Thursday, February 10, 2011

The saints' diet

Right about now is when everyone's New Years resolution to lose weight pretty much tanks.  So I thought how about a saint known for her inedia?  Yeah, I had to look it up the first time too.  Inedia is the ability to subsist without taking nourishment except the holy communion for long periods of time.  Obviously inedia alone is not enough, you need other qualities like visions.  A stigmata doesn't hurt either. & yesterday's saint is the total package.  Yea, I'm a day late with this sue me.

Anne Catherine Emmerich was born in 1774 in the Holy Roman Empire.  That was the country: the Holy Roman Empire.  She already has an anachronistic-seeming thing going, right?  Well, I had to look that one up, too & it turns out that the Holy Roman Empire was an actual place until 1806, although it had been getting steadily smaller for a while by then.  So we have a person who lived much more recently than I usually like to see in my saints, in a country that sounds like something out of the Middle Ages, which it kind of was. 

As she became an adult, she job hopped; probably not her fault.  I am guessing that as the empire broke down long-term opportunities in the serf-line were probably also limited.  Finally she was admitted to a convent, only to see it closed down by the King of Westphalia.  Not sacked, not burned, she was not martyred by being raped/killed/held hostage.  They just closed it down.  She then asked to join the Poor Clares, but not having any money, they couldn't afford to take her.

& so she continues, as a shepherdess, a seamstress, etc., all the while having "a feeling of disgust and repugnance when in the neighbourhood of old pagan cemeteries, whereas she was attracted to the sacred remains of the saints as steel by the magnet".  She also took to sleeping on a cross (well planks on the ground in the form of a cross, which made me laugh out loud because of that oh-so-picturesque Southern expression:  get down off of that cross honey, somebody needs the wood).

The food-weirdness seems to have been there almost from the beginning.  It began with giving away the best of her food to the poor.  Then when there were no poor (no poor?!?), she would leave it as an offering.  It wasn't long before 1) she caught the attention of a poet, who began writing about her & 2)she ruined her digestive system.

That first one there is the next anachronism.  Relying on poets for publicity had gone out of vogue everywhere by the late 18th century, except in the Holy Roman Empire it would seem.  Actually, that isn't true.  Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, et al wrote buckets of political poetry, but it just doesn't seem quite the same. 

As for the second, it began to get hard to hold down a job (starving, uneducated did anyone NOT see that one coming). By the time the stigmata kicked in & the ecstasies began taking up more & more of her time, she finally qualified for care in one of those religious institutions she was too well off for before.  That donut hole has been around for a long time.  For another decade or so she subsisted entirely on communion wine & wafers.  If the visions had not come first, I would think that explained them right there.  She lingered in this state for uhmmmm twelve or so years.  If she had lived two hundred years later, she could have had her own reality show & sponsored the Celebrity Saint Diet.

No comments:

Post a Comment