The Legends of the Saints: With a Memoir of the Author

The Legends of the Saints: With a Memoir of the Author

The Legends of the Saints: With a Memoir of the Author

The Legends of the Saints: With a Memoir of the Author

Excerpt

The recent advances in scientific hagiography have given rise to more than one misunderstanding. The application of historical criticism to the Lives of the saints has achieved results which contain nothing very surprising for anyone used to working on written documents and interpreting other records; but they have not failed to upset the ideas of many other people.

There are religious people who have just the same reverence both for the saints themselves and for everything that has to do with them; and they have shown alarm at certain conclusions which, they think, are inspired by an innovating spirit at work even within the Church, and are highly prejudicial to the good name of the heroes of the faith. This feeling is often expressed in trenchant style.

If you are of the opinion that the biographer of a saint has been unequal to his task, or that he has not attempted to write history, you are accused of attacking the saint himself, because, it seems, he is so powerful that he would never allow himself to be compromised by an inadequate panegyrist.

Or if you express doubt about some marvellous happening, which is well-calculated to enhance the saint's glory but has been reported by the writer on insufficient evidence, you are at once suspected of lack of faith.

You are accused of bringing rationalism into history, as though it were not above all else necessary to weigh the evidence when dealing with questions of fact. How often accusations of destructive criticism, of being iconoclasts, are hurled at men whose sole . . .

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