Examine the meaning of the following quotes:"...Because we love the saint and want him to be more like ourselves, we attribute some imperfection to him" and "If you think her a saint, she is a...

Examine the meaning of the following quotes:"...Because we love the saint and want him to be more like ourselves, we attribute some imperfection to him" and "If you think her a saint, she is a saint to you."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both quotes reflect the sense of contingency that exists within perceived absolutist and transcendent concepts. The idea of spiritual saints and the traditional sense of absolutism which exists within them is a part of both quotes.  In its own right, loving a saint is a pure and almost monistic experience.  Yet, in the context of the quote, an exploration of how one contingent religious worship amongst human beings merges with the absolute of the divine.  Prior to the discussion of why and how a saint is loved, Dunstan reflected upon the notion of woman in Mary and Martha, the sensual and the home- bound intrinsic to each.  This aspect of finding complexity in something that might be seen as simplistic is reflected in the idea of why human beings love saints:

But all this terrible talk about the saints is not disrespect, Ramezay. Far from it! It is faith! It is love! It takes the saint to the heart by supplying the other side of his character that history or legend has suppressed—that he may very well have suppressed himself in his struggle toward sainthood. The saint triumphs over sin. Yes, but most of us cannot do that, and because we love the saint and want him to be more like ourselves, we attribute some imperfection to him. Not always sexual, of course. Thomas Aquinas was monstrously fat; St. Jerome had a terrible temper. This gives comfort to fat men, and cross men. Mankind cannot endure perfection; it stifles him. He demands that even the saints should cast a shadow. If they, these holy ones who have lived so greatly but who still carry their shadows with them, can approach God, well then, there is hope for the worst of us.

The fact that to discuss the nature of saints and how human beings love them is evidence of religion's complexity.  The imperfections that are ascribed to the saints are seen to help human beings deal with their own imperfections.  This helps to make mortal consciousness more bearable and also enables the human being to approach the realm of the divine.  Seeing that "mankind cannot endure perfection," the quote's idea of attributing imperfection to the saint enables a potential bridge in worship to reveal itself.

This same notion of human experience finding a home in the divine is at the root of the second quote.  Consider upon what Dunstan reflects:  "You must find your answer in psychological truth, not in objective truth."  It is in this light where it becomes clear that if Dunstan believes Mrs. Dempster to be a saint to him, then he must experience this truth as something in his own being.  Within this context, it becomes clear that Dunstan has to take the universal and apply it to the specific:  "I have not forgotten your crazy saint. I think you are a fool to fret that she was knocked on the head because of an act of yours. Perhaps that was what she was for, Ramezay. She saved you on the battlefield, you say. But did she not also save you when she took the blow that was meant for you."  It is in this light of experience and human understanding that he recognizes the need to take his saint, however imperfect she might be and however she might stray from the traditional and accepted notion of a saint, and appropriate into his own spiritual identity.

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