Sunday, 22 March 2009

Schoolboy saint

For a fan of 'fame culture', growing up as a Catholic in the Sixties offered a double portion of celeb-related info.

One the one hand the Beatles and Stones were at the pinnacle of the pop pantheon, their every movement, whim and peccadilo chronicled by an insatiable press - not to mention those of lesser luminaries from PJ Proby (those predictably unpredictable velvet trousers) to Dusty Springfield ('Is she? Really? She can't be!).

Meanwhile, at school, we'd receive monthly holy handouts from The Apostleship of Prayer, each one carrying a mini-biog of a saint for us to emulate. A sort of Halo! magazine....

Splendidly inclusive, there was equal billing for male and female sanctity. And it was cheering to learn that sainthood was a career option to which anyone could aspire - one didn't have to be a priest, monk or nun to make it to canonisation.

I went through a stage of definite hankerings in that direction - as long as martyrdom wasn't involved. Gridiron, the wheel, flaying alive, hanging, drawing and quartering? No thank you.

I was intrigued by some modern examples of holy fast-tracking. For instance the schoolgirl Maria Goretti, murdered in 1902, was canonised in 1950, with her mother and siblings present at the ceremony.

I'm ashamed to admit that I fantasised regularly about my own saintly demise - from a trying, but not-too-agonising consumption, nobly borne.

This was swiftly followed by the inevitable canonisation in St Peter's Basilica, attended , of course, by my entire family, all of them praying to me like mad and wishing that they had been a teensy bit nicer to me prior to my journey aloft.


The picture above is of the real thing: St Dominic Savio, a boy of remarkable kindness, generosity and unselfconscious holiness.

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