Give Me Some Bad Saints, Please
For some time now I have been faithfully following the little blurbs on the “Saint of the Day” in my various religious readings and Internet sites. These seem to include very young and virtuous girls in Italy who fend off rapists and then forgive them in the end; women who married young, had a gazillion children, forgave their husbands their infidelities and then founded orders of nuns who cared for the poor and the sick; holy men who became doorkeepers at monasteries and blew people away with their advice and wisdom.
This is not to knock these saints! By no means. It’s just to say — I cannot see myself in them. I wasn’t a virgin for very long; I am not humble and generous; I don’t dispense wisdom to visitors; and I am not good, except for short periods of time, sort of like a solar flare. Do others have this same response: that these holy people are not at all like me?
Fr. Barron, the creator of the wonderful “Catholicism” series talks about a conversation Thomas Merton had with his friend, Robert Lax, who asked Thomas what he wanted to be. After a sort of garbled answer, Robert replied, “You should want to be a saint.” And Fr. Barron turns to us watching the DVD and says that we should want that too.
Wow. That is so not on my bucket list. It probably should be. If I had any pretensions or ambitions to holiness (whatever the hell that is!), I should want to be a saint. But I don’t. I want to make a perfect cheese omelette with smoked peppers and artichokes inside, and watch the smiles of appreciation on my loved ones’ faces as they bite into the runny center. I want to pour out perfectly crisp Chardonnay into tall glasses, handing them to my friends as they sit on our deck overlooking the mountains. I want to scratch near the tail of my feisty but calm Jack Russell terrier until she falls over in a swoon of delight. I want to gather my family around our rusted fire pit, light a fire, and tell stories about the worst and scariest horror movies we’ve ever seen. I want to watch the luna moth cling to the steps leading to our deck, wondering at its mysterious latching on and betting he’ll be gone by dark. (He was.) I want to watch the painted turtle dig laboriously in the gravel to the side of our drive, her flailing hind legs moving with such absolute determination that it leaves me breathless. I want to hear the calls of geese overhead and see them fly over, necks stretched out to their future. I want to hear the cries of red-shouldered hawks above and peer up into the blinding sun, seeing their wing feathers blaze with light. Like angels. Fierce, predatory angels.
I just think life is far fiercer, far more dangerous, and far more sensual than the traditional idea of “sainthood” seems to be. I could be way wrong on this. But I am not aiming for sainthood. I am aiming to nourish the people I love; laugh at their jokes; show up in church with some regularity; sing in the choir (a new joy); grow plants in the garden; and remind friends and family when the time is right that we are blessed, every day, every second, even when it hurts. Even when it feels like disaster. Because in the midst of disaster, there we find love. And it is a love that I believe isn’t overly fussy about how “good” we’ve been, how much wine we’ve drunk, and whether we’ve saved lepers or not. It is a love that will gather us up with all of our imperfections, murmuring, “I’ve been waiting for you honey, and here you are. Alleluia and amen!”