April 26, 2016

Source: Bigstock

It’s spring, and so a young Catholic girl’s fancy turns to picking out a confirmation name.

Being kid-free, I was only reminded of this when a friend mentioned his daughter’s struggle to settle on one. We females are fickle enough about Halloween costumes or even wedding gowns (watch Say Yes to the Dress, if you dare), and those are things you only wear once. A name is forever, and yes, all you envious non-Catholics: Being allowed (nay, obligated) to choose an extra name is cool”€”especially in your teens, when reinvention is a compulsion.

I now wish I”€™d put more thought into my confirmation name”€””€œVeronica”€”€”but it sounded pretty, I knew her story from the Bible and the Stations of the Cross, and she was on the cover of my Miniature Stories of the Saints”€”Book IV, which, OMG, you can still buy.

“€œThe era’s liberal Catholics dismissed the saints as infantile, archaic objects of devotion and, worse, appalling role models for women. “€

Being a Vatican II baby meant I otherwise hadn”€™t been steeped in these sagas. The only saints we learned about in the 1970s were the Canadian Martyrs, and only because of the “€œCanadian”€ part. In my childhood, the 17th-century Sainte-Marie among the Hurons site was on (ironically) “€œthe cutting edge of modern museology“€: On school trips, you sat in the dark watching a short (although it seemed really long) movie about Jean de Brébeuf converting Indians and getting killed, and then THE PROJECTION SCREEN WALL ROLLED UP”€”gasps of “€œWow!”€”€”the sun came in, and you strode outside onto the restored mission grounds!

(Pretty much everyone who grew up within three hours of me who is reading this is going, “€œYes!!!“€ right now, so PS: “€œIrv Weinstein.”€)

(PPS: They don”€™t show that particular movie at the Martyrs”€™ Shrine anymore. I presume it’s been deemed “€œproblematic.”€ BUT you can still see Brébeuf’s smashed-in skull under glass! Wicked!)

Otherwise, the era’s liberal Catholics dismissed the saints as infantile, archaic objects of devotion and, worse, appalling role models for women.

Which never made sense to me. Except for Zita (WTF, seriously?), the female saints in my little 1940s booklets weren”€™t subservient simps. They scolded popes and slew dragons. Many of their stories read like disemboweled fairy tales: Young ladies”€”ranging, we”€™re told, from “€œbeautiful”€ to “€œvery beautiful”€”€”were tortured and killed for refusing to marry King So-and-So and/or denounce their faith.

(The Jesuit author leaves out exactly how St. Lucy’s eyeballs ended up on her attribute plate, or why St. Agatha is holding those pliers…)

Ideal reading pre-confirmation, because the sacrament is meant to steel you to face similar trials. In fact, a confirmed Catholic used to be dubbed a “€œsoldier of Christ“€ but, well, you know. And if you”€™re a Catholic kid of a particular bent, you find yourself mentally playing “€œwhat if?”€ A Catholic website noted, in its bio of no less than future Doctor of the Church Teresa of Avila, that

When she was seven-years-old, she convinced her older brother that they should “€œgo off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there.”€ They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. Some people have used this story as an early example of sanctity, but this author thinks it’s better used as an early example of her ability to stir up trouble.

But when I was my friend’s daughter’s age, I didn”€™t quite know who the Moors were, and never expected they might one day be living in my neighborhood.


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