I never felt cozy with the saints because I thought the saints were for expert level Catholics–people holier than me. I thought you first “mastered” Jesus and only then could you move on to God and then Holy Spirit and then Mary and then, after all of that, you were finally ready to get to know the saints. Like a sort of conveyor belt of spirituality. I was still trying to wrap my mind around Jesus (“So, back up, you’re saying he is both man and God. Like, equally both?”)
I’ve always liked St. Thomas, but that’s just because he’s known for doubting the risen Jesus was Jesus. I relate to that. We call him Doubting Thomas and don’t you think Doubting Diana has a really nice ring to it? St. Faustina was cool because she was the vessel Christ used to give us the Divine Mercy Chaplet and that’s a really beautiful prayer centered on God’s mercy.
St. Faustina and my dude Thomas were my only saint friends and, to be honest, they were more like saint acquaintances. You know the type, you smile politely as you pass one another in WalMart. Lately, I’ve felt really lonely in the faith. For some really annoying reason my heart is oriented toward loving people who are in groups I’m not in. I think as Christians it is very important that we love those people especially well. Let me be really clear about what groups I’m talking about here: LGTBQ or black or non believing or liberal or conservative people. I think we do a really crappy job of loving the people who belong to groups we’re not in.
Or, better put, we love them in a way that checks a box. We think love means “not hate,” and to be really honest we don’t even do a great job of that. I have this problem where I overestimate my influence. My therapist says I am an idealist to the core. She says it’s not realistic to think if I say really beautiful or inspiring or smart words everyone will suddenly understand where I’m coming from and hug one another in one big Jesus kumbaya hug. I am often prideful enough to believe that the world needs to hear what I have to say and if they’d just listen to me they’d be informed and then transformed. How silly is that? So silly, but here I am moving through life thinking it regardless.
What actually happens is every single time I say the magic words people cock their heads to the side as if I’m speaking a different language. The words are not magic and they want to know “what about admonish the sinner, Diana?” and “we’re at war, Diana!” There is not a single space within the Catholic world where you won’t hear people talking about war. Why? Who are we freaking fighting? I just want to shout from the rooftops that whomever we’re battling is a beloved son or daughter of God—an image bearer of our living Lord (and can we please put down the swords?).
I imagine God, like a parent, mostly doesn’t care who hit who first, He just wishes everyone would stop fighting (& yelling & asking for snacks). Anyway, I’m getting off track here but what I’m trying to say to you is that I feel very lonely in Catholicism. It feels like my brothers & sisters in Christ are speaking a different language than me and I don’t know where my place is. Believers need community. Communion. We’re not meant to walk towards Christ alone.
Saints as Community
I wonder if maybe the Saints aren’t meant to be a special Catholic achievement prize, but instead are meant to be part of our community. I started learning about them hoping some holy bad ass could become my spiritual sister.
I heard about St. Hildegard in the book Accidental Theologians (a book on the four women doctors of the Church) ns she is now my HOME GIRL. It doesn’t matter that she is a German woman who lived 1,000 years ago because she’s my current best friend. If I saw her in WalMart I’d wrap her up in a bear hug and block the entire aisle while we chatted. St. Hildegard broke through crazy barriers for a woman of her time. She admonished the Church and she was a feminist before the word even existed. I’m heavily obsessed with her and will be finding a way to insert her into every conversation for the forseeable future. You’ve been warned.
Listen, maybe you feel spiritually alone like I do. First of all, let’s meet for drinks cause I know how you feel and I want to talk, but second of all, look to the saints. They are not only meant for the Catholicy Catholics. They are meant for the baby Catholics like you and me. Hildegard might be your girl, too (and if so, I’m happy to share). Or maybe there’s some other saint BFF waiting for you. If you’re longing for community and not finding it, look to the saints..
To learn more about St. Hildegard here are some resources:
- There are a few movies available on Amazon Prime. I’m watching this one.
- This episode of the Abiding Together podcast is fiya.
- This episode of Fountains of Carrots (Haley Stewart) is on my listening list of the week.
- You can get Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity here. Here are a few excerpts from the book I loved.
- “There is a story about Hildegard’s final clash with the Church. Near the very end of her life in 1178-1179, she had buried a nobleman in her monastic cemetry. The bishop contested this burial, claiming that the man had not died in a state of grace. Hildegard protested that he had given a death bed confession that made him eligible for burial in sacred ground, and she obscured the burial site so that no one could disinter the body.”
- “Many times she expresses herself courteously and modestly; yet when it comes to asserting what she believes to be right, she will do it bravely, outfacing all opposition.”
- “The Spirit of God is a life that bestows life, root of the world-tree and wind in its boughs. Scrubbing out sins, she rubs oil into wounds. She is glistening life alluring all praise, all-awakening, all-resurrecting.” -St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Will you help me? If you think there’s a saint I should know about, comment below please!