Monday, May 15, 2017

Annoying Habits of Hagiographers

Since I've been researching a books on saints, I've spent a lot of time reading hagiographies recently.  Once upon a time, hagiographers were notorious for making up stories out of whole cloth. But for the last hundred years or so, the principal sin of hagiogaphers is sheer waffle. It's amazing how many pages of hagiographies are filled, not with facts about the saint, or even with background facts relevant to the saint's life, but with general observations about the human condition and with confident reports of what was passing through the mind of the saint at a given time. I keep on wanting to ask the writers; how do you know this, exactly?

Also annoying is the sardonic, knowing, world-weary tone that the hagiographer often adopts when writing about the sins and shallowness of the ordinary man or woman, as contrasted with the saint. Even when the writer is applying it to themselves, it's maddening.

But let me return to the "uncanny insight" side of things. In an article on soon-to-be-Blessed Solanus Casey (who died in 1957), written by a relatively youthful Catholic apologist who I won't name, I came across this sentence:

“We have to put God on the spot,” he’d say with an Irish twinkle in his eyes."

Really? Did the author see the "Irish twinkle" himself? Did someone tell him about it? Rrrr!

1 comment:

  1. It's mild comes compared with the inaccuracies of historical novels these days.