Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Raising a Saint, and Saint West

Let's file this timely post under “better late than never.”

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West named their son Saint West because he was a blessing to them — they had difficulty getting pregnant, complications during pregnancy, and Kim doesn't like being pregnant. But being a saint means a lifetime of choices, and with one notable exception, no one is born a saint. You have to earn the accolade. 

The other day it struck me (call me a convert) that saints all had really, really hard lives. They didn't become saints in the way that protestants think of saints: the lady at church who crochets baby blankets for new babies; the man who holds the door open for his nagging wife. No, Catholic saints were hated, some of them, most of them, a lot of them, during their lifetime. Run out of town, scorned even by fellow Christians. 

The saintly life is hard. Mary is God's most perfect creation, and she is called the Mother of Sorrows. Simeon told her in the temple, and thy own soul a sword shall pierce also." Because of everything Mary endured, from the annunciation to the resurrection, she is the Queen of Martyrs. Yet she is the most blessed of women, who lived in poverty during her life, lived in exile in Egypt, and buried her only Son.

It's hard to imagine rolling your eyes when St. Catherine of Siena is having one of her ecstasies (again) during Mass. She rubbed people the wrong way, much like a whole host of saints, much like Jesus himself. St. Catherine would frequently have only the Eucharist and water during the day—and we complain because we give up sweets for forty days during Lent. Saints make us look at our lives and consider how blessed we are, and how weak we are. They are aspirational in the best sense. 

Many a parent of a future saint was dismayed at their child's call to sainthood. The Angelic Doctor was locked in a tower by his family. When St. Catherine chopped off her hair in protest of the wedding her family wanted, they punished her by never allowing her to be alone because they knew she craved solitude. St. Francis of Assisi's wealthy father beat him and locked him up when he appeared dressed like a beggar. On more than one occasion, St. Gemma's sister would find her in ecstasy and call her friends to mock and tease her.

And it's hard to blame parents for their desire to protect their children. When a little girl shuns my three-year-old's attempt to jump rope, I have a very strong urge to smash something in her face, to actually take her down. And she's only a six-year-old. The parent's of saints see their children scorned and ridiculed, run out of town and beaten up, slandered by neighbors. We all want our children to have good lives. 

We can look at Mary's fiat and think how lovely that she was chosen, what an honor! But how many of us would say yes to everything that came after the pregnancy? Motherhood is hard. Raising a saint is on a level far above typical motherhood. It demands much from the child, and an absolute trust in God from the parents.

I doubt Kimye have visions of hardship in mind for their son. He will be raised in luxury, raised on reality TV. He may be ridiculed, but that doesn't mean most of America wouldn't trade their left arm for a shot at celebrity—and he's got that. He also has plenty to renounce and deny, like the young man who asked Jesus what he was lacking. If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21). That young man went away grieving, because he had much. 

May this new baby grow up and defy the odds. I can see it now: St. Saint West, the patron saint of stutterers, rappers, and reality TV stars.