Friday, December 07, 2012

On the virginal integrity of the virgin martyrs.

Found in the combox...

Do you recall a post I did on Dawn Eden's new book, “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints”?  At the time, while Dawn was writing the book she was also researching the question as to whether a victim of rape could still be considered a virgin martyr; the answer is yes, but you should read her book for the details.

Just today, a Jesuit priest commented on that original post, with additional insight into the question at hand.  I reprint it here:

I think it might be important to remember here that most of the early Saints who are honoured as "virgin martyrs" probably suffered rape in prison beforehand almost as a legal requirement. The Romans were afraid of divine retribution if they put a virgin to death. . . We do have later accounts of some individual holy women being protected miraculously from violation. The fact that such accounts exist tells us that such interventions were not the norm. . .
In honouring them as virgin martyrs, the Church does not look to the physical integrity of their bodies as the proof of holiness, but to the spiritual integrity of their will and soul.
In the case of Maria Goretti, we have an extraordinary instance of purity radiating forgiveness -- that is why she was canonized in the 20th century, that was the true nature of her victory.
With regards to Saint Aloysius: it is now conjectured in recent biographies that he himself was probably the victim of sexual abuse on the part of women courtiers when he served as a page while still a little boy at the Spanish Court. This would account for his extreme physical shyness, modesty and almost pathological inability to raise his head when speaking to people.* [During his novitiate, his superiors made him wear a large papier-mâché collar to force him to keep his face up]. - Colombiere, comment on Dawn Eden's New Project

 * "This would account for his extreme physical shyness, modesty and almost pathological inability to raise his head when speaking to people."  Mercury should be happy to know this.


  1. * "This would account for his extreme physical shyness, modesty and almost pathological inability to raise his head when speaking to people."

    But it doesn't HAVE to account for it... I think there are sufficient examples of those with "down cast eyes" who have done so out of modesty even if they were the victims of sexual abuse.

  2. Thank you for posting my message.
    I am a priest, but not a Jesuit -- my name usually appears as "Father Colombiere," but somehow the "Father" seems to have dropped off. I am originally from Massachusetts -- and I even knew Catherine Passinanti!
    I enjoy your blog very much and have been re-reading old entries (hence the above posting).

  3. Thanks Terry. It doesn't make me happy to know the poor man was abused like that, but then again he's in heaven now and I ain't yet. But it does shed light on some things, which often happens when we know some of the grittier details of saints' lives.

    servus - you are right. But Terry pointed that out to me because I have always gotten the wrong lesson from St. Aloysius - that women should be considered as dangerous pieces of sin uranium, and beautiful women are the most dangerous of all. Please understand my point of view as a scrupulant who feels like I've sinned if I think a girl is really cute, or look twice at a beautiful woman. Or that my attraction to women is itself something sinful that needs to be purged.

    I am not excusing lechery or lust, only trying to com to grips with something that has plagued me badly, and something which I have tried to work through with numerous priests.

    Of course, the priest who posted this had no idea who I am. But Terry did :)

  4. Mercury are you finally accepting the truth? You're a normal human being. Sorry.

  5. Haha Nan - I've always known it in an intellectual sense, but have still been buffeted by worries. It's getting better though. Hey! "It gets better!" Someone call Dan Savage!

  6. "dangerous pieces of sin uranium" LOL!


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