Keeping On, Holily

Ran my morning 1.7, said my prayers, had some fruit and coffee, looking to pack some clothes and run some errands.

Margaret and I had a post-All Saints conversation, in which my point involved the error (about which I’ve posted often on social media; don’t recall whether I’ve blogged about it) of focusing attention ‘who should be included on the church’s sanctoral calendar?’ The way the church classically came to recognising somebody as a saint involved a ground-up commemoration and veneration: our local congregation venerates Elvis as a saint; the next congregation over there joins us; eventually many churches in this diocese and scattered churches outwith our area share our veneration (probably on different days, because people). After years, an authoritative church body recognises and adds Elvis to the calendar, or doesn’t (but at that point, there’s no need for you and me to stop observing his feast, and the larger church body may always reverse course and add him). The discourse about ‘who should be added’ typically fixes on a figure from the past whom nobody currently venerates, and determines that they should be added aas a sort of didactic imposition.

This betrays a terribly wrong-headed investment in the institution and its power over people*, as opposed to investment in honouring sanctity. And all too often, it boils down to ‘I’m a fan of X, so everyone should remember them once a year’ or ‘we need to pay more attention to this, so we’ll put NN in the calendar as a vehicle for calling attention to it.’ No, no, no, no, no.

If there’s a figure you want to venerate, DIY. Organise ‘Tony Randall Day’ in your local parish. Make a tradition of doing some special ritual action every day on Nellie Bly’s Day. And if it catches on, so much the better — but let the Spirit moving in the churches be the judge. Don’t force-feed ‘sanctity’ in the name of your cause.

* Insofar as it actually has this power, of course.

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