While many stories of the early saints contain hyperbole, (exaggeration) there is always a kernel of truth which is being highlighted. The use of hyperbole should not cause us to dismiss to the realm of falsehood all anecdotes that seem ‘over the top’. And we should not let these fantastic stories turn us off on the saints, either. Hyperbole does not render a story false; rather, we need to look into the heart of it, realizing that hyperbole was common to the people who received these narratives. We, on the other hand, are so wary of being lied to (and justifiably so) that if we sniff out anything which seems 'a bit too much to take,’ we dismiss it altogether. Indeed, we need to use the gift of discernment and a whole lot of common sense to know what is true and what is not, but we also must be sure to look for the truth which is within any exaggerated story, whether it is told in a gospel – Jesus employed hyperbole in some of his parables – or in reference to the life of a saint. For the faith community to have accepted a particular story tells us that they understood the truth within, and so we should trust that which has come down through the ages, too, distinguishing the message from the elements in which it is set.
©Michele L. Catanese
* For more details on the life of St. Mungo here are three sites you can check out:
Note: Next entry will be July 16.
1. This is a photo I took of the Jordan River as it looks today. This is said to be the spot where John baptized Jesus. It does not look as it did then, of course, mostly because the water has become murky due to farming run-off and that sort of thing.
2. This is a mosaic of St. Kentigern, known as St. Mungo, which comes from Glasgow, Scotland. I liked it because it has the symbols of the little verse which goes with the story told about the queen and her ring and a few of Mungo's other reported miracles.
3. This is a stained glass window from the Cathedral in Glasgow where the tomb of St. Mungo is located. (I did not take this photo; I have not yet been to Scotland.) I liked it because it shows the fisherman with the fish which had ingested the ring, mentioned in the text of this entry. Here is the link to the site where I found the image. https://www.window-clings.uk/LNCECShowProduct.cfm?Id=59
4. This is a painting called La route de Cailhau by Achille Laugé (1893). I chose it because the soft hues spoke to me of humility. However, there is a strength to the painting which comes from the image itself: the path is strong and defined, a reminder of how the way of humility gives strength, yet always points away from self. The image is painted from the viewer's vantage point, looking into the distance and hence, away from self.
5. This is John the Forerunner Also the Baptist, an icon written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I want to point out that while he looks a bit rough, John is in prayer, and is filled with the Holy Spirit. He stands out, and will begin to shout out God's powerful message of repentance and salvation, which has become one with him. He directs us to Jesus always. You can find this icon at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-john-the-forerunner-also-the-baptist-082-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
6. This is one of my photos. If you are a movie lover, you will recognize it as the town square featured in the classic film Cinema Paradiso. The town is actually called Palazzo Adriano and it is in central Sicily. I chose to use it here because both in real life, as well as in the film, it is a humble town. I loved the imagery of the church bell tower and the church worship space located right behind the fountain. I did not realize the sacramental imagery of that till I posted the photo here. The waters remind me of Baptism and the church speaks of the community who are joined through that sacrament... a connection to John the Baptist, of course.
7. This is a painting called Uisken, Mull (1997) by a wonderful British artist, Nicholas Hely Hutchinson. It is a painting of a small town, Uisken, which is located on the Isle of Mull which is a large island to the west of the mainland of Scotland. I had to include some scene of Scotland, of course, but I chose this because I loved the humility of the place. The goats are roaming the street on the softly rolling hills, with the water and sky a peaceful vista below. This painting simply made me smile; it made me wonder who the dear ones are that reside in this place who are neighbors to one another and are beloved of God. You can find it at http://www.nicholashelyhutchinson.com/gallery/uisken-mull-1997/
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