Catholic · humor · Saints

From Sour-Faced Saints, Deliver Us! Why the Church Makes Me Smile.



There are lots of things to love about being Catholic–the Eucharist, the holy traditions and the sheer beauty of her buildings and ceremonies. But one thing that I really love about my Catholic faith is that it often makes me chuckle. While the Church was birthed by Christ, it was men, with all their foibles, who grew it. For two thousand years imperfect, quirky humans have shaped Church history and they have left behind some amusing sights and stories, and many of the best are about the “stars” of our church—the saints.

Did you know we have a Saint who could fly? St. Joseph of Cupertino wasn’t like Sister Bertrille, scooting through the sky at will—he apparently experienced ecstasies and levitated in times of religious intensity, particularly when celebrating Mass (no falling asleep for his parishioners!) or praying the Divine Office. But despite his gravity-defying tendencies, Joseph was remarkably human, unlikable even. It is said he tended toward bursts of rage, perhaps encouraged by the scorn he received when his fervor broke out in unusual ways, and he was removed from more than one religious community for his disruptions. He was even investigated by the Inquisition because flight was seen to be an act of the devil. But in the end, Joseph’s devotion to God and the Church overcame his human frailty and he lived his last 35 years as an aesthetic, eating no more than two solid meals a week. Or maybe that was just to keep him at his flying weight.

St. Theresa of Avila is a particular favorite of mine (I wrote about her here, as well), because she was a woman after my own heart—she loved to laugh, she didn’t take herself very seriously and she believed that a smile would do much to bring people to the Church. Theresa is famous for saying, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, deliver us.” Ultimately, though, it’s Theresa’s disposition after death that brings a smile to my face. As a saint and a Doctor of the Church, her relics were prized and there was much clamor to venerate them from the faithful. So the Church did the only sensible thing and cut her up. Now you can see her incorruptible arm in Avila, Spain where she was born and her heart in the convent where she died, not too far away. Holy multiplying saint parts, Batman!

St. Theresa’s inccoruptible arm in Avila! 
I think Theresa would like that Rosie here copied her arm pose!


I don’t think any conversation about the Church’s most amusing saints is complete without the saint who drove out Nessie. What? You didn’t know that Saint Columba, one of the 12 Apostles of Ireland, scared off the ancient plesiosaur in that Scottish lake? No wonder no one has been able to find it since. According to the story, Columba and his companions were traveling near the lake and came upon some men burying a man who had been killed by “the monster in the lake”. Columba ordered one of his men to jump in and swim to the other side and retrieve a boat (saint, yes—good boss, not so much). When his man was snatched up by the monster, Columba made the sign of the cross in the air and commanded,”Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.’” And so Nessie did, never to be seen again.

Buh Bye, Nessie!  (Courtesy of Servant and Steward blog)

These amusing, all-too-human tidbits aren’t the core of our faith, of course, but to me, they add a richness to the tapestry of our experience in it. It’s like a family—one knows the love, commitment, and sacrifice that is at its heart, but it’s sitting around the table, repeating for the millionth time the story of Uncle Fred and that unfortunate incident with the pig that bonds the family and creates memories. So thank you St. Joseph, St. Theresa and St. Columba, not only for your intercessions on our behalf, but also for making our Church a little more fun!

**This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network bloghop!  Check it out here!

8 thoughts on “From Sour-Faced Saints, Deliver Us! Why the Church Makes Me Smile.

  1. I love this! It’s a lot easier to relate to saints who have foibles and seem human than to ones whose virtue seems unattainable. I love St. Peter because he is always making mistakes and saying silly things in the Gospels. Sometimes I almost laugh in church at him! Yet Jesus chose him to found the Church upon, because of his deep faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was awesome!! I love the read, and the insight into your favorite saints!! I had never heard of the St. Theresa quote, and fear I would be a “sour-faced saint,” if I ever make it that far. This was a fun read.

    Thank you for sharing!!

    (Also, my current favorite saint is St. Peter these days, but it’s always subject to change…)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a fun read! Yes, I love ❤️ the stories of the Saints! It’s like hearing beautiful stories of our loved ones. As Catholics, we have such a rich history and all types of people who enriched our faith, and of course, gives us a chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the stories! And you´re right, those stories that fill in the blanks from the time between those letters to the early church to what we see today are necessary. I was raised Protestant, and their view of things (or how the church came to be the way it is) is filled with a lot of holes (at least, it is when raised in a tradition that skips over everything from those last letters published in the Bible up until the Reformation–that´s a lot of missing history!) When studying topics like baptism, I´ve been surprised to find out that things like godparents aren´t just a handy recent invention, but something that´s been done since the very early days of the church. Or that sprinkling water on babies’ heads (instead of a full immersion baptism) kept a lot of infants from dying of colds caught while being baptized in the days before modern medicine.

    So thanks for filling in a few more holes for me!

    And I LOVE that St. Teresa quote and had never heard it before!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I needed this this morning! I’ve had a series of crises hit our family, and have been super focused on the role of loss and suffering in my spiritual life. Which is healthy to a point, but good to remember that there’s much more to the journey!

    Liked by 1 person

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