Tuesday, November 05, 2013

More weird saints stuff...

St. Zosimas and Mary

I'm grateful when someone notable writes about crazy saints.

I enjoy writing about them - weird saints, that is.  Most recently I wrote about some of the transvestite monks - women pretending to be men so they could be a monk.  How did they get away with it?  I have one idea.  Did you know that anorexics frequently stop menstruating?  Therefore the monks wouldn't be bothered by the 'scent of a woman'.  HOO-HAH!

[And yet I wonder why my posts on the subject are ignored.]

"The Anomalous Saints” is in fact the title of a new book by the late Belgian Benedictine monk, Reginald Gregoire.  It is fitting that a monk should write about such saints, as monasteries have their share of strange people living within their enclosures, saints in the making, but nonetheless weird.  Oh, it's true.  In the monastery where I lived for such a very short time we had some crazy monks.  One old brother could escape the Infirmary and wander into the Guest House naked.  Another old brother loved to regale the guests with stories of how he died once.  So you see, strange people can indeed be sanctified.

I think Reginald Gregoire's book would be fun to read:
Browsing through the book’s pages, the reader discovers that Serapion – a 4th century monk – was called the Sindonite, an adjective which was probably roughly equivalent to today’s term “nudist”. The saint wore just a shroud (a linen tunic) as a symbol of absolute poverty. Then there is David the Dendrite of Thessaloniki (6th century) spent his life atop a tree as a sign of penitence. Not to mention the “transvestite” female saints – this is in fact far more common in hagiography than one would expect – who for years pretended to be men to escape violence or for other reasons. St. Paula the Bearded is another very strange case. She was venerated at Avila, Spain and according to a 19th century legend she apparently took refuge in a chapel to get away from a young man with evil intentions and prayed for help before the cross. The legend says when she left the chapel she had a beard and moustache growing on her face and this made her harasser run away.

But Gregoire’s book is not all amusing stories like this. The events surrounding the lives of some saints lead to far more serious questions: the Virgin Lidvina, a Dutch 19th century mystic was an anorexic. Her biography proved interesting for the history of medicine.  - Vatican Insider

Mary of Egypt was naked and clothed by the monk Zosimas.  Some of the ascetics and fools for Christ went around naked as well.  Of course, many ascetics probably could be diagnosed anorexic today.  Therefore, the naked ones would hardly be an occasion of sin for anyone, I'm sure.  They followed the humiliated Christ ...
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  - Isaiah 53

I love crazy, eccentric people.

"Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame." - Luke 14: 15-24, Today's Gospel.


  1. One would think you were a Christian of some sort Terry. High praise, so ignore it.

  2. "And yet I wonder why my posts on the subject are ignored"

    Your thoughtful posts are hard to ignore and for me, well, a challenge to reply to as I lack knowledge in such areas. The lives of the many Saints are a mystery but they always point to Christ and that's enough for me. ^^

    Keep educating us so that we too may grow in knowledge of the lives of these many folks who made Christ their life and found eternal life for having done so.


  3. Ignore your posts? How is such a thing possible? I enjoy your eccentricity.

  4. I think its interesting, besides that eccentric people make the world itself more interesting...you have to wonder (and I know that this is going to upset people but I don't mean to its an honest question...) were these people saints because they were nuts and didn't have time to pursue anything else? Were they actually seeing visions, or were they dreaming it up or both, and if so, how does one tell the craziness from the real. Did they have these visions as being a whacko makes you attune to the supernatural and easier to hear God, (i.e. I am sure I am not going to have a vision when doing the laundry, well a vision of tediousness.)

    Interesting book to read. And for anyone who thinks I am being snide, I love our crazy saints (okay, St. Cecilia was over the top with the whole puss sucking thing but I am a hygiene freak...)

  5. Parepidemos - thanks.

  6. Mack - you're thinking of St. Catherine I think. Anyway - benedict Groeschl suggested she may have been anorexic - but I don't think it was the same type. I'm not sure we can say they were really nuts the way we measure sanity today. Their growth in holiness would suggest to me that they were well integrated and quite sane - just not normal, if you will.

  7. Penny and Yaya - thank you too!

  8. Your right Terry. My quick writing mistake!

  9. Mack, it's called discernment of spirits; not something I know a lot about but Fr. said you can ask if visions or thoughts are from God or somewhere else; he also says if they're of bad origin, you can tell them to go to the foot of the cross. They hate that. So yeah, it's possible to figure out where visions or thoughts are from. Oh, and God never berates. If you have berating, negative thoughts, send them to the foot of the cross.

  10. Don't worry, you are not ignored, even here in France ! Life of saints shows how much real faith is no sense for the world. The modern Church is much often tasteless and would not allow eccentrics as often as in the previous centuries unfortunately. But there are still around, inside and outside monasteries souls of fire who do not care about what the world and the so called wise think about them; They are precious stones in the Church.

  11. Jean-Francois - I'm so happy to know some one in France reads me - thank you.

    Your comment sparked many memories for me.


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