…with “all or nothing” devotional language–over at the Register.
Great commentary as always. I have a follow-up question. You recommend to read more love poetry and less law, then give some very good examples of love poetry. Well done. Okay, but where do we see that in the lives of the saints?
I am not the first to note (albeit rather tongue in cheek) that our Church has a wonderful propensity of virgin saints who suffered much and died young. We need them. But what about the saints who passionately loved a spouse, raised a family, and lived a long and fruitful life? I can think of a few. A very few. And even one of my favorites, St. Thomas More, had his fruitful life cut short. Literally.
One criticism I often field from non-Catholic friends is that Catholicism is afraid of sex. I don’t think that’s true at all. But the saints is one area where I’m a little afraid my non-Catholic friends may have some evidence on their side. If you fell down in a throng of saints, you’d have a 9 in 10 chance of hitting an ascetic virgin. Why is so much emphasis given to the renouncing of romantic love rather than helpful examples of seeing it done right?
I’m now rambling and basically thinking out loud. Your thoughts … ?
It has nothing to do with hostility to sex. Members of religious orders have a built in network with the time and connections to promote their cause.
It is not so much to promote their cause. Think of any parish. Lots of holy men and women. Yet if you had to make one of them a saint, who would it be? A lot of the time it would be a priest or a nun. That is a good thing.
The men and women who do much of their serving in families might be as holy but how would you know? How do you know how gentle a man is with his wife and kids?
“How do you know how gentle a man is with his wife and kids?”
I think that’s what it comes down to. Holiness in family life can often be private, because it’s just so intimate. Maybe clarification can be made to non-Catholics that there are, in all likelihood, many times the number of canonized saints in heaven – and that we can look forward to meeting them as well as the people we’ve heard about already.
Which makes me wonder – we’re often encouraged to ask for the intercession of someone as part of their cause to be canonized – is it appropriate to ask for intercession of a deceased loved one even if there is little to no chance they would ever be canonized?
To answer your question, I remember a conversation with our then parish priest said at the funeral parlor when my own father had died. That priest had met my father very often because he was often present at weekly masses (something I did not know because my father and I lived in different apartments). And when I mentioned that my father had received the Anointing of the sock a few hours, or maybe even minutes, before his death, the priest said that I could pray “to” my dad instead of for him.
Sorry… a typo: “Anointing of the sick” (of course!)
“Holiness in family life can often be private, because it’s just so intimate.”
We want to be a little careful here, I think. Holiness isn’t a private matter. If I’m not holy in public, then I’m not holy in private. A man who is gentle with his kids but not his neighbors isn’t holy.
That said, it’s surely true that family life can offer opportunities for heroic virtue that aren’t known, widely or even at all, outside the home.
Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if such cases of hidden holiness were hidden more in the sense that we don’t know how to see them than that they are imperceptible to others who are close to God.
“is it appropriate to ask for intercession of a deceased loved one even
if there is little to no chance they would ever be canonized?”
I’d give the same answer as Marthe: Yes.
I know. The Church really has the only truly healthy and human teaching on the totality of human sexuality that I’ve found.
But that does beg the question: Why then are 95%+ of the saints (our heroes of the faith) ascetic virgins?
As Randy and I pointed out, 95% of the canonized saints (by no means all of the saints) may be virgins because their faith and holiness were more apparent to the world at large. People knew who they were. In centuries past they were more likely to be literate than the ordinary family man and woman, who had very small social circles and their names would be forgotten pretty quickly. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t saints.
Also, I’m sure many of the groups of martyrs that have been canonized included married people.
Really superb article. Thank you. I had been struggling with this until recently. I would add that these florid prayers are also good for us to pray to foster love through an act of will in praying fervently to God and his Saints. In the ending of a prayer to St. Joseph to obtain graces for the day’s work: All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity!” Mathematically impossible because it is a cry from the heart not a law book. That doesn’t lessen the force of love for Jesus but by practicing praying such longing prayers increases devotion to the Lord, I think.
I have an inkling that, rather than regard saints’ language as love poetry not to be taken literally, we’d be closer to the truth to regard love poetry as a weak and watery analogy for what the saints are literally saying, that “Everything is nothing to me, but Jesus” is more understatement than hyperbole.