Sainted Fools

Following up on yesterday’s post here’s a few sainted examples of folks her seemed foolish to everyone around them and found greater happiness than they could ever have imagined before.

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St. Francis – A medieval knight-warrior, heir to a wealthy family, Francis took life very seriously and it nearly killed him as a prisoner of war.  Following his release he did something very foolish: he gave up everything and seeking friendship with Christ in the poor.  He even stripped himself naked before the Bishop as a sign of his new poverty (WARNING: doing that in 21st century DC would be a BAD IDEA).  That one excess aside, he found an immensely happy life in which he could bear up with failures, mistakes, and eventually his own death.  Common ‘serious’ wisdom says he should’ve been miserable, but today he’s a patron saint of happiness.  Chesterton calls him a jongleur de Dieu (God’s court jester).  I like to think of Francis’ child-like simplicity as pleasing to the Father… Kids dance in front of their parents all the time and however foolish they may seem, they’re dancing brings a smile from mom and dad.  God’s no different.

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Another great dancer was St. Ignatius of Loyola… literally, he was a master dancer and ladies’ man at court when a canon ball hit him in battle.  Ignatius would never leap to another quadrille, but he soon started dancing to God’s tune, seeking to please him by giving up courtly ways and adopting a life of radical discernment and obedience to the will of his Father.  Ignatius lived out a  life of hard work and struggle, but also of great joy.  His disciples became the Jesuits and changed the world.

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In this country, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton found glimmers of joy in the Catholic faith of friends… Chasing after that joy, she abandoned her Anglican heritage, her social position, and her home in New York to educate children in the wilderness of Maryland… no easy task for a single mom in the early 1800s, but she loved her newfound mission with reckless abandon.  The order of nuns she went on to found (Daughters of Charity) built Catholic education in the U.S. for a century, helping all, and especially the poor to lift themselves by the light of knowledge.

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Finally, there’s St. Bernadette… Born to poverty she heard the parleyed with the Blessed Virgin, which might seem crazy enough, but then she followed Our Lady’s instructions to dig in the mud and drink the water that she found.  Everybody thought Bernadette was a total fool, but the spring she found was in a place called Lourdes, which has brought healing and hope to countless millions.  Bernadette herself lived out her days in a monastery where she found great peace and joy in Christ.