Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A golden mouth against corruption

John chrysostom

Q: Which saint had (at least) four skulls?1
A: John Chrysostom - just ask a Russian, a Greek and two Italian churches who all claim to have it. :)

St. John Chrysostom, whose feast day it is tomorrow, is actually one of my favorite saints and I'm sure he won't hold this joke against me. He is one of those saints – like Saint Pope Gregory the Great, whose thought had a wide-reaching influence on the Church during their lifetime and, even more impressively, still continues to have today (just note the 18 sections of the 1992 Catechism that cite him).

St. John’s epithet, Χρυσόστομος (Chrysostom) means “golden mouthed,” and if you start reading his many homilies and treatises you will soon appreciate his obvious rhetorical gift. The Church is fortunate to have had him on her side and to have had Jesus’ teaching so clearly, elegantly and effectively applied to his day. Take a look at the following quote on poverty and Church property (which applies today just as it did in the 4th century AD) and I hope you will agree with me:
“Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: "This is my body" is the same who said: "You saw me hungry and you gave me no food", and "Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me"... What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.”

(Evangelium S. Matthaei, hom 50:3-4; Cited by Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, footnote 34.)

1 Multi-skulled saints cannot be mentioned without telling a joke by an Irish relative of mine:

A rogue relic dealer kept selling skulls, claiming to be St. Oliver Plunkett’s, until one day a customer said to them: “This can’t be St. Oliver’s skull. I am a doctor and can tell you that this is the skull of a child and St. Oliver died in his fifties!” The dealer, thinking on their feet, retorted: “Well, of course it is a child’s skull. It is St. Oliver’s skull when he was a child!” :)