Saturday, November 12, 2011


Friday I walked through the check-out line at WalMart and saw that Kim Kardashian had checked into rehab. Apparently her recent, much celebrated marriage was a hoax designed to make money. At first I thought Ms. Kardashian was going into marriage rehab, but then realized I was mistaken. Curious about the concept of marriage rehab, I did a little research and found there are indeed marriage rehab centers, which seems fitting, given society's gross failure to make marriage work.

Ms. Kardashian was not, it turned out, going into marriage rehab, but rather, a substance abuse program. These have become a kind of secular rite of penance.

It is sad that this is front-page news, read by millions. I realize people thirst for gossip, because exultation over the mess in which others find themselves has a kind of sick, tonic effect on one's own sense of self-worth. This is part of what makes blogging so popular. Profiting over this lust for gossip is on par with profiting from selling cocaine.

On a brighter note, the last few days have seen a spate of Memorials to saints. As these saints have not made the cover of the National Squalor recently, and are unlikely to anytime soon, I thought I would give them some love right here. The Eternal Optimist is just trying to do "his bit," as the English used to say during the War (that's WWII, for you younger folk). We are engaged in another kind of War, that has gone on for two millennia, and promises to continue for quite a while.

Without further ado, our recently Memorialized Saints:

Saint Josaphat
, born in a little town in then Lithuania (part of modern day Ukraine) in approximately 1580. He died at Vitebsk, Russia, on November 12, 1623, beheaded and shot. The Catholic Church celebrates his memorial on November 12. He spent his life preaching the gospel of Jesus throughout his homeland, living a poor and pious life, and earning a great deal of hatred over his success in converting people to Catholicism. Eventually his success at evangelization cost him his life. The Church celebrates a Memorial to St. Josaphat on November 12.

Saint Martin
, Bishop of Tours, in the province of Gaul (modern day France), was born in the Roman province of Pannonia (in modern day Hungary), about 316, and died at Candes, Touraine, in approximately 397. He entered the Roman army at an early age and was converted to Christianity there. Once he finished his time in the army he went to Gaul to study under St. Hilary, a famous bishop and theologian. St. Martin spent his life traveling among the pagan Gauls in the west and south of France, converting them to Christianity. For many centuries the memory of this kind and deeply virtuous man was revered in France, and his tomb was the site of pilgrimages. Sadly, the church that housed his tomb was sacked by Protestants during the Reformation, and then completely destroyed during the French Revolution. The revolutionaries built a road through the church to prevent its ever being rebuilt. Notwithstanding Revolutionary road-building, the Church remembers St. Martin with dignity and reverence, and celebrates his Memorial on November 11.

Saint Leo the Great
, Pope during the 5th century, was born in Tuscany of an aristocratic family on a date unknown, and died in office, as Pope, in 461. During his day the Roman Empire was beset by barbarian invasion and had largely disintegrated in the West, while the Church was beset by heresies that denied both the humanity and the "Godness" of Christ. The Church was plagued as well by bishops and priests who were lax in both their personal morality and in their Church practices, essentially making both up as they went along.

Leo is titled "The Great" because he addressed all of these issues at once during his Papacy. He intervened by personal appeals to deter Attila the Hun and other barbarians from invasion and destruction. He insisted on personal holiness and financial rectitude in his bishops and priests and followed up on this with intense energy and determination, fighting on many fronts at once. And he defined for the Church that Christ was both fully God and fully Man. Since Leo's day the Catholic Church has accepted this teaching as fundamental to its understanding of Christ and His work of salvation. The Catholic Church celebrates its memorial to St. Leo on November 10.

* * *

The saints remind us that human virtue and evil have not changed dramatically over the last several thousand years. We've gotten better at the technology of amplifying evil, but the basic impulses are the same.

Sadly, marriages arranged for the sake of money are nothing new. The Church is still plagued by bishops and priests who live immoral lives and teach rotten doctrine. Radical ideologues still trash religion, and jealous authorities murder pious religious people.

It is good to know that the "great [] cloud of witnesses" is watching and praying "how long, oh Lord?" up in heaven. Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 6:10. Here is a recent addition to the illustrious crew.

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