Devotion to the saints.
Today is the feast of John Vianney. "Vianney!" The devil used to taunt him, derogatorily commanding his name at him - like a gestapo agent. Errraough! The Saint quietly went about his duties, nonplussed. I love St. John - others find him intimidating - too rigorous - forbidding dances and drinking and bawdy jokes - a prude, a Jansenist, and so on. Yet when you read his sermons and consider his generous sacrifices, you see nothing but humility, sweetness, and charity. Charity makes what seems harsh lovely and agreeable - even having one's bed set afire.
Sharing the lot of the saints in light is the Christian's delight in this life and his beatitude in the next. If something from their earthly life bothers you or seems incomprehensible to our ears - ignore it. Look to what is attractive in their example - even if it is only the way an artist has depicted them - that is how the Holy Spirit is attracting you... grasping you.
For instance, I was reading the life of St. Martin De Porres once, and in the narrative on his penances - which make no sense to contemporary standards - it was related how before dawn he would go to the lowest level beneath the bell tower of the church, where a slave would scourge his naked body bloody. Way too S&M for my taste - no wonder some Dominicans got into ... never mind. Anyway, I put the book down, never to take it back up to read again. TMI. I do not need to know that crap. Instead, I prefer to share the lot of St. Martin in light; the light which emanates from his charity, his kindness, his contemplation amidst the duties of his state in life - the ordinary. Thus you get an idea of what I mean about ignoring those cultural practices I don't understand - and what we are not called to imitate.
So. If the saints condemned this or that which has become commonplace in our era - what is one to do? Give up the faith? No. First, check your scruples with your confessor or spiritual director - especially if you think of scourging the hell out of yourself. Then check the earlier, cultural discipline against what the Church recommends today - you can't be holier than the Church. It's like the Communion in the hand deal. Is that the norm? Then you aren't sinning if you do likewise.
Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.
We need to have more trust in God, thanking him for having made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light - he gives us the strength we need to deal with the present moment, to endure whatever may come - each day. He it is, who in the saints and in ourselves, accomplishes even more than we could ever ask or hope for. He chose us - calls us (vocare - vocation) in our own peculiar way - and no it is not 'individualism' - since he chose us in Christ before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. This choosing makes us his handiwork - not ours. He chose us - to be conformed to the image of his Son, not to the image of the saints - each saint is but a facet of of that image, just as we are destined to be.
So in that light, if when our heart is attracted to the secret encounter between the Child Jesus and St. Anthony - we are attracted to experience such an encounter. Perhaps in the lectio of our morning prayer - sharing the lot of the saints in light... We know the little Jesus emerged in light while Anthony ruminated the Scriptures... the Word became flesh in that moment of ecstasy. We can share in that - our hearts burning within us.
Similarly, the vision of St. Paschal of the Blessed Sacrament amidst his scullery duties reveals to the simple how our daily duties can be lifted up as an offering, an active participation in the silent, loving action of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist... sharing the lot of the saints in light.
So the harshness, the all too wonderful accomplishments of this saint or that, and other discouraging feats posited from their lives, ignore it if it causes you to stumble; leave aside every encumbrance it poses for you - and look to the light the saints attract us with. When we seek what is holy and good, full of light and truth, consoling in its mystery, we encounter the love of God - we share the lot of the saints in that light. We can't appropriate their light for ourselves, we share in it. The example of the saints serves to attract us to seek first his kingdom, his way of holiness, and then everything else falls into place.
Don't try to measure up, measure down. Humility is more pleasing to God than accomplishing great feats of penance, dressing like a frump, condemning every thing and every one who doesn't fit the mold of a plaster saint. God chose us - the weak of the world, those who count for nothing - to share the lot of the saints in light... to praise his glory.