Sunday, February 12, 2012

Incorruptible Saints and Corruptible Hierarchs

My beloved iMac -intimate friend and support for the past four years - has died a sudden and unexpected death last Friday. Have yet to take it to the shop, but hope it's not too expensive to repair. Fortunately, I had backed up most of my files, particularly writing, novel in progress etc. Only when we are unplugged, do we realize how dependent we have become on our electronic lifelines = symbiotic, I believe is the word. I cherished this high powered computer because I could download HD quality movies and watch them on TV. Now, silence reins, which is welcome gift.

Still, life seems more peaceful without it, the weather has plunged into the nether-sphere here in Prague, about -16-20 Celsius, yet it's so glorious and beautiful out on my terrace at night - the air so cold it enters your lungs like tiny razor blades, yet so crisp and clear and fresh. The moon has been out for the past several nights and there are even stars visible. I was out on the terrace last night at 2am praying the rosary for twenty minutes - bundled up of course - but still, it must have been a strange sight. Neighbors across the way were peering at me from behind their steamy plate glass windows. Since I had a scarf wrapped around my face and a woolen cap, I must have looked like a ninja.

Every now and then I dip into the weirdness that is the United States at the moment, a truly deranged society if ever there were one, and twisted into so many alarming and abnormal shapes by the power of bigoted religion. I thank my lucky stars and the Holy Spirit that I've been graced to live outside the place for the past thirty years.  And the weirdness that is the Catholic Church - priests being fired for slightly altering the words of the Mass to suit the spiritual needs of their flocks and the themes of the day. Bishops on the rampage over contraception (contraception, still???, at this late date??? It's 2012 and people are still in a tizzy over contraception? Could anything be weirder or more unhinged?) Tribal religion - or rather religion that feeds the ego and not the spirit - seems to be in the ascendant at the moment, until we recall that goodness and sanity always speak with quiet, gentle voices, madness and irrationality and tribal pride bellow like buck toothed jackasses in the backyard - kicking everything in reach with their hind legs. So for the sake of my own peace of soul I ignore.

However, for another very inspiring trip into Catholic weirdness, I'm reading two very charming books by Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles and The Incorruptibles. So wonderfully weired and inspiring are the stories contained within - of miraculous bleeding hosts and incorruptible bodies of holy men and women - that I need another blog posting to do them justice. But they testify to an extraordinary repository of mystical grace and superannuated  phenomena right at the heart of the great Catholic tradition. So much so that it seems that hosts weeping blood and bodies of saints emitting the scent of roses are just as much a part of the Catholic tradition as are corrupt Popes with their 14 year old boy concubines. Corruption at the top and the scent of roses wafting from the tomb, the most appalling sexual crimes and the most sublime sanctity and heroism, co-existing side by side, the one somehow contained within the structure managed by the other - in many cases, the most incompetent,  venal and corrupt of administrators. How to fathom the mystery,  how to respond to it, how to discern 'God's Will' in allowing such evil to flourish and triumph? Certainly it is a deep and profound mystery and in some sense it seems clear that the criminal actions of purple robed hierarchs are meant for us as tests and trials for the soul, terrible temptations to faith. But the miracles remain, the signs of holiness constant and steadfast, and though many of the stories may be fanciful, products of pious folk religion, my own sense is that the vast majority of them are not. These accounts of miraculous hosts and incorruptible saints represent for the Catholic tradition the other side of weirdness and they deserve our reverence and respect. 

Dearly beloved Saints Werburgh and Wunibald, Saints Alphege and Waltheof, Saints Ubald and Benezet, Saints Sperandia and Peregrine, Saints Herculanus and Eustochia, Saints Arcangela and Osanna pray for us and bestow upon us some of the heavenly fragrance wafting delicately from your tombs.

As an addendum to this posting, I also recommend the other equally charming biographical books by this Catholic house wife, including Secular Saints, Saintly Women of Modern Times and Saintly Men of Modern Times. An astonishing range of holy laypersons = with names so bizarre and unrecognizable as to boggle the mind.  Saints who have murdered their parents, saints who have committed rape, saints with no religious vocation whatsoever, saints struggling with all of the contradictions of a sinful church and a sinful leadership, but saints nonetheless, grateful to the Church for the structure it provided their spiritual lives and grateful as well for the harrowing trials that catapulted them towards sanctity. I was truly shocked at the number of unknown saints with the most delightfully bizarre names (bizarre to an Anglo Saxon that is). So many of them with so many truly original stories. The books, of course, are all quite traditional, with nothing to offend the most conservative Catholic church goer. But I found them profoundly inspiring - with many lessons to impart to searching Christians of troubled faith. Truly astounding holiness achieved under the most trying of circumstances.

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