Saints are Sinners

by nonewsisnew

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/09/09/that-old-time-religion-why-does-sir-thomas-more-torturer-killer-saint-have-so-many-churches-named-after-him/

This article is quite ignorant about what the nature of a saint is.  And in condemning a saint falls into a type of Pelagianism.  Pelagianism teaches that humans can, under their own effort, ensure their own salvation.  Basically, it taught people could attain perfection in this world.  This teaching undermines the need for Jesus and God in our lives, and so was deemed heretical. The article espouses Pelagainism when it implies saints are all perfect holy people when they die.  I will use three saints as counter examples.

St. Catherine of Genoa, pray for us.

St. Catherine of Genoa, pray for us.

The first counter example is Catherine of Genoa.  She was a wreck of a woman.  Likely anorexic or bulimic with what some suggest was bipolar disorder.  Baron von Hugel wrote “she became a saint because she had to … prevent herself going to pieces” and “She literally had to save, and actually did save, the fruitful life of reason and of love, by ceaselessly fighting her immensely sensitive, absolute, and claimful self”  She was a saint not because of how perfect she was when she died, but because of how hard she fought to become holy.  It is even said that her writing alone would have been enough to have her canonized.

St. Jerome, pray for us.

St. Jerome, pray for us.

St. Jerome is even a better example that Saints are sainted because they try, not because they always succeed.  St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate), was not a very fun guy to be around.  Upon his death a Nestorian Bishop penned: “The living are delighted.  The dead, perhaps, are sorry, afraid they might be burdened with his company … May the guild of undertakers lay a huge, heavy stone on his grave, lest he should come back again.”

St. Nicholas, pray for us.

St. Nicholas, pray for us.

The last counter example about saints being perfect people is jolly ole St. Nick — AKA Santa Claus.  Who could be more kind and caring than the guy who gives out presents?  If you’ve never punched a guy in the face, it turns out you are more kind and caring.  As Bishop of Myra, it was his duty to fight against heresy at the council of Nicea.  He should have used words, but I guess Arius just got under his skin and he let loose a blow.  Such a short fuse is not what comes to mind with one thinks of saints, let alone Santa, so be good kids, or you might get more than just some coal.

Here’s the thing about saints: they are all (except for Mary and maybe John the Baptist) sinful people.  Their saintliness comes from their effort and devotion, not necessarily their success.  One can murder (I’m looking at you, St. Cyril of Alexandria) and still be a saint.  One can be nasty, mean, have have all those other bad aspects of humanity and still be a saint as long as, like St. Thomas More, they put every effort into loving God and their neighbor.  Failure will happen.  People will misunderstand how to love and even knowing how to love people will still always fall short in living out that love.  This is the great thing about the Church: one day every one of you readers might be a saint!  All your failures and all your inabilities don’t prohibit you from rising again and putting all your effort into love.  No matter where you are at in life or what your disposition is, you can be a saint.

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