Book Review The Last Canadian to Kiss the Pope's Ring
Author: Austin Mardon, Catherine Mardon and Katie Turner
Book Reviewer: Samantha Jafar
Austin and Catherine Mardon have been strong advocates for mental health for several years. Their efforts were inspired due to the struggles they felt after receiving diagnoses on their own conditions. Austin was diagnosed with schizophrenia after a NASA mission in Antarctica, while Catherine developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after she got attacked by a group of white supremacists when she worked against them in a case as a lawyer. They’ve had to adapt their lives as they weren’t able to live normally before their diagnosis. Despite many trials and errors, they both managed to become successful in their lives and are living with the intent of helping others around them. It’s thanks to these efforts that they managed to stand out to a priest that recommended them in being recognized by the Church.
As the couple kept on helping out younger men suffering from mental illness and doing mental health related work in their community, a letter arrived in their mail. Its contents included the news of them receiving a recognition and rank, as well as an invitation in meeting the Pope in Rome. At first, Austin was elated on such an occasion of their work being finally recognized. Catherine was a bit apprehensive due to the symptoms of her mental illness, she had trouble being comfortable in large crowded places. Austin reassured her that the ceremony would be small and that they wouldn’t be surrounded by too many people. When it came to planning their trip, Austin had a feeling that they should go earlier such as November instead of the later months. He was right as the pandemic hit around March. If they had planned it too late, they wouldn’t have been able to go. Once they set foot in Italy, the couple faced some hurdles. Indeed, the country does not have much accommodations for disabled people. As such, it was difficult for Catherine as she had injuries in her leg. In spite of this, they were able to explore some tourist spots in the italian land. One thing that stood out to them during their trip was the large homeless population in Rome. Indeed, they learned that some people took advantage of the issue and pretended to be homeless people in order to get money from tourists. This didn’t feel right as it overshadows the seriousness of the real people who are in this situation. By pretending to be one and scheming people out of their money, it was more likely that the general population would disregard homeless people even more. Catherine and Austin were also impressed by how there were medical professionals onsite for these people. They travel in caravans and help out individuals in need of assistance. However, they did take note that there was a lack of psychiatrists and psychologists. When it came to their meeting with the Pope, it went well. A lot of security guards were surrounding him, as to be expected with someone as known and celebrated.
They weren’t able to speak in English as he only knew latin languages such as spanish or italian. Catherine was able to talk about the issues surrounding mental health and the Church’s stance towards. They also talk about how her and Austin were fostering young men that suffered from various mental illnesses as well and their work that was geared towards it with the help of their students. After their meeting, they spend the rest of their time enjoying Italy before returning home to their friends and family. The trip motivated Austin and Catherine to work harder in raising awareness for those that struggle mentally.