Saturday, October 9, 2010

Some Indicators of Holiness Since St. Neophytos

Have pondered some the list of attributes gleaned from the writings and life of St. Neophytos the Recluse, 12th-13th century Cyprus. There are other aspects prominent in the societal and ecclesial indicators and approval of saints in the last 800 years.

One has to do with suffering. At this point in the reading of St. Neophytos' life and times, being in union with Christ as a suffering servant or victim soul is not emphasized, other than in martyrdom and persecution. The victim soul aspect of holiness seems a more recent development, attaining holy recognition in the late 19th century (especially in France) but extending well into the 20th century.

Suffering in reparation of sins and in union with the suffering Savior are seen in saints and servants of God such as Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Sr. Josefa Menendez, Sr. Mary of the Holy Trinity, Conchita of Mexico, Louise Lateau, and Bl. Alexandrina. A victim soul prominent in early 19th century is Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich. 

Earlier saints, including St. Mary Magdalena de Pazzi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine de Ricci, St. Clare of Montefalco suffered stigmata, but suffering was more a secondary vocation interwoven with their primary missions.

Another indicator of sanctity that seems increasingly important in the 20th and 21st centuries but highlighted in saints since the 16th century, is that of being a founder of a religious order or movement, authoring classics on the spiritual life, and teaming with a partner saint as founders and enactors of charitable works.  Saints of note as religious order founders as well as writers on the spiritual life include St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales (St. Jane de Chantel), St. Vincent de Paul (St. Louise de Merillac), St. John Bosco, St. Jose Marie Escriva (Opus Dei) and numerous others

An additional indicator for holiness that of a message or mission for the world given by divine apparition and locution. Saints in this category include St. Bernadette Soubirous (Lourdes, Immaculate Conception), Lucia and Bls. Francisco and Jacinta (Fatima, rosary, secrets), St. Faustina Kowalska (Divine Mercy), St. Catherine Labre (Miraculous Medal), St. Mary Margaret Alacoque (Sacred Heart of Jesus), and Bl. Mary of St. Peter of the Holy Family (Holy Name of Jesus).

A trait of holiness currently and in recent years is that of exterior works of mercy, aid to the poor and teachers. The term active or active contemplative has surfaced. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta predominates in our time as a champion of the poor, but there are many others whose mission was in active apostolate and charitable works: St. Margaret Mary d'Youville (Grey Nuns), St. Katherine Drexel, Mother Alphonsa (Rose Hawthorne Lathrop), St. John of God, St. Damien of Malokai, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Martyrdom continues in recent centuries as a sign of holiness. The martyrdom can be red (of blood) but also that of white martrydom. There remain many in the red martydom (death defending the Faith) category, including St. Thomas More, St. Edith Stein, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Paul Lwanga and Companions, Bl. Kateri Tekawitha. 

White martyrdom is the giving up of something highly personal and vital but may or may not result in physical death.  The death usually is one of tremendous inner sacrifice. St. Gianna Molla sacrificed her life for that of her child to be born, upholding the value of embryonic life.  Elisabeth Leseur endured marital persecution quietly, heroically, maintaining her marriage vows yet not losing her faith. Others gave up fame, fortune and social contact in order to love God alone.

Another category of 21st century, current times seems to be developing as a result of contemporary communication modes and a resultant global, charismatic following. Those who have brought renown to the Faith and the Church through use of media include Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Pope John Paul II. Mother Angelica (EWTN) may likely be promoted to sainthood following her death due to the efforts made through television and internet, as well as prominent, popular Catholic convert authors and speakers of current note, many who were "discovered" much as Catholic "talent" through television and internet promotion.

In the last category of sanctity traits, it seems the trait of flight from fame as indicator of holiness in earlier centuries through the time of St. Neophytos, has been compromised. As the culture increasingly encourages and favors fame, and as television and internet capabilities become accessible to all people world wide, withdrawal from the world and flight from fame is less valued, or at least is less feasible due to the tremendous temptation and visual-audio drawing presence to the public eye.

Some indicators of holiness may seem determined by society, culture and the Church based upon current trends of what is valued most and considered necessary for the Church and society in certain times (which may also be influenced by societal trends). However, the virtues of charity and humility, the element of personal, heroic sacrifice for the love of Christ and the Church, may help discern what is more man-approved traits as opposed to the spiritual truths, values and indicators of holiness in persons of any society and century.

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