It is also true that, like people everywhere, each person has their quirks; those of us in the One True Church being no exception. There has, however, been a disturbing trend over the last two decades to label anyone who disagrees with the secular humanist/liberal agenda as suffering from mental illness. It is a return to the Cold War era Communist tactic: "You don't think our glorious leader is perfect? You must be crazy!" The dissident in question would wind up in a straightjacket and a padded cell, to be tortured to death and serve as a warning to others who dare to think differently.
In 2006, the wicked "New Atheist," Richard Dawkins, published his book The God Delusion. The clear message is that if someone believes in God, they suffer from a "delusion," a form of mental illness. Now, anyone who thinks homosexuality is unnatural and sinful has an irrational fear or "phobia." They aren't merely told they are wrong and presented with counter-arguments, they're homophobic--a made-up word to portray those who oppose sin as neurotic and therefore being mentally disturbed. If a person doesn't believe there are fifty-eight genders and it's OK to "pick your pronouns," they suffer from transphobia. Someone who correctly denounces Islam as a false, demonic, and violent sect is suffering from Islamophobia.
Indeed, not only are Christians having their sanity questioned, the world has gone so far as to blaspheme the saints as being insane. Pictured at the top of this post is St. Simeon Stylites. A Syrian ascetic saint, St. Simeon is famous for living 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo. According to Britannica.com:
Simeon entered a monastic community but was expelled because of his excessive austerities and became a hermit. His reputed miracle-working generated popular veneration to such a degree that, to escape the importunities of the people, he began his pillar life northwest of Aleppo about 420. His first column was 2 meters (6 feet) high, later extended to about 15 meters (50 feet), and the platform is said to have been about 1 square meter (about 11 square feet). He remained atop the column for 37 years, permanently exposed to the elements, standing or sitting day and night in his restricted area, protected from falling by a railing, and provided with a ladder to communicate with those below or to receive meagre gifts of food from disciples. Visitors sought spiritual counsel, relief from sickness, intervention for the oppressed, and enlightenment in prayer and doctrine. Simeon apparently converted many people, and he influenced the Eastern Roman emperor Leo I to support the orthodox Chalcedonian party during the 5th-century controversy over the nature of Christ. When he died, his body was found by a disciple and was apparently stooped in prayer. (See https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Simeon-Stylites). Someone I know brought him up as an example of a religious man with "[mental] problems." Wanting to live as a hermit, saints who performed self-flagellation, those who would eat only bread and water, are alleged to show that religion, if taken seriously, leads to strange behaviors that are manifestations of severe neurosis (if not outright psychosis). Christianity, so they claim, is for the feeble-minded who have problems, or the gullible who will become neurotic. Jim Jones will usually be brought up at some point as "proof" that religious people are "nuts."
What should be our response to such attacks? This post will delineate Church teaching on what constitutes sanctity and stand in defense of the saints. As to the nice man or lady at Church who seems a bit odd, I will attempt to answer the question, "Is sanctity incompatible with neurosis?"
What is "Sanctity" According to the Church?
For this post I wish to cite Fr. Faber's classic work "An Essay on Beatification, Canonization, and the Process of the Congregation of Rites," and Heroic Virtue, a commentary on Pope Benedict XIV's treatise on the issue, [translated by the Fathers of the Congregation of the Oratory in 1850] as my principle sources.---Introibo
Every human being should realize that he is called by God to be perfect even as He is perfect. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (St. Matthew 5:48). Every person must do all in his power to be a saint and live on Earth a beautiful life of charity that characterizes the saints in Heaven. It is true that none of us can be perfect, but we must try. It is an dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin, and it is an article of Faith that, by a special privilege of Almighty God, in contradistinction to all other humans, she never committed any actual sin (not even the slightest venial sin) during her entire life. (See theologian Pohle, Dogmatic Theology, , 6:39-80).
Many approved theologians teach that St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist were pre-sanctified in their mother's wombs from Original Sin, and were also free from actual sin during their lives in view of their exalted callings in life. As the Council of Trent infallibly teaches in its Decree on Justification, CANON XXIII.-lf anyone saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.
In regards to certain saints (e.g., St. Aloysius Gonzaga), it is piously believed they never committed a single mortal sin their entire life. While it is impossible to achieve the sanctity of the Immaculate Mother of God, or the great St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist, we must all strive to be without mortal sin and avoid venial sin as much as possible. In the words of Pope Pius XI, "For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God's grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example set us of many saints." (See Casti Connubbi , para. #23).
Lest anyone feel overwhelmed and despair over achieving salvation, it should be pointed out that it is not necessary to obtain spiritual perfection as the saints in order to belong to the One True Church and attain Heaven. Pope Pius VI, in his Apostolic Constitution Auctorum Fidei (1794), condemned as heretical the proposition that only those belong to the Church who are perfect adorers in spirit and in truth. One will save his soul if he dies within the Church and is in the state of sanctifying grace, even without having achieved the spiritual perfection of the saints. However, keep in mind Our Lord's words, "How narrow is the gate, and straight is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" (St. Matthew 7:14). Whether or not the majority of humanity will be damned has never been decided by the Church. Some theologians (e.g., Godts) believe this is the case, while others (e.g., Klee) think it is repugnant to believe the Kingdom of God (Heaven) to be less populated than the Kingdom of Satan (Hell), especially after the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to save us. What the Church does teach, is that few answer Christ's call and set out on the way of perfection in this life.
Theologian Fr. Gabriele de Ste. Marie-Madeline, quotes from an Allocution given by Pope Benedict XV in 1916, wherein the Holy Father gives a very concise and theologically sound definition of sanctity: Sanctity properly consists in simple conformity to the Divine Will expressed in an exact fulfillment of the duties of one's proper state. (See Present Norms of Holiness in Conflict and Light, , pg. 158). This definition by Pope Benedict rightfully declares that sanctity is open to all, but that doesn't make it any easier to attain. It will, however, stimulate many to take up its pursuit precisely because it is the greatest of all goods and within the grasp of anyone who asks the help of God, tries his best to get it, and never gives up.
All must realize that to obtain the Beatific Vision in Heaven, where we shall see God as He is, we need supernatural help. In these perilous times of the Great Apostasy, how lucky we are if we have the True Mass and Sacraments available to us! Anyone who is so blessed to have such access, and would fail to go as frequently as possible (except under the most serious of circumstances) is not earnestly seeking sanctity. That person is saying to God, "Thanks, but no thanks" for a Gift so great we won't fully understand the enormity of the blessings until we go to Judgement. Woe to that individual! No one can achieve perfection except with the aid of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not be troubled if, through no fault of your own, you don't have access to a Traditionalist Church or Chapel. God will make it possible for all who truly seek Him, no matter where they may be, to find Him and become holy. The ordinary means of sanctification that all can (and must) use to sanctify themselves are:
- prayer (both vocal and mental)
- spiritual reading
- the practice of self-denial
- the exact and loving fulfillment of the duties of one's state in life
The Heroic Sanctity of the Canonized Saints
It is unlikely that even those who attain to the heroic sanctity of the saints will be canonized because Holy Mother Church can only canonize a few to serve as examples for the faithful to emulate. What a joke are the "McCanonizations" of the Vatican II sect. Wojtyla (JPII) "canonized" more "saints" from 1978-2005, than the True Church did from 33 to 1958. In order to be a canonized saint, the candidate for sainthood must demonstrate that during his/her life he/she practiced the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity to a heroic degree. I shall examine all three virtues, and what makes them heroic, as described by Pope Benedict XIV.
1. Heroic Faith
According to theologian Tanquerey, Faith is "the supernatural assent by which the intellect, under the command of the will and the influence of grace, firmly accepts revealed truths because of the authority of God Who is revealing." (See Dogmatic Theology 1:193).
First, the candidate must demonstrate the habitual ordinary theological virtue of Faith and there are ten questions that are asked by the Church, the answers to which will determine if the canonization process will go on any further, "Did the candidate...":
- openly confess the True Faith in all matters that must be believed, especially when circumstances demanded an open confession?
- keep the Ten Commandments and the precepts of Holy Mother Church?
- manifest submission of the heart and mind to God, all decisions of the Church, and to the Holy Roman Pontiff in all things that must be believed and done to achieve salvation?
- pray frequently to God?
- have his faith increase, or at least desire such an increase?
- have the Fear of God?
- adore God and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints?
- have a horror for sin?
- show patience in all the trials of life?
- have joy in carrying out good works, in humility and humiliations?
Examples of heroic Faith: St. Teresa of Avila's knowledge of the Divine Presence was so clear, it was akin to a vision. The same was true of St. Peter of Alcantara.
2. Heroic Hope
According to theologian Jone, the theological virtue of Hope is "...a supernatural infused virtue, by which, with reliance on God's Omnipotence, Goodness, and Fidelity, we look forward to eternal salvation and the necessary means to obtain it." (See Moral Theology, , pgs. 73-74).
The Church distinguishes four levels of hope from its complete absence to the heights of perfection.
- Absence of Hope: no belief in the soul and afterlife
- Latent Hope: an earnest striving to avoid mortal sin
- Explicit Hope: a devout spiritual life accompanied by thoughts of eternity and future union with Christ in the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision
- Heroic Hope: when the soul, by the grace of God, has freed itself from all earthly desires and no longer has any interest in what does not pertain to God and His service. There are various degrees of this fourth level, culminating with an intensity of yearning for Christ that seems, for a time, to bring the soul to the point of seemingly "leaving the body" to be united with Him
3. Heroic Charity
According to theologian Jone, the theological virtue of Charity is "...a supernatural, infused virtue by which we love God as the highest good for His Own sake and ourselves and our neighbors for God's sake." (Ibid, pg. 75).
Pope Benedict XIV lists the common signs of ordinary charity:
- spending temporal goods to help others
- undertaking bodily labors on behalf of others
- correcting those in error and leading them back to the truth
- the forgiving of injuries
- the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
- claiming visions, locutions, and apparitions with no confirming signs (it could also be fraud not insanity)
- grandiose claims, e.g., to be God or a prophet, etc.
- inability to function in society
- stating things contrary to Church teaching while claiming direct communication with God (could also be demonic or fraud)
- attempts to kill or seriously hurt themselves and/or others