On Punishing the Saints
28 07 2008
Over a year ago now, I posted this anecdote,
A widow had only one child whom she tenderly loved. On hearing that this son had been taken [in war] by the enemy, chained and put in prison, she burst into tears, and addressing herself to the Virgin, to whom she was especially devoted, she asked with obstinacy for the release of her son; but when she saw at last that her prayers remained unanswered, she went to the church where there was a sculptured image of Mary, and there, before the image, she said: “Holy Virgin, I have begged you to deliver my son, and you have not been willing to help an unhappy mother! I’ve implored your patronage for my son, and you have refused it! Very good! Just as my son has been taken away from me, so I am going to take away yours, and keep him as a hostage!” Saying this, she approached, took the statue of the child on the Virgin’s breast, carried it home, wrapped it in a spotless linen, and locked it up in a box, happy to have such a hostage for her son’s return. Now, the following night, the Virgin appeared to the young man, opened the prison doors, and said: “Tell your mother, my child, to return me my son now that I have returned hers!” The young man came back home to his mother and told her of his miraculous deliverance; and she, overjoyed, hastened to go with the little Jesus to the Virgin saying to her: “I thank you, heavenly lady, for restoring to me my child, and in return I restore yours.”
-cited by Paul J. Vanderwood in Juan Soldado: Rapist, Murderer, Martyr, Saint
One of the earliest posts I ever wrote told a story similar to this one, and it concerned my family’s devotion to a small image of the the Holy Face, and you can read it again here.
Recently, I encountered two other such anecdotes. The first is from Gumbo Ya-Ya: Folk Tales of Louisiana:
Statues of St. Joseph holding the Christ Child have long been popular for private altars in the homes of New Orleans Creoles; and many New Orleanians carry miniature representations of the saint in small capsules in their pockets or pocket-books. If a favor is asked of St. Joseph and not granted, the figure is sometimes stood on its head as punishment until the wish is fufilled.
St. Joseph is not the only saint who gets punished. In John Ingham’s book, Mary, Michael, Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico, on Saint Anthony’s feast day,
…people take their animals to the church, where the priest sprinkles them with holy water and pronounces a benediction to protect them from harm. Tiny metal figures of animals are pinned to pictures of St. Anthony on family altars. When an animal is lost, villagers put his picture in a box and tie a string around it. When the animal is found, its recovery is considered a “miracle”, and the incarcerated saint is released and rewarded with the miniature image of the animal he has found.
I am tempted to give some form of comment, but I am not going to. Needless to say, this is what I think real religion looks like. He who has ears to hear…