St. George (early 4th century CE) is the Guardian saint of England and Portugal. Nobody really knows his exact origins or the details of his life.
Historians have debated the exact details of the birth of Saint George for over a century, although the approximate date of his death is subject to little debate. The Catholic Encyclopedia takes the position that there seems to be no ground for doubting the historical existence of Saint George, but that little faith can be placed in some of the fanciful stories about him.¹
Some sources indicate that St. George may have been cruelly tortured and killed around 300 CE by Diocletian at Nicomedia, hence his veneration as a martyr. Other sources say he died around 250 CE at Lydda in Palestine.
The latter legend has gained prominence by virtue of Lydda being the location of his supposed tomb.
St. George is associated with the story, written by Vorgrain (1230-98 CE), of slaying a dragon to rescue a damsel in distress. So he’s often invoked for a similar reason as Saint Michael—for God’s power to vanquish the forces of evil.
His feast day is 23 April, the date that the Church set for his death.
- The Relics of St George… (thehandmaid.wordpress.com)
- Catholic Elementary School Plans To Fight Closure By Archdiocese (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- St George with a Rifle (nigeltuffnell.wordpress.com)
In spirituality, the idea of ‘levels of knowledge’ suggests that an individual or group may better understand the essential dynamics, without fully knowing all the specific details, of another individual or group.
By way of analogy, parents usually have a pretty good idea how their child will behave in most circumstances. And they can use this knowledge to help guide the child and also to protect it from harm.
Some theorists suggest that this kind of alleged higher knowledge could be applied to social and religious life. In ancient Greece, for instance, Plato advocated the rather undemocratic ideal of the Philosopher King.
Similarly, the Catholic attitude toward other religions implies that Catholicism is the purest and highest form of worship (this outlook being especially transparent with Pope Benedict XVI). According to Catholicism, non-Catholic faith groups at best only possess aspects or, worse, shadows of God’s truth and light.
Again, this kind of view implies that ‘group A’ knows about ‘group B’ better than group ‘B’ knows itself. Meanwhile, a Hindu, Muslim or Jewish believer likely believes they have a privileged perspective that the Catholic does not.
As for who’s ‘right’ or ‘most right,’ this is a topic of debate and sadly, often a contributing factor to local, regional and international strife.
It seems reasonable to say that each religious group contains incomplete beliefs and teachings in need of development. And each religious group could, and probably should, try to learn from one another.
Whether or not each group is equally incomplete is, of course, a different question. It is conceivable that some religious teachings are closer to the truth than others.
Quite apart from this type of reasoning, some say that whatever one believes about God and the universe ultimately becomes true—i.e. our belief structures essentially create our reality. Along these lines, some believe there’s no absolute hell and everything – even senseless, cruel acts – are ultimately acceptable. Taken to its logical extreme, it seems that this kind of thinking eventually places Adolf Hitler in heaven beside St. Francis of Assisi.
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(Latin sanctus = sacred ) The word saint has several meanings.
In everyday usage, saints are unusually kind, ethical people who perform good works on a local or grand scale which most everyone can appreciate.
The term also denotes the faithful Jews of the Bible and the body of Christian believers.
Moreover, saints may be Buddhist arhats (monks having achieved Nirvana) and bodhisattvas (monks forgoing entry into Nirvana in order to help others reach that threshold).
Saints also refer to Taoist, Confucian and Hindu sages and gurus (Skt. guru = teacher), African and Amerindian elders, as well as the Shamans of Central and Southeast Asia, Oceania, North America and the Arctic.
In Islam the righteous departed are said to mediate between heaven and Earth.
Robert Ellsberg regards great figures like Galileo Galilei, Leo Tolstoy, Stephen Biko and Dante Alighieri as saints in his book, All Saints.
Some believe that all public figures called “saints” are equally holy but this view arguably is more of a human hope than God’s assessment of individual holiness.
In Catholicism, the canonized saint leads an exceedingly holy and humble life serving God, is often persecuted, may be martyred and performs by the power of God at least two verified miracles.
Catholic sainthood often involves the idea of intercession. Intercession is the belief that God’s divine power and grace may be mediated by one soul to other souls on Earth, purgatory and hell.
Catholics also believe in the communion of saints, the idea that all souls, except for the damned, are united in a “mystical body” with Christ as head. From this we can see that the idea of interconnected souls is not necessarily something of the occult (unless one views Catholicism as a Satanic cult, which some do).
Another essential element of the Catholic faith is the belief that individuals cooperate with God’s Plan of Salvation through vocal and mental prayer (i.e. interior contemplation).
Prayerful saints cooperate with the Divine Plan but do not effect salvation through their own power.
Some Protestants object by saying that the Catholic saint is just a manmade god or goddess. Catholics reply to this charge that saints are friends and servants of God, not a god nor God.
Many Protestant Christians pray for other people yet object to the Catholic idea of interceding saints. To this Catholicism replies: If someone on Earth can pray for another on Earth, why can’t someone in heaven pray for another person on Earth?
According to Catholic teaching there are many unrecognized saints. These unsung heroes of the spirit are said to achieve a great degree of spiritual purity without ever having set foot in a monastery or abbey.
This is good to remember. Otherwise we might misunderstand some individuals in contemporary society not primarily concerned with sex, wealth or raising a family.
Considering the great diversity of individuals and spiritual paths throughout the world, to insist on rigid criteria for sainthood seems both arbitrary and, considering the world today, unwise.
» Brahman, Clairaudience, Confucianism, Faith and Action, Fasting, George (St.), God, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Guru, Heaven, Hinduism, Holy Rosary, Icon, Intercession, James (William), Jewish Mysticism, Karma Transfer, Koran, Meditation, More (St. Thomas), Mysticism, Numinous, Social Darwinism, Solitude, Targ, Taoism, Russell, Vivekananda (Swami), Wisdom, Yogi, Yogini
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St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582)
Spanish Carmelite Catholic mystic whose frank autobiography was criticized by the American psychologist and philosopher William James. However, this work along with The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are widely regarded as spiritual classics.
St. Teresa was a profound mystic and convent organizer who spoke of degrees of purity, detachment from the world (to include one’s relatives) and supernatural graces encountered by the seeker on the journey to God-awareness and spiritual perfection.
For St. Teresa God’s love was experienced as a kind of spiritual water for which she was ever thirsty.
In keeping with the general motif of the Dark Night of the Soul, she spoke of terrible “dry” periods where grace was lacking. During these moments she neither enjoyed this world nor a heavenly one, “as if crucified between heaven and earth, suffering and receiving no help from either.”
St. Teresa apparently levitated. This made her uncomfortable because she didn’t want to draw any special attention to herself.
Perhaps her most enduring saying is “God alone suffices.” » John of the Cross (St.), Numinous, Pollution
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In Catholic terminology a form of prayer that is vocalized, often but not exclusively in public groups such as the Eucharistic celebration (i.e. Holy Mass).
In personal, private practice, vocal prayer may be standardized or impromptu.
Vocal and mental prayer may alternate and overlap. And both forms of prayer are generally directed towards personal petitions, seeking forgiveness or for purposes of intercession.
Many Catholic and non-Catholic advocates of vocal prayer seem to misunderstand the efficacy of mental prayer, especially in its contemplative-intercessory form.
Great saints like St. Faustina Kowalska say that even a brief but sincere inner, contemplative prayer from the heart is far more effective and pleasing to God than the endless and superficial repetitions characteristic of much vocal prayer.
» Catholicism, Contemplation, Meditation
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Vivekananda, Swami (1863-1902)
Hindu holy man – originally Narendranath Datta – who advocated worldly action to overcome the severe poverty of India.
He was the favored disciple of the Hindu saint Ramakrishna.
Vivekananda complained about the “emaciated” populace in India, a nation which he believed had become falsely proud and hypocritical.
As such, he downplayed parapsychology and siddhis (spiritual powers) in favor of what he regarded as practical development, emphasizing the basic building blocks of food, uncontaminated water and personal hygiene.
He founded the Ramakrishna Mission and was the first Hindu to be received by major audiences in the West.
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Augustine of Hippo, St. (354-430) St. Augustine is one of the most influential figures in Christian history and one of the four Latin Doctors of the Catholic Church. Another theological luminary, St. Thomas Aquinas, often refers to Augustine.
In his Confessions Augustine says that prior to his conversion he was a libertine, flatterer, hedonist and dabbler in just about every philosophy in existence during the early years of Christianity.
Before converting he was a leading scholar and teacher. He had read Plato and Cicero, and became especially fond of Manichaeism.
In 372 he had a son, Adeonatus, out of wedlock.
After years of intervening prayer from his mother, St. Monica, Augustine allegedly “saw the light.”
A passage from the New Testament utterly changed him and he quickly embraced his new-found faith. Adeonatus followed.
Augustine was ordained in 391 and leveled an attack on the non-Christian religions of his day, especially Roman paganism.
In The City of God (413-426) he asks: If the Roman gods are so powerful, why did they allow Rome to fall?
He writes of two cities: one ruled by God and inhabited by the chosen people, the other ruled by the Devil and inhabited by those lost to darkness.
Augustine also refuted the Christian heresies of Donatism and Pelegianism.
His understanding of time is sometimes likened to that of Albert Einstein and Carl Jung‘s but this is a mistake. Augustine’s view of time is rooted within primitive, old-world thinking.
For Augustine God exists above and beyond creation in an eternal present but this does not mean that the past and the future always exist within creation, as some New Age and New Physics thinkers believe.
Rather, time for Augustine is a subjective experience discerned through motion and change.
If the past and future do exist…they are not there as future of past, but as present.” He continues “…it is only possible to see something which exists. So when we speak of foreseeing the future, we do not see things which are not yet in being, that is, things which are future, but it may be that we see their causes or signs, which are already in being.” From this he concludes, “…it is abundantly clear that neither the future nor the past exist, and therefore it is not strictly correct to say that there are three times, past, present, and future. It might be correct to say that there a that there are three times, a present of past things, a present of present things, and a present of future things.
Saint Augustine Of Hippo, Confessions. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1961. pp. 267-269.
For Augustine, God knows every event that has happened, is and will happen, not because God is all events and all time but because God creates and exists above and beyond all events and time. God, therefore, has perfect knowledge of past, present and future or, as some writers put it, such knowledge exists “in the mind of God.”†
Thus Augustine’s view of God differs from theorists who tend to associate God with a so-called “world soul” (anima mundi) and from pantheistic philosophers claiming that Creator and Creation are identical or two interconnected phases of one unified process.
For many Christians and other monotheists, God is above and beyond but also immanent within creation–this being a very different conceptualization (with equally different ethical and perhaps experiential implications) that merely saying God is “All That Is.”
On the issue of Free Will vs. Determinism, Augustine essentially says that we are free to make personal choices but God knows in advance how we will choose.
Atheists find this standpoint unsatisfactory, while those who have taken a leap of faith do not. The former tend to want to understand everything with their intellects first. The latter believe that they will be taught by God what they need to know when the time is right.
It seems the two positions (atheism vs. faith-based) represent qualitatively different approaches-that is, different modes of being, experiencing and understanding. Although this claim is complicated by the fact that many say that atheism is founded on belief and furthermore, that the word “faith” has a variety of connotations among believers.
Augustine is also known for articulating the idea of the Just War, a view which some Christians find appalling, regarding it as a Satanic distortion of Jesus’ message, perpetuated by various man-made religious doctrines purporting to be divinely inspired.
†This may seem a trivial distinction to some but it has important implications for discourse on memory, intuition, insight, premonition and precognition and, in particular, the hypothesized mechanisms which would enable these faculties.