Sunday, September 05, 2010

The attraction of the saints...

Faces of holiness.
While I worked in retail, one of the qualifications I looked for in sales associates was friendliness, intelligence and good looks.  Upper management sometimes thought I was kidding - but I was convinced that the attractiveness and friendliness of the person attending the customers was very important.  I worked for a religious goods company and therefore I was convinced good looking, pleasant, friendly guys, who also knew the faith and their merchandise was vitally important to grow the business and attract priests from around the State.  I often said, "men are attracted to men".  And it is not a gay thing at all.  I experienced it myself growing up.  As a young man I could get in to to see just about any priest or bishop (or prioress too) I wanted, and I was frequently invited to dinner or a show - which I usually declined BTW. 
I'm only saying this by way of introduction to my post here.  Attractive people attract people - now that I'm old and ugly, I'm invisible.  But I digress.  Nevertheless, attractive saints attract devotees and clients - clients are persons who attach themselves to a particular saint, regularly asking for favors, following their example, and so on.  The saint in turn leads them to a more devout life and aids them in becoming holy.  Sometimes divine providence attracts us to a particular saint by natural means - just as we are attracted to friends on earth.  For instance, St. Gemma and Bl. Pier Giorgio are two very attractive saints.
Saints for outsiders.
You will notice in my sidebar I usually have posted a couple young, attractive saints.  These guys not only appeal to young and old lay people alike, but guys - and some of these guys may be same-sex attracted for reasons deeper than friendship.  In fact, a friend of mine, Jamie Becker, a fellow artist, formerly a marketing VP at Marshall Field's/Macy's, was interested enough in the saints in my sidebar to inquire and read about them.  My friend is Jewish.
Jamie chose Pier Girorgio to paint, although he included Jacques Fesch and Alberto Marvelli in the composition (shown above), along with images of men and boys either murdered for being gay, or imprisoned, ostracized, and executed for being so.  I asked him what he wanted to say by the painting.  He just told me he did not understand why the Church canonizes some single men, or declares some to be martyrs, yet refuses to honor gay men like those hanged to death in Muslim countries, or victims of gay bashing elsewhere.  More deeply, he may have been wondering about a lot more... like, 'how can a young man remain sinless?' - Psalm 119: 11
The attraction of Catholicism.
Now any knowledgeable Catholic might react to such a misunderstanding and jump to their feet to explain in no uncertain terms that these saints, Pier Giorgio, Alberto, Jacques, and others are not gay, while proceeding to instruct my friend exactly why a saint is made a saint, or a martyr is a martyr.  Nevertheless, Jamie was very sincere in asking the question and I sensed a very deep respect on his part, the very question revealed a great deal about his sensitivity to the subject.  He once told me he would like to pray but he didn't know how.  Another time he said he didn't believe in God.  On his way to Paris recently, I told him if the plane crashes to "tell God you are sorry for all your sins and ask him to take you to heaven" - he responded, "but I don't have any sins".   I laughed and told him - "just say it anyway".  So you see, there is something quite sincere and loving in this man, and he is made for God's love.  He promised to visit Rue de Bac and light a candle for me while he is living in Paris.
Anyway - aside from the politics and controversies which surround Catholic teaching, and often embroil our relationships with one another, many of the individuals involved are not necessarily out to get us.  As Jamie's painting demonstrates - sometimes they are just trying to figure us out, while sorting through an awful lot of stuff themselves.  Sometimes non-religious people just want to know why we believe and live according to Church teaching when it is often so inconvenient to do so... frequently remaining the outsider, stranger and pilgrim - even amongst Catholics.
Truth is...
Of course I respectfully tried to explain, though the murder of homosexual men is unjust, they cannot be considered martyrs, or canonized by the Church.  Saints are made saints because of their heroic virtue and because they example the Christian life and teaching.  Martyrs are martyrs because they suffered for the faith, their death is their witness to Christ and the Gospel.  The Martyrs of Uganda are saints because they refused to submit to homosexual sin.  Though St. Sebastian has been adopted by gay people as a patron (his physique plays a big part here), he was martyred out of hatred for the faith.  Martyrs of chastity were killed because they resisted sexual sin, and so on.  Of course, he already knew that. 
The truth is hard to accept sometimes, and it is only obtained by long labor and study and prayer... to paraphrase Dostoevsky.  But 'love is the teacher... and we must love not occasionally, for a moment, but forever.' 
Art:  Blessed Pier Girorgio Frassati - Jamie Becker, 2010
Acrylic and collage on canvas.  Approx. 36"x30"


  1. +JMJ+

    Terry, your introduction reminded me of a local restaurant, very upscale and reputable, which was well-known for hiring only attractive servers. I think the owner is on the record somewhere for saying that people have heartier appetites when they are surrounded by beautiful people (which, of course, translates into bigger orders). I suppose something similar could be said about the saints and the Lamb's Supper.

    And I also have a friend who has said something similar about the state of her own soul: "I don't need to go to confession because I've never committed a mortal sin."

    I think a common thorn in the side for many of us whose faith is deep, fervent and true is the fact that we're just not attractive enough to draw the people we care about the most to God, too.

  2. beautiful painting....:)

  3. Beauty is one of the "philosophical/theological transcendentals"...your insight about "beauty", "attractiveness" is very much in conformity with the understanding that we, as humans, by our very nature are attracted to "beauty" ("Beauty will save the world"--Dostoevsky).
    The "beauty" of a person filled with God's Spirit; loving; engaging; interested in others and humble; and very transparent, is very attractive to many...
    "handsome" priests who are also holy can make a real impact upon the lives of many; not just "good-looking", but virtuous which makes the physical even more attractive.
    But vain and narcissistic priests, while having an attractive appearance, are NOT beautiful, nor do they attract people to the right values.
    Great reflection, once again, Mr. Terry!
    And hey, being "old and ugly" ain't the worst thing in the world (we should start an "old Catholic geezer's society":<)!)

  4. I seem to remember some people raising the question a few years ago about why the pope didn't canonize the Rev. Martin Luther King. Without detracting in any way from Dr. King's accomplishments, they didn't understand what constitutes a martyr or how a saint is beatified in the Church.
    My mother used to say, "Handsome is as handsome does." It's funny how some people whom we think are ugly become more attractive when we get to know them (and vice versa!)

  5. Being attractive only goes so far of course. I think my post here also reveals how superficial I've always been in my life...

  6. Off topic--

    But please pray for Fr Don Hope....he had a heart attack this past weekend and major bypass surgery....

    He was the dear priest who confirmed me into the Catholic Church..I will always remember doing First Confession with him..we must have cried for half an hour... a good holy priest (even if he smokes like a chimney..)

    God Bless him in his healing..


  7. Sara: Prayers for Fr.D.H. from here.

  8. Great apostolate you did with your friend.Me liked your speech and drawing Frassati.

    Ohhhhh. sorryyyy ,my english!!!

  9. You crack me up.

    Your like my family that I never knew.

  10. RE: "I don't have any sins."

    The Ten Commandments were given to Moses for the Israelites. I've been told the Book of Leviticus has something like 675 commandments.

    I'm not criticizing your friend. It is more a statement about how so many people are growing up today having no religious education.

    And of course, much religion being taught is inadequate or even wrong and of no merit for the student.

    How very sad. I have a friend who brags about how great suburban public schools are today. Yet his children have received almost no religious education.

    I'll take the 12 years of religious education that I received from nuns and priests, some often ill prepared for the task, any day over modern education.

    While I had an adequate education in grade and high school, and a much better education in college, they prepared me so that I have learned far more after my formative years than I did during them.

    So very sad.

  11. Ray: It is sad, isn't it?
    Even I received a very good formation, albeit Protestant, and knew what was right and what was wrong.
    Becoming a Catholic was just a "natural" or supernatural, if you will, progression.
    But today...oy!
    Young people don't have a clue anymore;
    I feel like a dinosaur.

  12. Terry: I know this is off topic...but steam is coming outta my ears...could you address this load of b.s. sometime soon?
    I know you will be able to treat this with greater agility and reason than I...thanks.

  13. My friend isn't religious - he hardly believes in God - one can't expect him to believe in sin. Don't be too harsh in your judgements - even the Church requires full knowledge and full consent.

    Angelo - thanks - but Jamie Becker did the painting - not me. He has another you might be interested in of a Spanish poet killed during the Franco regime... I forgot his name right now - go here:

  14. Terry: God is so loving and merciful...He "takes us as we are";
    those who have been given "much" better watch out...
    but those who struggle, are constantly beaten down, have no one to tell the the Truth...THEY will be the first in the Kingdom of God;
    they are the "poor"; and God have mercy on all of us that have been given so much and have squandered it in lack of gratitude...
    beautiful comments, Terry.

  15. Thanks very much Father. I'll check that link out too. ;)

  16. Side-bar saints! If it weren't the side bar saints, I wouldn't have known about Piergiorgio or any of these wonderful lesser-known saints. I am starting a new column in our diocesan weekly, focussing on the lay saints. The first one is of course Piergiorgio.
    Talking about being attractive, maybe we should add that to vocation promotion too. But then, no matter how bright and young the novices are, sooner or later, they will will become genuinely OFMs.... Old Fat Men.

  17. Br. William - yes indeed! LOL! I forgot to do a list of 20 lay saints for you. I will try to do it.

  18. Mr. T , post that for all of us poor sinners. :)


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