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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Clearing the Calendar

Talk about falling down on the job! I have been remiss in answering many questions. I'll catch up, I promise.

Let's start with these two, left over from our discussion about the patron saint for people who don't believe in saints. I had mentioned that St. Christopher and St. Philomena, among others, have been dropped from the list of saints due to the fact that they didn't exist in the first place, a memo that St. Expeditus failed to deliver to a few readers:

There is no St. Christopher?!

No, there isn't. Ironically, there is a Santa Claus.

Most people only know the tail end of the St. Christopher story, which is lovely. That's the part where St. Christopher has a job as a human ferry, carrying travelers across a river on his back. It seems St. Christopher was a large fellow.

So one day, while on the job, a small child asks to be carried across the river and as Christopher hauls the boy across on his shoulders, the child gets heavier and heavier with each step, until Christopher fears they will both drown. Crawling up to the far bank and gasping, Christopher says to the child, "What is your deal, kid?"

And the child serenely replies, "I am the Christ Child and I carry the weight of the world on My shoulders."


We love that story! But that's really only the third part of the actual story, which is a very silly "Three Billy Goats Gruff" type of "Three Little Pigs" type of thing.

First, Christopher is a soldier and he wants to serve the most powerful king only. So he joins the Devil's Army. Apparently the Devil had a recruitment table set up on the high school campus or something.

But then, while serving in the Devil's Army one day during a battle, Christopher sees the Devil bow down to the Cross of Christ. So Christopher wants to join that army.

This time he has more trouble finding the recruitment table. Some old hermit tells Christopher that he should just sit by this river and carry people across and that will be enough to serve Jesus.

Paul Harvey has passed away, so I will have to say, "....and now you know the REST of the story..."

Clearly, none of this ever happened and since there is absolutely no evidence that St. Christopher is anything but a story, he was dropped from the calendar of saints. It seems we miss him too much, because he is still a best seller at any Catholic store, dangling from rear view mirrors and key chains.

I have replaced him with Our Lady of LaSalette, the patroness of road rage, and St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of keeping your car from breaking down.

As a metaphor, I'd say St. Christopher still cuts it as a great story. The story of the Three Little Pigs has a great message, too.

If St. Philomena never existed, than whose intercession were St. Jean-Marie Vianney and Ven. Pauline-Marie Jaricot praying for?

Them, and a gazllion other people. St. Philomena has always had a huge cult following. That's how she became a saint. I'm sure other virgin martyrs picked up the slack.

And finally, speaking of saints:

I've got the "tortured by my imperfections" part down pretty good. It's the "life of heroic virtue" part that gives me trouble. Between sheer cowardice (go look for trouble? me?), a tendency toward bone-idleness (can I do that tomorrow), and frankly not facing many challenges in daily life, I feel totally inadequate to the challenge most of the time. I have a small ikon of St. Maximilian Kolbe above my desk, and feel intimidated every time I look at him. Even St. Therese had chronic illness to contend with. I have a mortgage, a wife who loves me but who stopped going to church/confession/anything sacramental years ago, and two lapsed daughters. Most of my troubles in the life area are of my own making. Tiny, tiny, tiny little crosses, really. And an easy-to-manage problem with diabetes. I worry that having led "a life of somewhat mediocre virtue" isn't going to cut it. I'm no slacker in my Catholicism, really, but I'm wondering what I've missed, and what I can do about it. All ideas not involving physical self-flagellation welcome.

We'll be back tomorrow to wade into this one!


Anonymous said...

St. Christopher did indeed exist!

Sure, his feast was removed from the calendar a few decades ago (only a small fraction of the saints are on the calendar), and the legends about him are probably made up. But he is considered a saint by the Church (by the Orthodox too).

Wikipedia has a good entry on him.

Donna. W said...

Dang it! St. Christopher was always my FAVORITE saint.

Yeah, and as I always remind you... I'm not Catholic.

But when I was in high school I babysat lots of Catholic children, and I think they must have told me about the "saint of the impossible". That IS Christopher, right?

Sara said...

"It isn't necessary to cultivate plans of perfection, but to look Christ in the face" - Monsignor Luigi Giussani

Don't try to be St. Terese or St. Maximilian Kolbe! Be you! That's who you were created to be!

Cathy said...

sorry, Donna, but that would be Saint Anthony. he;s in charge of lost items like your keys as well as "lost causes" which gives you the impossible.

Anonymous said...

I had also thought St. Christopher existed, even if the story is more of a legend than a historical account. And a good point is made in saying that being dropped from the Church calendar isn't the same as being declared to have not existed... Is there another official list you're referring to? And also, you said that Saint Philomena became a saint because of her huge cult following... but for a person to truly be able to be recognized as a saint, there has to be that whole process, right? With the two miracles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the canonization... I'm not familiar with St. Philomena, but maybe she's just referred to as SAINT Philomena because her cult following started calling her that, even without a canonization and the whole shebang? But then what about saints like Peter, Paul, the Apostles, etc.? Did they all have canonization ceremonies way back when to make them able to be officially declared as saints? I guess my main question boils down to, how can we be so sure that saints like Christopher and Philomena DIDN'T exist?

An Imperfect Mama said...

Wikipedia? Since when did Wikipedia become official Church Word???

Like someone else asked.. where is there an official list of saints? After all, he is still showing up on New Advent and other Catholic websites (which are probably a wee bit more in-the-know on the official Church Word and surely a heck of a lot more pro-Catholic than Wikipedia!!) But I am assuming he wasn't actually canonized... how does one find that sort of thing out?

Maggie said...

I would imagine that out of the millions of Christians over the ages, quite a few were named Christopher, so it's not "wrong" to ask for his intercession- there are probably dozens of Christophers in heaven praying for us.

But as the "the" St. Christopher- yes, you're right. Thanks for clearing it up, Sister!

JP said...

My understanding is that just because you've been dropped from the Church calendar does not mean you have been "un-sainted".

The rules regarding canonization (official declaration of sainthood.) have not been in existance for the entire history of the Church. Rules about required miracles etc. are relatively recent, partly due to the much better record keeping and more accurate science of modern times.

Early on, saint were sort of acclaimed into the position and through history many stories might meld into one story, or stories meld into a human history...

I would tend to agree that praying to St. Christopher or St. Philomena will probably attract the attention of another suitable and unoccupied saint, so it's probably still a good effort.

I always find it good to note though that anyone who makes it to heaven is a saint, even if they are not canonized (which btw gives permission for their names to be mentioned in the 'canon' of the Mass)

Anonymous said...

St. Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes.

My friend Judy is named after St. Jude; her parents prayed for help when they couldn't have a child.

Donna. W said...

So now it's either St. Jude or St. Anthony who is the Saint of the impossible. Sister, straighten me out here.

I do believe I got mixed up about the saints, though. Because now I remember Danny Thomas prayed to St. Jude... the saint of the impossible. I'm off to Google to see who in Sam Hill St. Anthony is.

Is there a "Saint for the protestants"?

Anonymous said...

Sr, St. Philomena did exist.
Unless you are saying that Pope Gregory Ok'd the veneration of her bones, he was in error.
How do we have her relics if she wasn't real? Now, it is interesting how she became declared a saint without anything known about her, but through private revelations.
St. John Vianney also had relics of her in his parish.

Hidden One said...

Like opey, I'm unconvinced of St. Philomena's nonexistence.

Anonymous said...

St Christopher was the one who wrote footprints in the sand :)hee hee

Anonymous said...

This whole thing about St. Christopher not existing is a total misinterpretation of what Paul VI did with the calendar of saints in 1969. The Church has NEVER said that St. Christopher, St.Philomena, Barbara and other saints didn't exist. That there is little known historically about them, yes but not that they didn't exist. St. Christopher continues to be the patron saint of Havana Cuba and there is a beautiful statue of him carrying the Christ Child (as in the story about St. Christopher and travellers) in the cathedral there which people venerate. A Cuban artist even gave a painting of St. Christopher to Blessed Pope John Paul II when he went to Cuba. The Church dedicated to St. Philomena is still open in Mugnano del Cardinale in Italy and her relics are venerated there. So,Catholics, continue to venerate St. Christopher and ask him for his protection.