Saints & Demons
Blog Post #3
In James Grehan’s book Twilight of the Saints, Grehan describes the different characteristics and the nature of sainthood in his second chapter Magic Men. I found this chapter to be the most interesting chapter because he explains how different saints have different types of qualities that identify them as saints. He describes two different types of saints; upright saints which are sober, notable, and extremely godliness, and the ecstatic saints who are known to be bizarre with their antics. Two examples that demonstrate their bizarre behavior are one how they sometimes steal from local shops, and two how they run around naked in front of sacred shrines to show a sign of worship. The reason this chapter interested me most is because my grandmother knew a Catholic saint, Padre Pio. As a kid she grew up in the same area as him and when she moved to America she held onto his gloves. Years later my aunt was diagnosed with ALS, and every time she would go to the doctors her and my grandmother would bring the gloves along with them for good luck. Upright saints are the saints who I am more familiar with because they are more concerned with law and prayer, and at this specific time in Grehan’s book they were mostly Sufis. Grehan’s characteristic description of upright saints supported my belief that saints are good and that they help good people who are in need.
In chapter 2 Grehan mostly talks about the different ways saints are recognized and how they operate in sainthood. When I think of saints I think of people who were and are extraordinarily faithful to their religion, as well as having a positive influence towards their followers. However, Grehan describes the different characteristics of sainthood that I never thought would qualify as sainthood worthy. An interesting fact Grehan pointed out is how saints could be anyone, and that they did not have to be the most notable or scholarly religious leader. Saints can be hereditary, poor, rich, educated, or non-educated. I enjoyed reading this section of the chapter because it showed me how all-good people are equal and that even the less superior being’s have the opportunity to be called into sainthood. It showed me that all people are equal, similar to the American culture today. The American culture practices the belief of equal opportunity, and I found this interesting because it still plays a similar role in our present world.
A lot of the time sainthood finds one specific person and that person does not have the decision on whether or not he or she is a saint, sainthood finds them. Some saints were hereditary, “In its tamest form, sainthood was deemed heritable. It could pass from father to son like other physical and psychological traits.” (Grehan, p.70) Sainthood is an extremely complicated and dense part of religion. However, Grehan generally describes in this chapter how there is not a defining answer or an official way to becoming a saint, but usually sainthood is inherited or God declares someone into sainthood. In my opinion, the ecstatic saints that run around naked are extremely bizarre to be labeled into sainthood, but Grehan provides insight on how sainthood was characterized after the fifteenth century.
Grehan addresses another interesting element of saint veneration that relates to people trying to acquire saint blood so they can use it on themselves or other people to cure sicknesses. “One of the most compelling powers that saints wielded, and that contemporaries most appreciated, was their mastery of the arts of healing.” (Grehan, p. 78) Here Grehan describes how saints were given the power to heal others, and this relates to my earlier comment regarding my aunt and grandmother taking saint Padro Pio’s gloves to the doctors every time she had an appointment. Grehan is showing how saint’s posses this sense of comfort and security amongst their believers because people feel their relationships are on a more personal level. A lot of the time saints were dead, but often time’s saints were alive and it allowed for people to feel a personal connection and relationship with a saint in comparison to God, whom many feel is an intangible being.
One of Grehan’s fundamental ideas is the way people view saints as good, but also bad because saints act on their own wills. Saints can use their miraculous power for positive impact on people, but they also can be seen as dangerous and turn against people if they are not treated appropriately. This brings up an interesting argument in Grehan’s book between the friction of Saints and Gods and who controls the primary source of power. The chapter is titled Magic Men because it describes saints being in control of a lot power that can be positive, dangerous, influential, or helpful to people of faith.