This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30 -- Feast of Saint Marcellus the Centurion

Since he was a centurion, Marcellus' designation as the patron saint of conscientious objectors surprised me.  I might have guessed soldiers, or perhaps more specifically, non-commissioned officers.  From what my friend Sergeant Cobb suggests, NCOs should probably have their own patron.  Perhaps, but they'll have to get someone other than Marcellus to look out for them.

How does a saint avoid wrath with those less saintly?
As I considered it further, I wondered why conscientious objectors even need a patron saint.  Aren't they their own patrons?  I guess not all are saints, but they flirt with martyrdom (at least some do) so they might be saints in the making. And their aspirations to suffer for their convictions is a common (if not universal) characteristic among the saints.

As much as I might struggle to keep this from being an ill-formed, rambling post, the disparate thoughts won't line up neatly.  Pastor Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, raised the question a question for dogmatic Christians: How could Mohandas Gandhi, the Great Soul (Mahatma) himself, be in Hell?  For most of us, he couldn't.  And so we might accompany Bell on his mental ambulation down a steep slope to the rejection of Hell itself.  Pastor Chad Holtz followed Bell there and lost his job for it.  Rev. Holtz might very well have needed a patron in his corner to help him adhere to his faith in the face of financial strain, but... did Gandhi?
How does a saint avoid pride and vanity? 

Or Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?  Maybe.  Perhaps they struggle no less than others, but just differently.  Perhaps they need to keep their vanity in check, to strive against the perils of admiration, of flattery, of the support that erodes independence and idealism.  Perhaps a patron helps them to keep wrath, envy, lust, and pride in check.  [I'd like to think that they had already beaten sloth, greed, and gluttony.]   

Marcellus -- no longer the centurion

As for Marcellus himself, what qualifies him to be the patron of such high-powered clients?  In AD 298, he was a simple Roman NCO, stationed in Tangiers.  The Emperor's birthday was always the cause of a great feast, preceded by a sacrifice to Rome's many gods.  When Marcellus' turn to eat the sacrificial meat came up, he passed.  Question, he declared himself a Christian and gave back his weapons and armor.  Condemnation and execution followed quickly. 

Fr. Daniel Berrigan
The Brother Berrigan
I don't know whether Rev. King and Mahatma Gandhi needed spiritual patronage, but I suspect that others do.  Thomas Merton, Daniel & Phillip Berrigan -- we know their deeds, but what do we know of their temptations? I don't, but perhaps Marcellus does and perhaps he helps.

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