Monday, April 18, 2011

Heavens Above

Dismiss the Saints at your peril!   Following the Second Vatican Council a number of Saints were (not so quietly) dropped from the Calendar.  Two reasons were given - the Universal Calendar was so cramped full of Saints there was no room for new Saints and no room for Ordinary Time.  Some Saints were deemed not to have existed, and so they were removed under a shadow.  Among these Saints were St Philomena - the most controversial, St Christopher and St Catherine of Alexandria.  However since then there has been a lot of research and the three above have been (quietly) rehabilitated;  St Catherine of Alexandria has even been put back on the Universal Calendar. 

Debate still rages over Philomena, a debate which, I believe, is concentrated on the wrong area - the arrangement of the tiles which sealed her tomb.  As historians fight it out they seem to ignore the fact that the skeleton found within was that of a teenage girl who seems to have been martyred and was accompanied by a phial of blood - the ancient symbol of martyrdom.  They also ignore the fact that thanks to the miraculous cure of the now Venerable Pauline Jaricot, Philomena had a kind of process in the investigation carried out by Pope Gregory XVI who authorised devotion after he ruled the cure to be miraculous. Some of the debate about Philomena concerns the visions an Italian nun, Sr Maria Luisa di Gesu.  I do not know if they are authentic, but we can safely put the visions to one side if we do not accept them; without them we have enough.    There are many Saints about whom little is known.  As for St Christopher, he seems to have just slipped back in.

Another case was St Simon Stock. He was on the way out and with him the Scapular devotion.  Historians swore there was not a shred of evidence that he existed and so his cult was quietly put to one side.  Not happy with getting rid of Simon, there was a move to get ride of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: logic - no St Simon no vision.   Horrified Carmelites went into overdrive and initiated a major historical study, and guess what?  Bingo there was more than a shred of evidence to show he existed, and so, he was quietly restored and the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel untouched.  It was all just part of the crazy Sixties and Seventies when some of the most capable people in the Church seemed to have lost their heads.  In recent times we saw an attempt to get rid of St Juan Diego, and of course the visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Pope John Paul was warned not to canonise him because.....yes, you guessed it: "there is not a shred of evidence to suggest he ever existed".  Thankfully John Paul did not fall for it.

So why the post on unknown Saints?  Well two skeletons have been found under the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia and it seems they well be the relics of SS Chrysanthus and Daria, a husband and wife, who, according to legend, were martyred for the faith by being buried alive.  So this may put the cat among the pigeons for those who argue they did not exist at all.  Prudence is necessary in all these things and we must take care not to make definitive statements about Saints not existing. 

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