And now, The Lives of the Saints!

Let the record show that, in the wake of former President Trump’s last public appearance, I decided it was time to pay attention to something a little less earthy. That is when I tapped the Franciscans, good people that they are, and ordered up a copy of what amounts to “Lives of the saints.”

It’s a whole book full of folks officially sentenced to heaven after their earthly good works, or so we were told. This being an important shift to me, I decided to talk about it with my beloved brother Micheal, who knows all about saints of all kinds. We settled on the legends connected to St. Kevin, patron of lots of Irish things and a man with an interesting story, indeed.

But, later on that.

Understand this is not my first brush with the saints. I thought as a young man that I wanted to be a priest, so I went off to a seminary in New York State to become a Columban father, maybe a missionary, I don’t know, but certainly a guy who would live a life appropriate to sainthood. I read into this pretty deeply. There we’re lots of virgins in the books, lots of lonely monk-like men, too, who lived in rocky holes in the hills. I thought that sounded pretty admirable. Two years after I entered the seminary, I discovered the very same virgins so headed for sainthood, fell in love with many of them and enjoyed a not bad sex life as a young man.

I left the seminary, obviously.

Then I got myself straightened out, was married, reproduced, got a mortgage, job and so on.

You know the rest. My life swept along and for some reason, now at age 72, same wife and three sons in tow, I have decided I would look into some saints to see how they were doing. I will share some of these stories here over the next couple of weeks. Why? Because I like to tell stories, and what stories these people had! What can they tell us about how we are today?

Maybe nothing. We’ll see.

So, I told Mike, who is an artist, all about my thoughts about the saints. I was worried about offending people. He said don’t even think about that. Nothing could be more offensive than the details attached in myth and in record to a whole bunch of the saints. He mentioned that in New Orleans, the Church is dissing vaccination these days because of the role stem cells may or may not have played in productions of vaccines.

How 14th century is that?

He suggested St. Kevin as a good model.

There is of course the “blessed Bishop” version of St. Kevin that seemed to adhere to almost all men saints. Women were mostly described as virgins and folks who lived to do good works as their lives moved on. There is no simple description for any of them. They came from complicated times and somehow impressed enough bishops that they were, bingo, declared saints of this or that. Remember, this was an era in which one of the popes in the third century was a farmer who was walking into Rome when a white dove landed on his head. A clear sign from God, he got to be pope (and later a saint, too!)

Kevin, one of the big Irish saints, was special. He apparently recognized early on that women were too much trouble! One of them pursued him up into the mountains because she was so hot for him. But the noble saint found a hole to live in and put a big bush with long thorns in front of the opening. Then he sat inside and waited. The woman, who would not be denied, climbed up the mountain and then battled her way through the thorns to get her lusting mitts on St. Kevin.

Not to be deterred from his conclusion that women were just nothing but trouble, he properly shook her real hard and tossed her into the lake, where she drowned. First degree murder in my book, but for the Irish decision makers of the church, saintly behavior. Sure he killed her, but at least he didn’t have sex with her!

Of course he was said to have done lots of good works in his life, preached engagingly and was sainted himself many centuries later. But that’s not the point. Where the legend of tossing the woman in the lake came from no one knows. Just no evidence for it. Maybe didn’t happen at all. But that’s not what is so interesting about the saints and their lives. The legend got written into a folk song, the mother’s milk of all Irish singing groups. It’s part of the mythology.

Even at that, it’s a lot more interesting than writing about President Trump. Stay. tuned for more and don’t be surprised if some of them don’t provide good models for the kind of lives we ought to be living.

I’m disrespectful, after all, but I’m no heretic!

Here’s the song:

In Glendalough lived an old saint
Renowned for his learning and piety
His manners were curious and quaint
And he looked upon girls with disparity

Ri fol di dol, fol di dol day
Ri fol di dol, fol di dol laddy
Ri fol di dol, fol di dol day
Ri fol di dol, fol di dol laddy

But as he was fishing one day
A-catching some kind of trout, sir
Young Kathleen was walking that way
Just to see what the saint was about, sir

‘You’re a mighty fine fisher’ says Kate
’tis yourself is the boy that can hook them
But when you have caught them so nate
Don’t you want some young woman to cook them ?’

‘Be gone out of that‘, said the saint
‘For I am a man of great piety
Me character, I wouldn’t taint
By keeping such class of society’

But Kathleen wasn’t going to give in
For when he got home to his rockery
He found her sitting therein
A-polishing all of his crockery

He gave the poor creature a shake
Oh, I wish that the peelers had caught him
He threw her right into the lake
And of course she sank down to the bottom

It is rumoured from that very day
Kathleen’s ghost can be seen on the river
And the saint never raised up his hand
For he died of the right kind of fever

2 thoughts on “And now, The Lives of the Saints!

  1. Love the song and so, so Irish. While I got my last name from a Polish father, my DNA test show I am far more Irish (mother) than Slavic. Irish guilt has hovered over me all my life.


  2. My favorite was Joan of Arc…it bothered me for a long time that I would lie so as not to be burned at the stake..thank all the gods that I have gotten over that…but I did like her style.


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