Friday, January 29, 2016

Those Horribly Sappy Saints

Those Horribly Sappy Saints

Yet another thoughtful--and thought-provoking--post from "Bad Catholic" Marc Barnes.  His subject today:  depictions of sappy, flaccid saints, eye cast ever skyward and looking rather pale.  Barnes:

Obviously, there is no need to defend a saccharine sentimentality when it rears it cloying head. Acknowledging that a human being kicked the bucket with some modicum of spiritual perfection does not require us to enjoy her diary-entries. Asking for the speedy help of St. Bonaventure hardly means I have to pray, with him, that “my whole soul may ever languish and faint for love” — a Popsicle in the divine microwave.

The best known reaction came from the Protestant Reformation, wherein chests were thumped and backs slapped over the supposedly successful elimination of this mamby-pamby Catholic piety.  The problem, Barnes notes, is that's not what the Gospel--which, of course, Protestants love to remind us that they alone "know"--reveals about God.

Certainly, there are evangelical benefits to the true faith being an industrial faith, never ridiculous, hapless, bungling, silly, or sappy. The Church would go a long way with CEOs. But by making God the object of our seriousness — banning the possibility of false-sentiment, infantile-sentiment, incomprehensible-intimacy, and all those dubious and earnest “odors of sanctity” — we ignore God as he reveals himself in Scripture. He is a Trinity of persons, eminently concerned with our particular life, who desires a relationship, and indeed, initiates and makes this relationship possible in the person of Jesus Christ — even at the risk of looking like a fool.
So let the stoics sneer at a faith flecked through with “languishing souls” and awkward devotions. Let the aesthetes turn their noses at the ugly-ass holy cards and plaster statues. For my part, I deny the possibility of a genuine faith unless it is simultaneously the capacity for awkward, incomprehensible, infantile, idiotic and sappy moments with the Great God of Wrath.

So room exists to distance ourselves occasionally from the sap and mush--but not a complete break.  The sentimentality and emotion are part of the Christian story--our identity--just as much as the power and the glory (which, although Barnes doesn't explicitly state this, his post implies it) which belong solely to God.

Read it all here.

And hey!  Pope Francis has made the same point (see #124 and #286).

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