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!
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.
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!