Beyond Blue

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that reads “Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks you’re an a—hole.”

It’s a gentle but effective reminder that on those days that I manage to piss off every person around me, God will still give me an invitation to his big bash in heaven if I say sorry and try harder tomorrow. That’s worth a lot when Eric can’t take the mess anymore (if five Tupperware containers fly out of the cupboard when he goes to take his vitamins) or when the kids delight in telling me that I’m a bad mom and they wish daddy would stay home with them, not me (“because the hourly wage of an architect is a tad higher than that of a writer, so until I write my bestseller, you are stuck with me”).

For a person who aspired to be a saint in grade school (nothing short of beatification for my soul, thank you), I find it especially comforting to read about the imperfections, foibles, and character defects of the saints.

In his intriguing article, “Saintly Bad Behavior,” Fr. Jim Martin, an editor of “America” magazine and author of “My Life with the Saints,” argues that being holy means behind human, not perfect.

Here’s an excerpt:

“[St. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter, St. Jerome, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa] were holy, striving to devote their lives to God. They were also human. And they knew it, too. Of all people, the saints were the most cognizant of their flawed humanity, which served as a reminder of their reliance on God.

“Unfortunately, well-meaning hagiography often tries to dial down the saints’ human side to make their lives seem more virtuous. So, the modern-day conception of Francis of Assisi ends up depicting him as a kind of well-meaning peacenick, rather than the complicated man who was something of a hothead. (Francis once clambered atop the roof of a house his brothers built and began tearing it apart—he felt it was not in keeping with their life of poverty.)

“While I disagreed with some of Pope John Paul’s positions, and while the late pope wasn’t always a fan of the Jesuits, I believe he was a saint. The man born Karol Wojtyla was devoted to God, devoted to advancing the Gospel, and devoted to the poor. And, just like his critics, he was aware of his faults. (He went to confession weekly.) Those who oppose the idea of St. John Paul might remember that perfection is not a requirement for holiness. And sanctity does not mean divinity.

“Supporters of John Paul, on the other hand, should remember that his inevitable canonization does not mean he was flawless, and that it isn’t heretical to criticize a saint. As another saint, Frenchman Francis de Sales, wrote in the 17th century, “There is no harm done to the saints if their faults are shown as well as their virtues. But great harm is done to everybody by those hagiographers who slur over their faults. … These writers commit a wrong against the saints and against the whole of posterity.” John Paul wasn’t a saint because he was perfect; he was a saint because he was most fully himself. And that will make it easier for me to say, some day, St. John Paul, pray for me.”

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