Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thoughts on saints, life, and sanctity

Okay, I am completely taken with Lawrence Cunningham's Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian's Notebook. In one entry Dr. Cunningham notes that Karl Rahner once observed "that the saint is the one who shows us that it is possible to be a saint in 'this' way." This thought prompted me to think that this should cause Christians to reflect on the fact that my way to holiness occurs in no other way than through my life, the circumstances I daily face, my own experience, not that of Mother Teresa, or anyone else. It seems that such an observation should be obvious, but very often it is not.

St. Margaret of Cortona

In a later entry, Cunningham notes that he reads the entry for each day from Butler's twelve volume Lives of the Saints. He makes note of an obscure Latin American saint, who is commemorated on 27 July, Mary Magdalene Martinengo, who, as a child, "decided to imitate everything she read in the lives of the saints." He then notes editor's wise commentary: "heroic but hardly a wise program for any age." The editor's went on to note that they left her personal penances out of earlier editions because they "would not necessarily lead to edification."

I remember a few years ago reading with my youngest daughter, whose baptismal patron is St. Rose of Lima, Bert Ghezzi's well-written little book Mystics & Miracles: True Stories of Lives Touched by God. In the introduction to his book, Ghezzi wrote that in the course of spending some time every day over the course of a few years with mystics, once in awhile he encountered one whose "extremism" made him "uncomfortable." He makes note of St. Anthony's desert penances, the fasts of Vincent Ferrer and Francis of Paola. He seemed particularly distressed by what he describes as "the self-mutilations" of Rose of Lima and Margaret of Cortona. He notes that when people praised Rose of Lima for lovely skin, "she damaged it with lye" and, Margaret, because her lingering sense of guilt about past sexual sins, "carved scars into her beautiful face." I agree with Ghezzi that "such actions have little to do with holiness," especially in reference to God, who is love and takes delight in me, even when I'm having a bad day.

On the other hand, I suppose that's why it took the reformed decadent, J.K. Huysmans, to write about Saint Lydwine of Schiedam and to write La-Bas. Can we say that the strangeness of sanctity, which brings it into proximity with all that is unholy, must, at least in some manifestations, equal or exceed all that is evil? Of course, Huysmans, even through his own painful death from mouth cancer, was a big believer in the efficacy of offering one's suffering for others through Christ, which is precisely why he wrote about St. Lydwine, whose story would make Ghezzi and many others, understandably, very uncomfortable.

I like that in matters of faith there is always an "On the other hand,..." However, sometimes I like being the contrarian too much.


  1. Hello Deacon Dodger ♥

    I came across this today and IMMEDIATELY thought of you!!

    "Prayer To St. Isidore of Seville
    Patron Saint of the Internet

    Almighty and eternal God who has created us in Thy image and hast bidden us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of
    Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

    Grant we beseech Thee that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands and eyes
    only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter.

    Through our Jesus Christ our Lord.


    by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf"

    I remember first reading about St. Isidore via Your Wonderful Blog. That's why when I read this I thought of you :)

    Nothing ever occurs just's all a God-Incidence...and Your Lovely Post today confirms it!

    I consistently wonder HOW the Heck I am ever going to be Holy?!

    Your Post makes it Crystal Clear that it will be via My Life. My Everyday, Busy, No-Time-To-Anything Life...

    Thank You!!

    God Love You, Deacon Dodger!!!

  2. It is wonderful to hear from you! While I am quite certain Fr. Z and I would not agree on everything I like his prayer, which I have (being the contrarian that I am) posted in Latin on my sidebar.

    I trust all is well with you. I visited your blog a few weeks ago.

  3. This post is a gift - thank you! I am giving a presentation on the saints soon, please pray for me.

  4. I will certainly pray for you, Fran. When is your presentation?

  5. October 27 at 7pm eastern time! Thank you dear brother and friend in Christ!


God's love for us is tireless

Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34 No doubt you've heard the saying, "There's no rest for the wicked...