Tears and Saints
(I am suffering through day four of a Salmonella infection, so if this post comes across overly truculently, I blame it on a microbiome at war with itself.)

French-speaking, Romanian-born E. M. Cioran was the son of an Orthodox priest, but he would go on renounce his faith and spend the rest of his life, much like Nietzsche, haunted by God. He would wax rhapsodic about wine, Bach, the necessity of harboring illusions, and the Saints--or, at least, that is what he does in his Tears and Saints. This is not a complimentary work as evidenced by the following: "You are lost if saints don't disgust you. Saintliness is systematic insomnia, the heart perpetually awake." However, one detects in his writing a begrudging respect for Saints: "Sainthood is transfigured physiology, maybe even divine physiology. Every bodily function becomes a movement towards the sky. Blood is one of its constant obsessions. Saintliness is a triumph over blood." Cioran points out what perhaps many Catholics and Orthodox have become inured to given our familiarity with lives of various Saints: the absolute and all-consuming drive of these, literally speaking, God-crazed people.  

As the baptized, we are all called to holiness; we are all called to saintliness. We are called to nothing less than perfection. This being said, do we have any clue, historically, what this has required? Have the standards changed to suit our modern therapeutic sensitivities? 

In St. Alphonsus Ligori's (one of the saints, I have noticed, to whom Trads like to appeal when laying down something particularly unsettling, especially if they can trouble the already scrupulous) The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, we read examples that should terrify us. Now, I realize that, contextually speaking, St. Ligori was writing for religious, but are the requirements for sainthood any less severe for religious than non-religious?

Here are few golden ones (with my commentary in parentheses, as if I really needed to clarify that):

*St. Clare would never fix her eyes on the face of a man. She was greatly afflicted because, when raising her eyes at the elevation to see the consecrated host, she once involuntarily saw the countenance of the priest. (I immediately want to brush this off as a hysterical fit of piety to which women seem especially prone.)

*St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face. (However, I suppose not just women. Really? What kind of holy sadism is this? Even Jesus looked at his Mother, namely as He hung upon the cross. My mom would be crestfallen if I never again looked at her in the face in order to pursue holiness. I suppose that when it comes to the Kingdom, though, the ends really do justify the means.)

*St. Gregory states that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman. (Note here: not even a mortally sinful look of lust, rather just an incautious glance. This is more like the following: I saw a woman approaching on my left through my peripheral vision, but instead of looking to my right, I continued looking to my left as we passed because it was less of a strain on my neck. Okay, men of Fish Eaters, you know what you now must do anytime you give way to an incautious look.)

*From the conduct of St. Ignatius on this occasion, we learn that it was not becoming in religious to fix their eyes on the countenance of a person even of the same sex, particularly if the person is young. But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent. “It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.” (I see that "proximate danger of criminal consent" is the key qualifier, though I am not sure what such means in this case. Trying to carry this over outside religious life, we could have the following scenario: your sibling comes to visit and brings his children with him. Perhaps your brother is particularly attractive, and he did well in his choice of marriage, and they have produced beautiful little girls. Should you refrain from looking at your nieces for fear that you may give into criminal consent [which I take to be mental rather than physical, but still not sure what such means] and, thus, sin mortally?)

Even those few areas of comfort that are left to most people who will never achieve great sanctity still become arenas of intense examination. In another thread, the morality of oral and manual stimulation that do not replace penis-vaginal intercourse between spouses is being debated. This seems to show the Church's historical consensus, though not necessarily the magisterial proclamation, on marriage: yeah, it would've been much, much better for you to have remained celibate and to have devoted yourself to God, but since you're weak and you're going to burn otherwise, we're going to give you this. Our only hope is that you pop out as many priests and religious as possible, for that's really the only reason to have children. So, have sex, but don't enjoy it too much, okay? And if you do, you better come to Confession, or you're going to Hell--where you're probably going anyway. Like we said, you really shouldn't have gotten married in the first place.

How many canonized Saints do we have who are married to each other? It would seem that most canonized Saints either never married, or did not get serious about the Lord's work until after the prohibitive spouse (and maybe even prohibitive children) died or moved away. We have St. Catherine of Genoa, but after she converted her husband, they spent the rest of their time attending to the poor--and probably lived as brother and sister. We have St. Cunegund, but she and her husband reputedly lived in a continent marriage. 

Yes, we believe that in order to avoid Hell, whether or not one has lived a life of heroic virtue, one must not die in a state of unconfessed mortal sin. But, maybe, just maybe (and this might better help us to understand the full implication of the fewness of the saved), in order to enter into Heaven one must first become a Saint on earth. Thus, unless we are willing to practice extreme acts mortification, like St. Dorothea of Montau who burned her nipples so she would not risk taking the slightest bit of pleasure from breastfeeding and dug sharp nut shells in open wounds so that she would not enjoy marital embrace when it had to occur, we do not stand a shot. 

In darker moments, I sometimes wonder if Christianity may have been another severe and otherworldly Mediterranean mystery cult that took on a world-wide appeal. Yes, in addition to the horrifying/inspirational stories of Saints, Christendom has produced magnificent works of arts and architecture, though I wonder if most of those same Saints would have approved of such aesthetic elaborations, for prayer and penance are much more direct paths to God and of bringing others to Him. As Ann Catherine Emmerich states, "One thought of God is worth more than the entire world." 

Messages In This Thread
Tears and Saints - by Bourbon Apocalypse - 04-30-2018, 12:46 PM
RE: Tears and Saints - by GangGreen - 04-30-2018, 12:59 PM
RE: Tears and Saints - by Dominicus - 04-30-2018, 02:09 PM
RE: Tears and Saints - by angeltime - 04-30-2018, 02:58 PM

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