On Sunday evenings I like to stop outside the JingAn Kerry Center in Shanghai to watch the dogs and the people. Affluent Shanghainese from all over the neighborhood bring their pure-bred dogs out for a romp and a little socializing. There’s showing off, and posturing… and I don’t mean by the dogs. The dogs are all about playing and they ignore the sometimes more amusing behavior of their guardians.
Last Sunday I observed a particularly entertaining encounter. It was between a very young Shanghainese girl, I’d guess she was about four years old, and a beagle. The Beagle shook his head, in that way that dogs do; and, observing this, the little girl shook her head. The dog, in turn shook his head, and the girl, again, shook hers. This played out a few more times before the dog tired of the game and walked away.
That’s called mirroring, and human beings (and apparently dogs) do it all the time. It’s just the subtle way we mimic the facial expressions or body language of the people around us. Observing the dog and the little girl set me to thinking about the people around me, and the importance of keeping good company. That’s why I want to write about the saints today. They are part of the company we keep. We may even find something we can imitate; at a minimum they will influence us more positively than negatively.
The following is from CatholicSaints.Info.
There are 313 saints on the calendar of saints for today, that includes the 262 Martyrs of Rome who were martyred by Diocletian and buried on the old Via Salaria in Rome. There are a lot of other martyrs too. If you click on the link, you’ll see that there are 12 monks. Five of whom were hermits. There are two nuns, four bishops, a soldier, and even a princess. Three of the saints have a sibling who is also a saint. Two of them, Ranieri Scacceri and Peter Ganbocorta had a misspent youth before they got it together and attained their saintly status. Two more were known as miracle workers. One was blind. So, there’s plenty of variety and they are all among us as part of the communion of saints. They are part of the company we keep.
If you read through all of today’s saints, you’d meet Herve. I think I’d like to be friends with him. He was blind from birth and his father died when he was just an infant. His mother went to a convent and Herve was raised by his uncles and a holy man. He became a teacher, musician, and miracle worker! There aren’t a lot of blind, singing, miracle workers around these days. The most interesting thing about Herve, though, is his dog. Well, actually, it was a domesticated wolf. The story is that Herve’s wolf ate his ox so that Herve couldn’t plow his field anymore. Herve preached a rousing sermon to the wolf who was so overcome with remorse that it returned to Herve’s hermitage and plowed the fields in the absence of the ox.
Another saint I like is Peter Da, from Vietnam. He was executed by Tu Duc in 1862. It looks like he had a fairly simple life as a layman, a carpenter, and sacristan at his church. In all my time in Asia, I’ve never been to Vietnam and I would like to talk to Tu Duc about his country and what it was like to be a Christian there.
I think I’d like to have a dinner party with Manuel, Sabel and Ismael, the Martyrs of Calcedon. They were from Persia and King Baltan sent them to negotiate a peace treaty with Julian the Apostate. Julian was not a good guy, though. Julian threw them in prison and tried to make them sacrifice to pagan gods. The three men refused and were killed. I would sure like to know what kinds of conversations went on in their jail cells, though. What must have been going through their minds?
There is almost no information on some of the saints. Maria of the Forest, for example, doesn’t even have a link. Both she and Madonna of the Graces got very nice saint names, though.
Some of the stories about the saints seem outlandish, their names cartoonish sometimes. These are not biographical, or historical accounts, though. These stories are hagiographical. That is a different kind of writing, and it requires a different kind of reading. There are symbols and ideas which are true, though they may be conveyed by fantastic stories.
All of today’s saints — those 262 who were murdered at Rome, the farmer who had a domesticated wolf, the princess, the blind miracle worker, all of them – are in what we call the communion of saints. I often wonder how many were parents, students, artists, poets? Were they in love, what did they hope for in their lives, were they scared at the end? And I wonder what they might say to me as I try to live faithfully in my own circumstances.
Each one of us who is in Christ share something in common with one another and with all of these saints: None of us is perfect, we are all forgiven and loved, and we are never alone.
Look around at the company you are in. What can you mirror? What inspires you? With whom can you identify? One thing is certain, in a crowd like this you’re bound to find a friend.
Linda “Lindy” McMillan lives in Shanghai, China
All saint information is from CatholicSaints.Info