Elsewhere: what do saints fear?


Msgr. Charles Pope posed this intriguing question recently on his blog (aside: Msgr. Pope is a regular contributor to New Evangelists Monthly and is among the very best Catholic bloggers anywhere, IMHO).

OK, saints have the beatific vision and are beyond the fears we experience. Perhaps the question would be better phrased “what do the most ‘saintly’ people fear the most?” It could be the injustice of violence. Maybe it is the struggles of the poor. The desperation of those fleeing war is a possibility. Even mundane things like our pedestrian worries and concerns could be shared through their love for us.

Nope. None of the above.

The saints know better. Those, be they trivial or severe, are all earthly concerns. While valid, they pale in the scope of eternity.

The saints fear for bad Catholics.

Msgr. Pope recounts the words of St. Bernadette. Here is the context followed by the quote (from Fr. Rene Larentin’s book Bernadette Speaks. A Life of St. Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words):

Napoleon III had surrendered to the Prussians, bringing on the disaster. The Mother General put the sisters at the disposition of the Ministry of War. A field hospital was installed [at the convent for the retreating and battered troops] …   Military uniforms mingled with the black and white silhouettes in the courtyard and corridors of the Motherhouse …   the sick and the wounded were [all about] the convent. Twenty-five novices were sent to communities in the south and the postulants were sent home to their families. The Prussians were coming and all the area was on alert …   Cannons were installed on the inner terrace of the motherhouse and in the novitiate gardens …   On the night of October 24, 1870 …   a strange phenomenon appeared in the sky. The horizon was all ablaze …   you might have thought it was a sea of blood …   [but it was] an aurora borealis …   a very impressive display …   The Prussians were at the borders.

[And here is the question posed to our saint, who was considered by many to be a visionary]:

“The Prussians are at our gates. Don’t they inspire you with terror?”


“So there is nothing to fear then?”

“I fear only bad Catholics.”

“Do you fear nothing else?”

“No, nothing.”

A conquering army was approaching the motherhouse / field hospital. They were not inclined to be kind. The remaining sisters had taken the precautions they could, but they would be futile. As the inevitable was about to be realized, bad Catholics was Sr. Bernadette’s true fear.

Read Msgr. Pope’s comments in his full piece: What Do Saints Fear?.

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