Friday, 14 November 2008

St Christina the Astonishing

"St Christina the Astonishing, Come on down!"

My band, who've got a gig tonight at Hove Town Hall, were named after St Christina the Astonishing. An act of profound hubris on my part, something which is regularly my downfall, but I formed the band at a time when I had been learning about the life of this Saint and wanted to name my band after her.

I would imagine that Heaven takes a rather dim view of modern pop/rock music, no matter how good people's intentions are simply because pop/rock bands are inherently idolotrous, often ludicrous and very often, not very good. If there is music in Heaven, and we hope there is, it is the sound of choirs of saints and angels singing in their adoration of the Blessed Trinity. We know this because Pope Benedict XVI denounced it publicly relatively recently. Rock music that is. I do intend to renounce it one day, but at the moment I am a bit hooked. I love my band, I love rehearsing with them, music gives me an outlet for my frustrations and anxieties and performing music panders to my insatiable self-love and gratuitous ego.

St Christina was astonishing. St Joseph Benedict Labre is a patron of mental illness but sufferers also have a patroness in St Christina who was very misunderstood in her life by virtually all who encountered her.

This biography can be found here. Born to a peasant family, orphaned as a child, and raised by two older sisters. At age 21, she experienced a severe seizure of what may have been epilepsy. It was so severe as to be cateleptic, and she was thought to have died. During her funeral Mass, she suddenly recovered, and levitated to the roof of the church. Ordered down by the priest ("Young lady, get down here this instant!”), she landed on the altar and stated that she had been to hell, purgatory, and heaven, and had been returned to earth with a ministry to pray for souls in purgatory.

Her life from that point became a series of strange incidents cataloged by a Thomas de Cantimpré, Dominican professor of theology at Louvain who was a contemporary recorded his information by interviewin witnesses, and by Cardinal Jacques de Vitny who knew her personally. She exhibited both unusual traits and abilities. For example, she could not stand the odor of other people because she could smell the sin in them, and would climb trees or buildings, hide in ovens or cupboards, or simply levitate to avoid contact. She lived in a way that was considered poverty even in the 13th century, sleeping on rocks, wearing rags, begging, and eating what came to hand. She would roll in fire or handle it without harm, stand in freezing water in the winter for hours, spend long periods in tombs, or allow herself to be dragged under water by a mill wheel, though she never sustained injury. Given to ecstasies during which she led the souls of the recently dead to purgatory, and those in purgatory to paradise.

People who knew her were divided in their opinions: she was a holy woman, touched of God, and that her actions and torments were simulations of the experiences of the souls in purgatory; she was suffering the torments of devils - or she was flatly insane. However, the prioress of Saint Catherine’s convent testified that no matter how bizarre or excessive Christina’s reported actions, she was always completely obedient to the prioresses orders. Friend of Louis, Count of Looz, whose castle she visited, and whose actions she rebuked. Blessed Marie of Oignies thought well of her, and Saint Lutgardis sought her advice. She died 24 July 1224 at Saint Catherine’s convent, Belgium.

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