Friday, November 29, 2013

Tuesday Prompt: Ellen Hawkins: Saint


Someone with a heart of such dimensions that they can love the unlovely, sacrifice self and endure martyrdom, all with a smile or, more often, a saintly visage despite the blood dripping from the arrow that pierces their forehead. Who would be a saint?
            The will to deny self for the sake of others is not natural to man. He is a survivor, one who slays other beasts in order to eat, then slays a few more because he can. It is his nature to subdue and enslave lesser animals– including the weaker of his own kind. Man still has a long way to go to trample on such instincts. That a saintly person should rise from within the company of men is miraculous. But those who lead exemplary lives, showing constant kindness and concern for others, surely demonstrate that it can be done.
           In some societies we take this ‘goodness’ for granted, then turn nature on its head by insisting that saintliness is in us all, if only we could learn to stop name-calling and sword-brandishing. So we speak politely, ban words that might offend and before we know it political correctness has crept in and with it the notion that paying lip service matters more than actions.
           When preparations for the canonization of Chile’s first saint, Santa Teresa de Los Andes, were underway in 1993, I followed the story in the press with goggle-eyed wonder.  So entranced was I by the process– the billboards at every bus stop, the CDs on sale, the columns of print about the life of the young saint, the huge screens being erected up and down the country so everyone could watch the ceremony live from Rome–that a  friend bought me a book called ‘Making Saints’ by Kenneth Woodward.  It was equally fascinating, so much so that I talked about it to anyone who would listen.  “I’ve got this book,“ I’d say.  “It’s called ‘Making Saints’ “, then bore them silly with the details before offering to lend it. What finally dampened my enthusiasm was another friend who laughed and said, “Making saints?  I think it’s a bit late for you.” 

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