My Favorite Saint

Russians are spiritual people. They like their spirits.

Russians are spiritual people. They like their spirits.

I came across this essay… At first, I thought the topic would be too “ethnic” and Russia-specific for this blog. On the second thought, however, I changed my mind…

The author, a controversial and upstanding Russian journalist, laments the latest Russian official trend of encouraging “religiosity” in the country in dire need of positive symbols and heroes worthy of adoration but not rock-stars. Who else but the holy men and women, Christian saints, have a great chance to become shiny examples of spirituality, devotion and morality? Tongue-in-cheek, the author suggests a list of his “favorite” candidates. The ones I’ve chosen for this post have across the board appeal — none of them is Russian.   These holy men are pillars of the faith hailing from centuries back.


Called the Father of Christianity, this third century religious fanatic  gave up his job, slept on the bare floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself and fed his penis to the dogs… all for the faith.

Origen. "… there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

Origen. “… there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

St. Simeon Stylites, the ElderSt. Simeon Stylites, the Elder (around 390 – 459) 

This  monk chose a previously unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar six to eight feet high, and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to intense prayer and fasting, while enduring many temptations.  The monk gradually increased the height of the pillar. His final nesting place surged 80 feet above ground. A double wall was raised around the pillar to fend off gawkers.  St. Simeon spent 80 years in arduous monastic feats, 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar. This perfectly saintly lifestyle, however, proved to be highly unhygienic.  Worms bred “in the sores of his flesh” encouraged by the man’s habit to rub excrement into his skin.

Theophilus The Weeping

This holy man lived and  cried non-stop for 14 years, sometime between the end of the XI and the beginning of the XII centuries. He wept day and night, and lost his sight because of it.

The Holy Eusebius 

This guy earned his sainthood shedding buckets of sweat. Eusebius ran around, drugging some 260 pounds of iron chains behind him.

St. Paul of ThebesSt. Paul of Thebes 

For 90 years, it is said, Paul ate nothing but dates he stole from ravens. “Official” sources, however, insist that God took interest in Paul’s sustenance and kept on sending raven to feed him figs and dates.

St. Macarius

Paid a high price for his sanctity. His method of getting rid of the ungodly thoughts was painful. He bought by enduring considerable discomfort by immersing his buttocks and genitals into an anthill.

Now, who is your favorite saint?

Martyrs and extreme fanatics of the faith, it’s been noted, more often than not,  are deeply disturbed people devoured by their obsession. The early Christian martyrs and “holy men” have been researched, and hints of paranoia, masochism, and manic depression observed in their response to life and death. Some of them are said to be socially ill–adjusted people who seek to draw attention to themselves, their behavior psychologically no different from the exhibitionism of the psychopath…

No wonder mothers would rather have their children grow up to become bankers than saints.

To the Russian “spirituality  activists” the author suggests a reality show (the kind of Survivor, perhaps) which would test the true faith of the participants. Based upon the lives of Christian saints, it’ll have a bare-butt-in-the-anthill event, fight with wrens for figs, growing worms in the crevices of the flesh… What a glorious TV it would make!


One comment on “My Favorite Saint

  1. Among many symbols of adoration” in modern-day Russia most prominent stand Oligarchs (much envied and reviled). They are high priests of the official worship, whose main deity is Adam Smith Invisible Hand. The Hand bestows its lavish blessings on the chosen few, whose life and (heroic) antics are beamed continuously on worshiping public by infotainment media.
    Traditional religiosity with its funny saints is just an ice caking, a tribute to “traditional past”. They have as much relevance to the modern day heroes, as Jesus – to Wall street speculators, despite best effort by Bill O’Reilly to prove the opposite:

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