Tuesday, July 27, 2010


While reading this morning from Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, I came upon these words:
"There was a time when I prayed to saints.  What I liked about them were their humble beginnings:  they were human, once, and so you knew that they just got it in a way Jesus never would.  They understood what it meant to have your hopes dashed or your promises broken or your feelings hurt."
My first reaction was shock, but then thinking it over, the statement brought answers to questions long held.  On my mission to the Philippines I often wondered at a land steeped in Catholicism.  One of my earliest experiences was a visit to the Quiapo Church in down town Manila.  There were life sized statues of every saint imaginable.  All of the Jeepneys had a statuette of St. Christopher, the patron saint of athletes, mariners, ferrymen and travelers, glued to the dash.  Idolatry aside, I couldn't understand why folks would pray to a saint or Mary rather than Heavenly Father.  I couldn't get my mind around choosing some other Mediator besides Jesus Christ.

The book I was reading yesterday, Bachelor Brothers' Bedside Companion by Bill Richardson, devoted a good deal of time ridiculing the invocation of blessings from the Saints.  Richardson made some lighthearted fun of various, sometimes, obscure saints whose patronage was both interesting and amusing:  Saint Gertrude of Nivelles is patron of cats and is invoked against mice.  St. Agatha is the patron of bell makers and wet nurses and is invoked against volcanoes.  St. Agabus is patron of fortunetellers, which seems a bit oxymoronic to me.  More familiar to most of us is St. Nicholas who is the patron saint of children (obviously), sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, perfumers, opothecaries and pawnbrokers.  St. Nick seems to have a conflict of interest on a couple of counts.  Richardson's character Caedmon was making a few bucks making bread dough saints, which he sold with an accompanying prayer.  Medal pedaling is a long held Catholic tradition.  Quite lucrative I'm sure.  Before I share Caedmon's prayer to St. Nicholas with you, you need to understand that Nicholas seemed to like the number three.  He is purported to have saved three girls from prostitution by giving each a bag of gold.  This spawned the practice of hanging three gold balls outside a pawn shop so the broker might invoke his patron's favor.  He also restored life to three boys slaughtered by a butcher, saved three sailors off the Turkish coast and rescued three men who were condemned to die.  If Nicholas is your patron you might consider hanging out with a couple of friends.  Anyway, here's Caedmon's prayer:
Yuletide comes, the bills mount up, the stores sell off their stock, 
Let us pray St. Nicholas will keep us out of hock.  
As he plucked the butchered boys from out the salty brine, 
May he always help us tow the sacred credit line; 
Otherwise we'll be compelled to leave the tinselled halls 
And swap our Christmas loot for cash beneath three hanging balls.
Please forgive my levity.  I commenced this essay in all seriousness.  As I said, I've found it difficult to understand the Catholic obsession with saintly intermediaries.  That is until now.  Picoult's observation cleared the entire thing up for me.  Clearly Catholics do not understand what we are taught in Alma 7:10-12

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.  
Contrary to the supposition in Picoult's book, Jesus does get it.  He gets it better and more entirely than anyone else.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  (Isaiah 5:3-4)
Apparently, Catholics are taught that Jesus was above sorrow and pain and because of His otherly nature cannot understand the vicissitudes of mortality.  My experience is just the opposite.  Jesus, more than anyone else can relate to our sorrow, pain and grief.  He experienced my own suffering on an intimate and personal level, known to no other besides myself.  And so it is for every single individual who has or will ever abide on this planet.  He is the only one qualified to mediate between us and the Father.  It breaks my heart to know that millions out there are not aware of the breadth and depth of His compassion.  Compassion available to us  for the very reason that He most certainly does GET IT.

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