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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Monday, August 11 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Ultimate role models

Though I didn't intend it when I began Friday's entry, it became more about negative role models than positive ones. (I often have little idea how an entry is going to develop when I begin it...often I end up deleting the first paragraph because the day's rumination takes a surprisingly radically different direction from the second paragraph on.) So since it became so negative, I feel I'd be remiss if I left this series on people making a difference if I didn't share some thoughts about the ultimate role models, at least in a Christian perspective: the saints.

Throughout most of the history of Christendom, one of the most popular types of reading matter, especially for young people but also all age groups, has been the lives of saints, saints' biographies, or, in the technical terminology, hagiography. Hagiography is an English rendering from the Greek word hagia, which means both holy and saint, and is therefore parallel to the Spanish and other romance-language use of "santa" (or the masculine, "san") for both words: Santa Cruz is Holy Cross in English; Santa Clara is Saint Claire. In Greek, the Hagia Sophia means "Holy Wisdom," though the name of the most famous Orthodox church in the world is often mistaken as meaning "Saint Sophie."

I've been reading voluminous amounts of hagiography since beginning my investigation of Orthodoxy nine years ago. I've been fascinated especially by the pre-schism saints* of Ireland and what is now known as the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales). Though there are reliable hagiographies of St. Patrick and St. Columba (Ireland's major native-born saint, the "apostle of Scotland"), Irish lore is filled with saints biographies that seem more like the legend of Paul Bunyan than the New Testament epistles (which should be models for all hagiography). In other words, they're often infused with accounts that appear more magical than miraculous. In the East, there are far fewer such "far-fetched" hagiographies (though the best known one, that of St. George the dragon slayer, comes to mind as being, at the least, borderline).

One of the things that bothered me for many years as a Protestant was the lack of saints after the close of the Book of Revelation (St. John the Beloved, also known as St. John the Theologian, who was the last of the apostles of Christ to die, circa 100 A.D., on the Greek island of Patmos). What about all the martyrs of the next three centuries? Why were not even the men most influential in Protestant history, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Cranmer—not regarded, if not as saints in the proper sense, at least as "authoritative voices." The Protestant answer was, "all believers are saints." But the problem with that is, if we're all saints, none of us are saints, just as "if all opinions are true, there is no truth." This sentiment was expressed much better by one of the best British authors of the past century, G. K. Chesterton, who went from agnostic to Church of England to Roman Catholic:

Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

It always seemed to me the dead should be given a vote, not in the elections of Chicago where many of the cemeteries' residents did get to vote in many of the elections of the past century, but in the councils and counsels of scholarship and intellectual leadership.

More role models to come.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*Pre-schism means predating the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches; all saints glorified before that time—roughly 1054—are considered equally holy in both communions. The best known (after the New Testament time): Augustine, Anthony. Bede, Patrick, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, John Climacus, John Chrysostom, etc.

More memories of the fabulous 'fifties

Here are some other things I would have told my son about my
childhood if I had figured his system could handle it.

I never had a telephone in my room. Actually, the only phone in the house was in the hallway and it was on a party line. Before you could make a call, you had to listen in to make sure someone else wasn't already using the line. If the line was not in use, an operator would come on and ask, "number please" and you would give her the number you wanted to call.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today
Children's notes to God
A nun asked her class to write notes to God.
Here are some of the notes the children handed in.

Dear God: I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big, but not with so much hair all over.
Dear God: You don't have to worry about me; I always look both ways.
Dear God: I think about You sometimes, even when I'm not praying.
Dear God: Of all the people who work for You I like Noah and David the best.

— Sent by Sallie Covolo

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