Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On becoming a saint...

Why did the rich young man go away sad?

He asked: "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?"  He obviously kept the commandments - but he was rich... and we all know the rest of the story.  Yet as John Paul II points out, there is a deeper meaning to the question the nameless young man asked: ""Then someone came to him...". In the young man, whom Matthew's Gospel does not name, we can recognize every person who, consciously or not, approaches Christ the Redeemer of man and questions him about morality. For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life.  [...]  In order to make this "encounter" with Christ possible, God willed his Church. Indeed, the Church "wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life".15

We all ask this question ourselves - we all seek the meaning of life, to understand - especially the moral teachings of the Church, which run contrary to modern culture.  We look for examples of holiness and goodness, to inspire and help us live according to the Gospel - hence we question moral teaching and its apparent limitations.  We want to find someone, something, to support us, to inspire us on the narrow way, which may be in fact, far more constricted than we at first imagined ...

34. "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?". The question of morality, to which Christ provides the answer, cannot prescind from the issue of freedom. Indeed, it considers that issue central, for there can be no morality without freedom: "It is only in freedom that man can turn to what is good".56 But what sort of freedom? The Council, considering our contemporaries who "highly regard" freedom and "assiduously pursue" it, but who "often cultivate it in wrong ways as a licence to do anything they please, even evil", speaks of "genuine" freedom: "Genuine freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image in man. For God willed to leave man "in the power of his own counsel" (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God".57 Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known.58 As Cardinal John Henry Newman, that outstanding defender of the rights of conscience, forcefully put it: "Conscience has rights because it has duties".59

Veritatis Splendor - what does it have to do with gay saints?

Gay people seem to have an especially hard time today, since everything in the culture militates against any sort of moral censure on homosexual behavior and same sex marriage.  Catholic teaching is said to constrict, to limit personal freedom.  Many gay people go away sad.  Veritatis Splendor is for me, one of the most important documents and keys to understanding all that the Church teaches - and under girds the more specific moral teachings on the homosexual person from the Ratzinger CDF and papacy. 

Faithful and chaste 'gay' Catholics look for ways to make Catholic teaching more understandable, more acceptable to gay people.  Nothing wrong with that, to be sure.  Some religious and non-religious gay people also look for saints to inspire and elevate 'gayness'.  On some level, I think that is part of the reason some people search for gay saints.  (Secular gay saints are people like Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard; such 'gay icons' are often exploited for propaganda purposes.)   Some may even look for a spiritual 'lover' in the saints, a romantic hero.  I think that is why some of the saints gay saint makers write about, are very often depicted in art as ideally handsome and in a homoerotic manner. 

Of course, there are sincere, devout persons who look for a saint they can befriend, someone they feel they can know intimately - one who understands what they go through, what they suffer, what they rejoice over, aspire to, and so on.  Patron saints are often very personal - in fact some imagine they choose us, that we do not really choose them.  I see it as Divine Providence and simply a natural dimension of the communion of saints.

Are there really gay saints?

Until the 19th-20th century the terms gay/homosexual didn't exist.  Same sex sexual behavior, like masturbation, was considered unnatural vice - contra naturam.  Homosexuals would probably have been referred to as Sodomites - a vice too wicked to speak its name.  An unnatural vice even the devils reject - according to the Dialogues of St. Catherine:
It is not its sinfulness that displeases [the devils], for they like nothing that is good. But because their nature was angelic, that nature still loathes the sight of that horrendous sin actually being committed. It is true that it was they who in the beginning shot the poisoned arrows of concupiscence, but when it comes to the sinful act itself they run away. - Chapter 124

Of course there were several saints who condemned same sex sexual behavior.  Their teaching is like a thorn in the side of contemporary LGBTQ persons, Catholic or not.  Nevertheless, it is important to take it into consideration in order to counter claims that certain 'couple' saints, or BFF saints were actually gay and the Church somehow knew and approved.  From St. Peter Damien:
“Just as Saint Basil establishes that those who incur sins [against nature] … should be subjected not only to a hard penance but a public one, and Pope Siricius prohibits penitents from entering clerical orders, one can clearly deduce that he who corrupts himself with a man through the ignominious squalor of a filthy union does not deserve to exercise ecclesiastical functions, since those who were formerly given to vices … become unfit to administer the Sacraments.” - St. Peter Damian
Long story short - the saints and Church Fathers, in accord with Scripture, condemned homosexuality.  Therefore, one is not likely to find a 'gay saint' - although today, if it makes one feel better, they can imagine people such as Sergius and Bacchus, who were known to be friends, to be really close friends who lived chastely and became martyr saints.  In fact, saints such as Blessed Cardinal Newman, can be a very good example of holy friendship - friendship which is completely chaste and disinterested - untainted by any romantic/erotic disorientation.

I'd like to suggest that if one is looking for a patron, one ought to cultivate devotion to one's guardian angel - who could be closer to us than our angel?   If you want a canonized saint to be a patron for gay people, one might do better to look amongst the penitent saints, the martyrs for purity, the misfit saints, and more specifically, the saints who preached against the vice.  Seriously - who better to help someone struggling with same sex attraction than those who condemned it?  Out of charity, they owe it to those who strive to live according to Catholic teaching.  All saints endured the spiritual battle - that is how heroic virtue is forged.

These days, I understand things much more simply than I did when I was younger.  So for me the issues surrounding 'gay' is really not so much about overcoming something, as it is about embracing chastity - loving God with all of my being, and my brother as myself.  It is about becoming holy, our sanctification is God's will. 

All I can say to this saint business, if you really want a special saint - there are many, many in the Church calendar, and many newly beatified and canonized to look to. 

However, if you really want a gay saint - become one yourself.  Go to Christ, in the Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and ask:

"Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16)


  1. Fr. Mychal Judge is my dearest patron.

  2. St. Jude Saint of Hopeless Cases is mine...which may say a lot about me eh??? Have no idea what his sexuality was and could care less.

    There had to be "gay," saints..I mean, come on..any straight guy with a wife and kid wouldn't have time to be a saint. Are there any of those..I would love a real "regular Joe," kind of guy who was a saint.

    St. Catherine, well, as saintly as she was, you have to admit she was kind of nuts. Okay, not kind of, she was. I mention this only because that quote makes absolutely no sense...( if its a sin demons love it..and please don't tell that demons that love vile acts of depravity,from genocide and murder etc, all of a sudden are so prudey they can't stand it! Plus, its been suggested that St. Catherine hagiography as it were, was embellished and elaborated on by the writer....maybe some of his uh, feelings were thrown in there too?

  3. "St. Catherine, well, as saintly as she was, you have to admit she was kind of nuts."

    Which makes her an excellent saint for gay people. What?

    Seriously - I don't think so at all - that she was nuts, that is. Not that there is anything wrong with that, BTW.

    However, I always thought that at least one or two of her 'spiritual children' may have had 'inclinations' - some of her letters and counsels impressed me that way. Sorry - I can't recall which ones, it's been years since I studied her.

    Oh, and I doubt anyone ever 'embellished and elaborated' on the lives of the saints more than gay revisionist hagiographers. ;)

  4. I like people with a little "color," in them but sucking the puss out of people's sores, is a little...much for me!

    On her "spiritual children,' having inclinations...I don't mean to stereotype (as everyone says when they are about too) but once again, I don't think there are too many straight guys wanting to hang around a crazy nun writing for her (well, at least those that have graduated out of Catholic School!)

    Interesting the connection between "psychosis," and spirituality. I mean this seriously, as across religions it seems that the people most in touch with their spirituality (or a lot of them) were either on the fringe, neurotic, or out right nuts. Does a mental illness allow you to see beyond the normal "world," or are visions just that, visions of someone who has a break with sanity.

    I have no answers and am not trying to stir the shit so to speak, just an interesting point. That's why I would love it if some normal "guy," with a wife and kids and a real job became a saint.

    1. Just for the record, St. Catherine drank a bowl of water she had been using to clean puss-filled wounds, and did not suck the wounds. She did so for the same reason that St. Francis lived with lepers in his early years: because each had an aversion to that particular ugliness and so it was a barrier for them to see the person as Christ sees them.

      All of us should be mortifying those parts of ourselves that keep us from union with Christ. I have a disordered love for comfort and cleanliness, and so when I do the stations of the cross I make the rounds on my knees and kiss the dirty floor at each station. I obviously do this late at night when no one is around.

    2. Mr. and Mrs. Liseux have been beatified. They were pretty normal; each ran a small business until it was more profitable to focus on her lace business. She died of breast cancer and he was left with a pack of nuns to raise; while Therese has been canonized, Leonie's cause is open. Oh, except saints are never normal. They're always extraordinary in some way.

  5. Well, to say the truth, I've had several "patron" saints, at different times in my life. I tend to relate a lot to the male saints sometimes or to very strong female saints, like st. Jeanne d'Arc or st. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Once when having trouble with drinking too much alcoholic-beverages, I purchased "The Life and Times of Matt Talbot", by Mary Purcell. Also, once I looked to St. Margaret of Costello for consolation as I also felt as a "motherless-child". And on and on. But the best and strongest saint I'd say is St. Joseph, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, our sweet spiritual-mother and queen. The Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a devotion for generations too on my mother's side of the "family". Thanks very much for your post; it's so enlightening, inspiring and uplifting. God bless, Terry and all yr. readers here!!

  6. Traditionally, the martyrs were the first and only saints venerated. There were always married men amongst them. That holds true today - never more so than amongst the 20th century martyrs as in Mexico, Spain, and so on. Before that, the many Asian martyrs - Japanese, Korean, and so on. They were normal "guys" with a wife and kids and a real job - and they became a saints.

  7. This is an excellent post Terry. I think an ideal saint in particular for men who are same sex attracted is St Joseph. St Joseph represents the ideal Christian fatherhood. I think because so many men who are same sex attracted have distorted ideas and/or perceptions of Fathers or rejection by father figures as well as masculinity deficit issues that St Joseph offers such men a solid example of so many manly virtues worthy of emulation. Another of my own patrons is the great St Mary of Egypt who spent her youth saturated in sin before coming through the Holy Virgin's intercession to a true and authentic metanoia.

  8. Louis and Zelie Martin ("Mr and Mrs Liseux") have been beatified.

  9. Nan and Frank,

    Thanks for the head's up on the Martins. Interesting people and exactly what I ment when I was talking about normal people (sorry, the whole sucking puss out of drinking it or cutting yourself off from the world while you stare at a Crucifix until you have stigmata is more "creepy weird nusto," to me then something to emulate.)

    I think the Martins would be very good role model saints for this day and age as they lived through some of the very things we are going through in this day and age...the industrial revolution (technology) plurality of society, increased secularism, but still managed to keep a great family without beating their breasts about the end of times. I like this quote:

    "Zélie had herself experienced piously-intentioned puritanism in her childhood upbringing, and she did not want to inflict that upon her own. The family enjoyed themselves at home and in the community. The mother’s letters show her sense of humor at childhood antics and her tenderness with them. "

    These are really two people who should be canonized and made as an example in this day and age. They are relatable where the other airy fairy, gloomy saints just least to me, and I think a lot of other people.

  10. Mack - you will like the Pope's interview in America today - I posted on it today, with a link.

  11. Mack, everyone responds to God in their own way. I tell Terry frequently, that he's performing a public service in sharing truths that people don't want to hear, and no, that isn't commentary on your lifestyle.

    With regard to staring at a crucifix, that's what I do at Mass or Adoration. While I'm not an expert on saints, but doubt that they think "hey, if I stare at this crucifix for a gajillion hours, maybe I can get the stigmata!" My understanding is that saints who receive the stigmata are so close to Christ that they receive his actual wounds which are messy, smelly and painful. Not only that, but as in the case of Padre Pio, they also can lead to allegations of misconduct as he was believed to have caused the wounds himself and for a time was prevented from publicly saying Mass or taking confessions.


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