May 28, 2017

Saints and TIME Magazine as Wisdom Literature

Via Wikipedia, I found a chronological list of saints and zeroed in on the 15th and 16th centuries. It really does seem that Luther's break, in 1521, was preceded by a paucity of saints. Seems to point out the incredible necessity of saints, and having them in every age. (Now that St. Mother Teresa, St. Padre Pio and St. JPII have died there doesn't seem an obvious saint alive now. Maybe Pope Benedict.)

The 1200s had Aquinas and Dominic and Francis and Anthony, the 1300s St Catherine of Siena. There are plenty of blesseds in the 1400s and 1500s but not the sort of Lebron James-type interstellar non-martyr saints until St Ignatius and Francis Xavier, both coming just after Luther (founded the Jesuits 13 years after Luther's climactic break with Rome).

Perhaps you could blame the Protestant Revolution on a lack of saints (though combined with the invention of the printing press, which was a particularly effective way to spread heresy.)

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I'm always amazed to find wisdom literature in unlikely places - like the secular TIME magazine (admittedly, with a lot of help from J.R. Tolkien). And yet, voila!
“Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married,” Tolkien wrote. “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.”

Tolkien blamed our “soul mates” obsession on the Romantic chivalric tradition: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake. . . . It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man’s eye off women as they are” — that is, “companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.”

I love that: companions in shipwreck. True soul mates are made, not born. This tracks with what I see in long marriages. It took time for many of even the most loving couples to feel like kindred spirits. It wasn’t something that happened in the first hour, or even in the first year. It took time, and patience, and commitment.

Another friend told me that his tradition-minded parents, an adorable couple who would appear to the outside world like soul mates, didn’t have much binding them together when they married: “She was Jewish, and he had a good job; that was enough.” They struggled while their kids were growing up, resolving to stay together until the nest was empty and then go their separate ways. But something funny happened: by the time the children were grown, neither wanted to leave.

Our old notion of soul mates is not helpful. “The ‘real soul-mate,’” Tolkien wrote, “is the one you are actually married to.”
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I confess to deep appreciation for the sunroom, sun or no sun. It was fab to crash in my limb-lorn weariness, post-workout, on the sofa and dream-vise out the transoms. It's architecturally tasty, the slight mod of the A-frame being a figure of constant wonder. I'm bedazzled by the twin solatubes, the gentle decor, the glow of the track lighting, the windows jammed with the green of the evergreens beyond. It's, shall we say, a clean, well-lighted place. Our dream room, perchance.

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