Angels, Fools and Little Flowers

Do we have an embarrassment of riches this week or what? Within these seven days we’ve got St Michael the Archangel, Therese of Lisieux, the Guardian Angels and St Francis!

This is a week to send all the rationalists, atheists, humanists, sceptics, cynics and all the ‘show me’ men from Missouri chewing their beards, howling with ridicule and spitting with rage. In the face of the angels and the holy fools, those who wish to reduce the faith to a sensible mix of good works, cookies, cuddling and kumbaya must quiver with impotent rage.

In their serious presence Therese giggles like a girl and dresses up like Joan of Arc, complete with a wooden sword and wig. She admits that she falls asleep at prayer time, doesn’t like books of fancy prayers, and cries in a militant voice, “You must be completely a saint or no saint at all! Sanctity is won at the point of a sword!” Meanwhile Francis strips naked in the town square, kisses lepers, preaches to the birds and the Sultan of Swat and whoever else will listen.

While the Little Flower and the Little Fool are busy turning the world upside down just by being themselves, Michael is fighting cosmic battles in the overworld and the Guardian Angels are busy stopping cars from running over children, appearing to missionaries, working hidden miracles and popping up every which where to protect, guide and guard us, their foolish little charges.

There is something militant, robust and triumphantly glorious in it all. At the same time it is unpredictable, whimsical, childlike, innocent, poetical and free.

To jump on board and believe all of this with the perfect gusto of a Marine, and the simple delight of a child is to live the Catholic faith. It’s bracing. It’s revolutionary. It’s radical; and to tell you the truth, it’s just plain fun.

What tickles me is that anyone wants to be religious without extreme saints like Therese and Francis, and without believing in the mighty Michael and the supernatural protection of guardian angels. Why have religion at all if it isn’t supernatural, un-wise, extreme and subversive? Religion is supposed to be supernatural for goodness sake! It’s supposed to knock your socks off and make you sit up and gasp with hilarious wonder.

Sign me up. Like Therese, I want it all. Miracles, incorrupt bodies, visions, odor of sanctity, levitating saints, relics and incense and candles and holy medals and scapulars and processions and everything else you can think of. If it declares the audaciousness of supernatural faith in a world of useful things, Bring it on!

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  • Thanks for this post. I do understand the desire of some folks to “clean up” or rationalize religion, but the more I learn and grow in my faith, the more I think that’s just silliness.In the past, when I’ve tried to tame religion by ignoring all the supernatural or “foolish” elements, I told myself I was doing it so I could talk religion to people who didn’t get it. I didn’t want to seem too “out there”; I thought by doing that I might be able to make religion seem more palatable, and thus get more people into the Church. That’s what I told myself. What I was really doing, I see now, was just protecting my own ego–glossing over whatever I thought might make others think of me as weird.

  • You’re right. The supernatural element of the faith keeps the bookworms humble, and the theological element of the faith keeps the dolts humble.