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, December 25, 2011

December 25 -- Feast of Crazy Jim

Yeah, it's the Feast of the Nativity, but if you're not already aware of that, there's not much I can do for you here.  You could, I guess, go to this link and watch Linus explain it to Charlie Brown. 

It is also the feast of Jocopone da Todi.  While he was a lawyer,  he was just Jacomo Benedetti (which by the way, was also Tony Bennett's last name until he anglicized it for Hollywood).  Jocomo's wife, Vanna di Guidone,  thought he was a little too worldly and was secretly wore a hair shirt in penance for his sins.  She was killed in 1268, just a year after their marriage, in a tragic entertainment accident.  One account says that the stands collapsed while she was at a tournament; attending it had of course been his idea.  Another account says that the floor of his house collapsed while folks were dancing at a party.  Either way, the discovery of her hair shirt affected Jacomo deeply.  He ended his lucrative legal practice, gave away his wealth, and became a Franciscan tertiary.  That's a fancy way of saying he became a religiously motivated transient beggar.  His former colleagues (and everyone else) began to call him Jacopone (Crazy Jim). 

Brother Jacopone
He later applied to join the Franciscan brothers.  On the strength of his reputation for crazy, they shot him down.  He presented a poem about vanity, which persuaded them to accept him, though he never went all the way to ordination.  Instead, he wrote many hymns and poems, including Stabat Mater, about Mary's vigil at the Crucifixion. 

At the time, the Franciscans were split between the hardcore vow-of-poverty brothers and the middle-way brothers.  Crazy Jim out there in the breakdown lane, which was fine with Pope Celestine V, who was also no friend of the corrupting power of wealth in the Church.  Sadly, he was replaced by Boniface VIII, who reversed Celestine's approval of the Spirituals (the hardcore poverty brothers) and eventually excommunicated and imprisoned Jacopone.  Crazy Jim saw the imprisonment as just one more way to do penance, which he served for five years until Pope Benedict XI took over and let him out. He spent the last few years of his life in prayer and reflection. 

So yeah, it's Christmas, and that means a lot of things to a lot of people.  For some, it is Feast of the Nativity, full of reflection on a divine spirit in human form, born for a brutal sacrifice that redeems all humans from their inherent sin.  For others, it is a time to gather in the spirit of love and celebrate the light of love in the darkest part of the year.  For still others, it is an orgy of materialism and gluttony. 

But it is also the Feast of Crazy Jim, who regretted his materialism and spent his life in extreme self-deprivation as penance.  In this, he was corrected by others, and he submitted to their correction with humility, always striving to be a more perfect, more holy human.  Boxer, in Orwell's Animal Farm, lived by the motto "I will work harder."  He might have been named Jacopone for his devout submission and self sacrifice. 

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