On severed heads and other sloppy thoughts

7 12 2009

I was going to write a nice, organized post for this week, but I have been busy this weekend, so expect much shorter posts for the time being. One “Facebook scuffle” I got into was with my “magisterial Protestant” friends. Apparently, they like to study history, but they study it in such a distorted manner that it reminds one of nineteenth century British gentlemen going on safari in Africa. They only really go to gawk at strange beasts, and have a detached vicarious experience from the safety of a civilized party of “explorers” who take a break for afternoon tea. When a Catholic studies Christian history, he tends to realize that he is indeed “one of the natives”.

My friend’s brief essay was on the veneration of the head of St. Edward the Confessor in ninth century England. He has a hard time understanding how medievals could believe such things as people:

claiming that the severed head of a saint-king, which had been callously tossed aside by his killers and lost in the bushes, answered people calling out to it by saying, “Over here! Over here!”, so that they could find it and reunite it with the body – which, as so often happened in these sorts of stories, subsequently remained incorrupt.

Or find edifying the idea of a:

hagiographical tradition claims that he was so “holy” that he voluntarily slept with his wife for many years without ever touching her in any way not suitable to a mere sister…This problem is, of course, subsequent to the larger problems involved in trying to grasp what a “celibate marriage” might be, and why it is supposedly “holier” to treat one’s wife like one’s mere sister than as one’s WIFE.
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