The lives of the saints can, at times, seem just a little bit too virtuous and distant from us.
This evening, at Vespers, Rosie introduced us to unusual stories told of some saints. She was assisted in this by Richard Coles’ book Improbable Saints. We delighted in the strange, the eccentric and the down right bizarre.
Those introducing the stories showed objects to strengthen the story. In our photo Canon Alma reminds us of how St Margueritte d’Youville sold lingerie to make ends meet, and Andrew reminds us of how one of our diocesan patrons, St Denys continued on his journey after execution by carrying his head, thus making him a member of the worthy band of cephalophores – saints depicted carrying their own heads.
Although some of the stories were very strange there was also something endearingly earthy about them.
Behind the unusual and at times improbable stories we also encountered holiness in forthright terms. Denys couldn’t stop talking, the story told us, even after his head was cut off! Cuthmann loved his mother so much he took her around in a wheelbarrow while he looked for a new home. Dwynwen, is surely not alone in life in having an ambiguous relationship with her lover. Although she may be alone in that this was expressed in freezing him and then releasing him from her frost.
Mingled with the fun and strangeness of the stories was also an appreciation of the humanity of these saints.
Have you a favourite unusual story of a saint?
We prayed this evening: God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
REGARDING ST DENYS, THE CEPHALOPHORE: St John Chrysostom asserted that the severed head of a martyr was more terrifying to the devil than when it was able to speak.