Catholicism is just Palo Mayombe with better aesthetics

25 02 2019

Another manifestation of Cuthbert’s power that also can be dated to the 1160s concerns a stag that a knight named Robert in the Scottish province of Lothian tried to capture. It sought refuge in the cemetery of a church dedicated to St. Cuthbert. The dogs chasing the animal were not able to get inside the graveyard, and the stag remained there in the sanctuary. A young man defied the power of Cuthbert and got into the precinct to attack the animal. The stag turned around and charged at a group of people watching. With its antlers it gored the evil man’s baby son, who subsequently died. ” Thus St. Cuthbert deservedly ordered that death be inflicted on the son of the man who chose to cheat his guest of his tranquility.”

The dogs then killed the stag, but no one dared to touch its carcass or eat of its flesh, which was left there to rot. Six months later, a craftsman defied the spot by trying to cut up the carcass. Even though it seemed to be dried out by then, blood shot forth and struck him in the forehead. Still, he dragged the animal to his home but was punished when blood began to ooze from the animal and fill the house, to such an extent that neighbors could see a river of red emerging from the building. “What should he do, where should he go, he was at a loss, for everywhere he sensed the danger of evil hanging over him?”

–from Brian Patrick McGuire’s Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx

A generation’s self-canonization

18 02 2019

A post on Twitter from last year was brought to my attention that shows a stained glass window with now defrocked Theodore McCarrick celebrating Mass with now St. John Paul II. I think this makes my point about last week’s post about speedy canonizations in general. Unless someone is St. Francis of Assisi there is no harm in waiting until everyone who knew the person is dead before even thinking of elevating the person to the altars. If the cultus is lasting it will outlast the one or two generations after the person’s demise. If not, it was just a flash in the pan.

Why Thomas a Kempis isn’t saint

8 02 2019

An interesting read. I’ve always wondered about that.

Ite ad Joseph

23 01 2019

I saw online a recent argument about the modern cult to St. Joseph in the Catholic Church, with many defending the idea of Joseph being a young virgin as the definitive pious opinion. The issue of the cultus of St. Joseph is a complicated one that intertwines the historical needs of modernity with the manifestation of supernatural power. St. Joseph was named Patron of the Universal Church and second only to the Virgin Mary herself. In South America, the priests would often give us spiritual conferences revealing the intense theological debate especially in Spain before the Second Vatican Council about whether St. Joseph had experienced his own “immaculate conception,” or if he was purified in the womb of his mother and when, etc. The intense devotion that led to his insertion into the Roman Canon is still seen when the reformers kept his name in but made the entire Roman Canon optional, including the names of all of the long-revered Roman martyrs. Read the rest of this entry »

On Punishing the Saints

28 07 2008

Over a year ago now, I posted this anecdote,

A widow had only one child whom she tenderly loved. On hearing that this son had been taken [in war] by the enemy, chained and put in prison, she burst into tears, and addressing herself to the Virgin, to whom she was especially devoted, she asked with obstinacy for the release of her son; but when she saw at last that her prayers remained unanswered, she went to the church where there was a sculptured image of Mary, and there, before the image, she said: “Holy Virgin, I have begged you to deliver my son, and you have not been willing to help an unhappy mother! I’ve implored your patronage for my son, and you have refused it! Very good! Just as my son has been taken away from me, so I am going to take away yours, and keep him as a hostage!” Saying this, she approached, took the statue of the child on the Virgin’s breast, carried it home, wrapped it in a spotless linen, and locked it up in a box, happy to have such a hostage for her son’s return. Now, the following night, the Virgin appeared to the young man, opened the prison doors, and said: “Tell your mother, my child, to return me my son now that I have returned hers!” The young man came back home to his mother and told her of his miraculous deliverance; and she, overjoyed, hastened to go with the little Jesus to the Virgin saying to her: “I thank you, heavenly lady, for restoring to me my child, and in return I restore yours.”

-cited by Paul J. Vanderwood in Juan Soldado: Rapist, Murderer, Martyr, Saint

One of the earliest posts I ever wrote told a story similar to this one, and it concerned my family’s devotion to a small image of the the Holy Face, and you can read it again here.

Recently, I encountered two other such anecdotes. The first is from Gumbo Ya-Ya: Folk Tales of Louisiana:

Statues of St. Joseph holding the Christ Child have long been popular for private altars in the homes of New Orleans Creoles; and many New Orleanians carry miniature representations of the saint in small capsules in their pockets or pocket-books. If a favor is asked of St. Joseph and not granted, the figure is sometimes stood on its head as punishment until the wish is fufilled.

St. Joseph is not the only saint who gets punished. In John Ingham’s book, Mary, Michael, Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico, on Saint Anthony’s feast day,

…people take their animals to the church, where the priest sprinkles them with holy water and pronounces a benediction to protect them from harm. Tiny metal figures of animals are pinned to pictures of St. Anthony on family altars. When an animal is lost, villagers put his picture in a box and tie a string around it. When the animal is found, its recovery is considered a “miracle”, and the incarcerated saint is released and rewarded with the miniature image of the animal he has found.

I am tempted to give some form of comment, but I am not going to. Needless to say, this is what I think real religion looks like. He who has ears to hear…

The Martyrdom of José Luis Sánchez del Rio (a teenage Cristero)

10 07 2008

[The following events took place during the Cristiada: the war of the Catholic faithful against the Calles government in Mexico (1926-1929) The video above was found on this site]

Woman singing: I am going to tell all of you a unique story that involves a young man who had to fight with the strength of grace against the powers of evil. José Luis Sánchez del Rio told his mother, “In order to go to Heaven, we have to go to war”, and as he was a courageous youth, he carried the flag.

They killed the general’s horse, and the young man said, “Take my horse and save yourself. You’re the general, and what am I worth to the cause?” The general refused at first to take the young man’s horse, but he insisted, and finally the general got on the horse and fled. When they finally caught up to the youth, he said to them, “You are going to take me, but I don’t surrender”.

Woman singing: They imprisoned him in Sahuayo, Michoacan. Rafael Picasso asked for a lot of money to let him go because they were going to shoot him.

They brought him here to write a letter to his aunt Maria Sánchez, and they told her to tell his mother that she should pass by the church so that he could see her close so that he would waiver at seeing her tears, but he did not want to waiver. They say that they brought him his food in a small basket, and in that food his uncle, Fr. Ignacio Sánchez would put a consecrated Host. And when he got it, he knelt there in the baptistery (which was serving as a chicken coop), gave thanks, and then gave himself Holy Communion.

Woman singing: The jail in which he was in was the parochial church. Rafael Picasso had a lot of fine imported fighting roosters in there. José Luis was indignant, and said, “This is not a barnyard!” He took them all by the neck and killed them, hanging them from a banister.

While he was imprisoned, he saw that Rafael Picasso had a bunch of roosters running around in the church. He said to himself, “Look at this mess. This idiot had turned the church into a chicken coop!” He took the roosters by the necks and killed them. He hung their bodies from a Communion rail (they received Communion kneeling and not standing then). Rafael Picasso had imported some of those very fine birds all the way from Canada, and he was so indignant that he commanded that they execute the boy by firing squad. They noticed that he didn’t have any shoes on and they offered to give him some. He told them, “Why do I need shoes? What I want is to go to Heaven.” He told his people as well not to offer them any money because even then he would go back to the fight because he wanted to go to Heaven. From a very young age, he said that it wasn’t easy to go to Heaven: “Only boom, and Heaven”.

Woman singing: Rafael Picasso gave the order, “Shoot him now!” The executioners cut deeply into the soles of his feet. Instead of complaining, he shouted, “Long live Christ the King!”

When they were going to take him to be executed, the soldiers had machetes, and they started to strike him with them. At every cut, the boy cried out, “Long live Christ the King!” When he got to the cemetery, he was already covered in his own blood. They had also chopped up the soles of his feet, and as the road was not paved back then, it was nothing but rocks. Those stones where he had trodden were all soaked in his blood. When they got to the cemetery, they showed him the grave, and said, “This is where we are going to bury you.” The boy responded, “That is good. I forgive all of you since we are all Christians.” He offered them his hand and said, “We’ll see each other in Heaven. I want you all to repent. Long live Christ the King!” At that point they shot him. They gave him a coup de grace to the head and he died.

On the Cult of the Saints

19 06 2008

(As in summer television, I am posting essays that I have written before again because I think they make some good points. Here is one I wrote over a year ago now on the cult of the saints. It was originally posted here.)


The postured myths of Byzantines? Ho-hum.
Leave to Cimabue the manner and the gaze
of saints whose sandals never bore their weight,
their very gowns stunned in beatitude-
but if two men kiss at Gethsemane
there should be torchlight and the crush of mobs,
a keen blade raised to glance the soldier’s ear.
Let there be lutes and fiddles to attend
the virgin’s marriage; or, say, at the gate
where Anna and Joachim may sometime meet,
the common stir of the gossip of girls.
Saints in their figured scenes shall stand before
the fur of sheperd’s boots, the dogs and sheep,
and there shall be much fidgeting of gowns
amid old hosannas, the actual heft
and weight of angel wings to brush the ground.

-Morri Creech, “Some Notes on Grace and Gravity”, from the collection, Field Knowledge

 When I was a teenager, I used to collect saints cards like most collected baseball cards. (Though there was a phase of my life in which I collected baseball cards too.) I used to tape them up all over a wall in my room. Think of it as a flat Old Believer iconostasis. Saints’ cards were so cool, and the faces on them extended back millennia, from the Old Testament saints (who could not like St. Raphael?) to Mother Cabrini. Maybe I didn’t pray the prayers on the back of the cards as often as I should have, but these were my heroes and I had them pinned up on my wall like others would pin up pictures of pop music stars or sports heroes. At one time, I must have had fifty or sixty up there.
Read the rest of this entry »