Friday, September 30, 2011

No Messing With This Guy!

Who said Saints should be meek and mild?  Okay, I accept that meekness is one of the Beatitudes, the charter of Christian virtue, and it is to be found in all the Saints.  But meekness as enshrined in the Beatitudes does not mean acting like a mouse and cowering in frailty like a shrinking violet.  If it did, then our Saint today would not be among the Blessed at all.

Yes, that's the great St Jerome: the Church's crusty, easily irritated and hot-headed Scripture scholar.  Blessed John XXIII famously remarked, when looking at picture of the Saint holding a rock to his breast, that without that stone (and the penances it symbolised), Jerome would not have been a Saint at all.  I imagine he was gruff and sometimes forbidding, but beneath the surface lay a heart of pure gold and a love as fiery as a furnace not only for God, but also for the children of God.  Holy women like St Paula saw a treasure in him and were drawn to him for his spiritual advice and fatherly care.  So he was not a Saint that could easily be propped up on a pedestal.

That challenges our idea of Sainthood, as it should.  Many think of Saints as pious, ethereal creatures fluttering between heaven and earth.  Some Saints seem like that, but in reality few are.  Jerome is a wonderful example of those who inhabit the rich and varied tapesty of God's Blesseds. 

Blessed John Paul II had a real insight into holiness and Sainthood.  Many of those raised to the altars during his pontificate might not have been considered good enough for beatification and canonisation under previous pontificates, and indeed one of the criticisms directed at John Paul, usually by those of a more traditionalist view, was that he lowered the standards.  Not so, he just realised that the holiness of Sainthood is a greater mystery than the perceived pious plastic statue Saint which had become the norm for many. Such Saints do not exist, of course, but the stereotype in the minds of many does.

St Jerome, like many other Saints, shake us out of that way of thinking.  As does another figure whose Cause for beatification is being considered - Savonarola.  Now there's a man who could never be accused of being stuffy and pious.  If his beatification proceeds it may be a shock to the system of some.  And we all need a shock now and again.

The Servant of God, Girolamo Savonarola

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