Thursday, July 23, 2015

Christina the Astonishing, Virgin Patron of Holy Irritants

MY VERY CATHOLIC PARENTS made intentional choices when naming their children. At my baptism I was given the spiritual mentors, Anthony of Padua and Gerard Majella. Both inspiring men who were so captured by commitment to the reign of God they dedicated their lives in consecrated service in their particular time and culture.

The Catholic Culture in which I was nurtured also led me to adopt Dominic Savio as my Confirmation patron. This was no mean feat in a largely Anglo-Celtic community. On our confirmation day in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Geelong West the beloved priest, Father John Perkins recited the traditional "Irish" names of Peter, Paul, Patrick, James and the like chosen by the boys of St Patrick's School. After all these years, I can still hear the sudden gasp from the congregation as my chosen name was announced with a definite Italian ring to it.

Anthony, Gerard and Dominic all died young, lived chastely and were not exactly fun role models for a young teen caught up in the spirit of the 60's. However, their passion for God's reign of truth and service of the poor inspired my childhood and youth.

In latter years I have also adopted another patron and spiritual mentor whose feastday falls on July 24. In keeping with my heightened sense of the "feminine", my newly adopted patron is a woman saint.

Christian the Astonishing, Virgin
My adopted mentor is Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (1150 - 1224) (when read aloud the word "comma" should be pronounced) Christina's bio reads like the script from a Dan Brown and Steven Spielberg collaboration. This is definitely a PG rated text. It is best read, seated with all lights on and the children safely in bed.

This image depicts the first recording of Christina's public appearances when she was believed to have died, but managed to soar from her coffin during her funeral Mass. Not surprisingly, such behaviour saw a quick exodus from the Church with only the dutiful priest and her distressed sister left to witness this amazing resurrection. And yes, there was more: while presumed to be dead, she had in fact been "on tour" to Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Upon this return visit she decide to dedicate her life to a sort of public pyschodrama performance where she acted out the downside of the nasty behaviour she saw around her.

For the next forty years Christina managed to cause alarm and anxiety in her local community by performing Olympian spiritual exercises which included extreme prayer balanced on poles. She had no dress sense, ignored any protocols about workplace health and safety and refused to be tamed by doctors priests or any other well intentioned men of the town.
Yet, the records of the time also note that her advice was sought by both civic and religious leaders of her day.She was even summoned to the death bed of a local Count to hear his confession.

Like other popular residents of the celestial realm Christina had been provided with w series of patronages to keep her busy. It may not surprise readers that the list includes:

Christina has her own entry in Wikipedia and appears prominently in a Google search. She has been the subject of art, study and even song:

So, I invite you to join me on her feast day  as we celebrate Christina, a parable of the reign of God. The eccentric grace that drove her to extremes is the spirit in which I now invoke her as patron of "Holy Irritants".

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. On Liberty John Stuart Mill
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