Thursday, October 9, 2008

On Saints and Symbols

Admit it: When you were standing outside those magnificent French gothic Cathedrals with saints linings the outside, St. Denis is the only one you could identify. How hard is it to mistake a guy holding his own head?

But think about this: It didn't used to be that way! Catholics used to be able to recognize all sorts of saints from their symbols (not just St. Denis, St. Thérèse, St. Patrick, and St. Anthony).

I think it's irrelevant to ask "What happened?" That's been answered so many times, I don't imagine I could bring anything new to the table. No, what I wonder instead is "How to fix this?" (Not that this hasn't been answered a million times as well, but bear with me.)

Even when I was younger, my mom and I discussed the idea of designing a saints matching game - where St. Agnes matched the lamb, St. Peter matched the keys, etc. We never actually made such a game, but as I got older and more interested in Church architecture, I found myself playing this same game almost constantly! There's a nun holding a monstrance - St. Clare. What about that monk with the dog? St. Dominic, of course. But those are the easy ones. Is there a resource where it's explained which saint is depicted with which symbols and why? This is reportedly the most comprehensive saint resource on the web, and while I haven't examined it thoroughly, I somehow doubt it has such information. Certainly it would be nigh impossible to search by symbols.

So those few of us who really care will have to keep plowing on through, playing the guessing games, though we have no one to bounce our ideas against, and hoping to learn more brick by brick, as the saying goes. Perhaps I'll learn more when I take Liturgical Art and Architecture with Dr. Denis McNamara. *swoons* Look at that - just thinking about my future classes at the Liturgical Institute makes me weak in the knees!

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