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.