A meditative note in yesterday's Magnificat for the feast of St. Bartholomew described the Saint as "One of the anonymous Apostles, all the personal details of his life have disappeared behind the Gospel he proclaimed. Like John the Baptist, he decreased to nothing so that Christ might increase."
I liked that a lot. I thought of my saints who disappeared - often to the consternation of those who knew them in life, and even those who come to know them as saints.
Take St. Alexis for instance. He disappeared - with the permission of his wife of course - and became a pilgrim, dying unrecognized as a beggar beneath the staircase of his family home - where he had lived once he returned to Rome. Unrecognized, he truly lived a hidden life. As did St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and even Matt Talbot. None of these guys wrote books or taught CCD, or preached in the streets, or acted as usher in church on Sundays. They just disappeared - in plain sight.
The pilgrim St. Roch, whose feast we just celebrated August 16, also ended his life in anonymity, dying in the prison of his home town Montpellier, unknown and unrecognized. His story here.
The other evening I was reading about one of my favorite female saints, Margaret of Cortona. All of her adult life she was shunned because she had lived with her nobleman lover until his murder, and bore him a son out of wedlock. After her conversion, rejected by family and friends, she remained the object of suspicion and gossip by those who knew her past. The Franciscans held her back from entering the Third Order for three years to test the sincerity of her conversion, and yet, after her admittance and adopting the penitents garb, people continued to doubt her repentance. Gradually she withdrew, becoming more and more of a recluse. Her penance testified to the authenticity of her conversion - not words or writings; she voiced no objections to her detractors, no defense of her virtue...
Then there is St. Marina, whose father kept her with him disguised as a boy, when he became a monk. After her father's death, Marina remained in the monastery, living undetected as a man. At one point Marina was accused of fathering the child of an innkeeper's daughter. She was dismissed from the monastery and spent five years in expiation of the crime, but was received back into the community after serving her sentence. When Marina died, the monks discovered she was a woman and therefore innocent of the paternity libel. She never spoke a word in defense of her virtue.