Tuesday, April 20

Hagiography and the usefulness thereof

The study of saints and their lives is something which I personally find fascinating and of great value. From the outlandish to the ordinary, each has a valuable lesson to convey to us that comes down through the centuries.

Take, for example, our friend on the left here, Saint Homobonus. Living in the late 12th century, homobonus was widely recognized as an honest merchant (arguably the only honest merchant in Italy). He believed that his gifts for making money were given by God so he may better the poor and disadvantaged. He led a holy and upstanding life and died during a mass he had sponsored. To paraphrase Pope Innocent III, who canonized him scarcely 2 years after the merchant's demise, "He made the ordinary things of life extra ordinary."

THIS is a man whom I can relate to. Born of some money, married, a man of commerce. Yet, he did a myriad of small, good things and kept himself 'clean'. This is the definition of pure religion (James 1:27).

And that is the importance and true relevance of saints. They are not Christ, perfect and whole in a way which seems so out of reach to us on a daily basis. They are so very human and flawed. Yet, when they heard the call, they answered. When they heard the voice within, they followed, even unto death. Homobonus could sit in church next to me.

As I personally feel that everyone should form their own direct and personal connection with the Divine, I am not a believer in the intercession of saints (whose number include Mary Christotokos). That said, their lives, sacrifices and deaths are no less valid to us than the gift of whispering in God's ear. Whether it is the perpetual dignity that Theresa of Calcutta would treat the lowliest of people, the valiant and rebellious spirit of Lawrence in the face of horrid death, the intellectual devotion of Thomas Aquinas or the love and joy in the works of Julian of Norwich, all of these can inspire us to think, speak, act and love in a manner more in tune with the Divine.

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