of backing down because I am disabled is not what God wants for me.”

He goes on to further share the importance of being able to depend on others, and that is not just reserved for those with a disability:

“As a faithful Christian, I want to love people in their wrongness, even as I am so blessed and reliant upon the generosity of others. You know, there’s not a day goes by that I’m not in a situation where I need the assistance of someone else, and that’s just the reality of blindness, but also, of course, of life.”

Simpson, who joined the Church last year after discussions with friends and the influence of literary greats such as G.K. Chesterton, also explained how the structure of practicing his faith on a daily basis through prayer and the Rosary has been central in getting his whole life into perspective.

“Another really big thing for me has been learning about the saints and taking encouragement from their example. Seeing their faith lived in their daily lives — whether it be Newman, my patron, or Thomas More, big for me as a lawyer, or St. Sebastian as an athlete,” he continued to share.

He also gives a little insight how his disability could have left him feeling, yet his sporting career and his faith has given him a whole different outlook:

“It’s often easy to feel like one deserves less—a lesser family, lesser career, lesser outcome in anything—because you are disabled … God has continued to open these doors and bless me in amazing ways.”

And now, as a new daddy, Simpson will soon be taking to the goalball court to represent his family, those with disabilities, his country, and his faith. With God and the saints by his side, let’s pray he’s blessed with a gold medal!

If you’d like to read the fascinating interview published in The Pillar in its entirety, click on the link here.

Tags:
DisabilitiesInspiring storiesParalympics

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