In Festo Omnium Sanctorum
Well, I blogged about "dark angels" two months ago, in time for the Feast of the Archangels. Why not blog about "saints" on the Solemnity of All Saints?
As you can tell from the scare quotes, the bad news is that these stories are less about what the saints are than about what the saints can be manipulated to mean. (Which is, of course, any darn thing the authors can come up with.) But heck, we're all postmoderns here, by ignominy of birth. We know what it's like to have to live with people who first firmly decline to share our beliefs and then claim to have creative license over what those beliefs can mean.
It's not fun to be someone with easy-grip dogmas in a world full of fashionable slippery folk. It's especially mortifying when some of the people associated with us seem to think (ultra-postmodern) Harry Potter is demonic. (Christians can be so embarrassing. ;-)) But if we can bear the tension of being "in the world" yet not "of the world," then we'll get to do a lot of great reading.
with Postmodern Twists on the Saints
with Postmodern Twists on the Saints
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
I loved most of the saints who appear to young Damian Cunningham . . . St. Clare comparing saints to television: "They're everywhere. But you need an aerial" . . . St. Joseph waxing nostalgic during a Nativity play rehearsal . . . And my personal favourite, St. Charles Lwanga cussing out the "I M bloody F" just for existing. (Amen!)
But St. Peter was insupportable. According to this (infallible) eyewitness of the Miracle of the Loves, it wasn't really a miracle at all. Everyone who had come to listen to Jesus had brought along some food, but just wasn't keen to bring it out and share it. But the sight of a little boy offering his five loaves and two fish shamed them into emptying their own pockets. There was no multiplication of loaves; no foreshadowing of the Last Supper and the Eucharist. It was just a mass conversion of people who already had everything they needed to make their own "miracle," but didn't realise it . . . until a little child led the way. (Barf.)
It kind of boggles the mind that an author who so expertly gets us to suspend disbelief when it comes to the saints doesn't seem to believe in a miracle from the Gospels--but that's postmodernism for you. A little bit of this and a little bit of that; and if you don't mind the one big picnic exegesis, you have a fun, original and highly educational MG novel.
The Other Shepards by Adele Griffin
Of these three titles, this one is my favourite. When I read it, I kept expecting it to sucker punch me unconscious . . . and it never did. (I will forever be pathetically grateful.)
Holland and Geneva Shepard were born into a family that both greatly needed them and didn't really want them. Their three older siblings all died before Holland and Geneva were born; and so these two became a kind of second chance for their grieving parents, who hadn't planned to have any more children at all.
This family history means the sisters must live in a shadow world where the living and the dead, saints and ghosts, the past and the future, rub up against each other on a daily basis. But things don't come to a head until a mysterious stranger, whom nobody else also seems to see, bursts into their lives.
It's not quite the Communion of Saints. Or then again, maybe it's as close to the Communion of Saints as these two Catholic-only-when-they-feel-like-it-and-you-had-better-back-off-their-case (i.e., "Punk Catholic") schoolgirls can really get. It's not your typical story of a saintly visitation . . . but it's the sort of intercession a saint just might pull off, if that is what it takes in this postmodern vale of tears.
Virgin Territory by James Lecesne
This novel is a little different because the main character isn't Catholic and isn't really interested. He knows absolutely nothing about Mary the summer an image of her allegedly appears on a tree in his town. This is the point at which many YA authors make their main characters do online research. So considering what ridiculous things have been
That is why the only things Dylan Flack learns about Mary come from three new friends--who are dragged into town by their "Virgin Mary groupie" mothers, but who don't believe in miracles themselves. At least, not miracles in the traditional sense. As they explain, they attribute miracles to two factors: wanting something badly enough and being willing to take a risk. (At times like this, I wish I had an uncle in the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith. We could chuckle over these things together and I'd be his favourite niece.)
In the end, something vaguely miraculous happens. It might not really be a miracle, but it seems to defy rational explanation--and Dylan doesn't really mind. Who is to say, he asks, what the correct story is? What matters is that the story one believes is also meaningful to the one who believes it. And that takes us, the readers, beyond miracles to the whole postmodern take on religion itself.
Image Sources: a) Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce, b) The Other Shepards by Adele Griffin, c) Virgin Territory by James Lecesne