Maybe not a Rich Man but What about a Fat One?

If being rich makes it difficult to enter the kingdom of God, how about obesity? This is the debate that some are having over the canonization of G. K. Chesterton:

Whether or not a person was temperate in food and alcoholic consumption is not only relevant, but absolutely central to the question of sanctity. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a person is not temperate in food and drink and the use of other created goods, there is no way they could be a saint.

Remember, a saint possesses not only natural virtue, but supernatural virtue. This means, of course, faith, hope and charity to a heroic degree, but it also means that even the saint’s natural virtues are elevated and oriented towards supernatural ends. For example, a virtuous man has formed the habit of prudence, which is the virtue of being able to identify and pursue the good in particular circumstances; i..e, of making good decisions. The saintly man, however, not only exercises natural prudence, but also demonstrates supernatural prudence; i.e., the virtue of prudence ordered towards supernatural ends, meaning exceptional discernment and good sense in spiritual matters.

Now, since supernatural virtue is a requisite of sainthood, and since grace builds on the natural virtues, it follows that a person who lacks even one of natural cardinal virtues cannot be “saintly” in the strict sense. Natural virtue is the foundation of supernatural virtue; if a natural virtue is obviously lacking, they cannot possess the supernaturalized version of that virtue which is built upon the natural. We may still have an exceptionally virtuous person, but nevertheless one with a major defect that makes it inappropriate to classify them as a saint. A person certainly cannot possess supernatural temperance if they lack even the natural virtue of temperance.

Is this being a bit too nitpicky? Absolutely not. Whether or not a person is a saint is a question of their character and conduct on the most personal level.

As much as the Obedience Boys can come across a more-devout-than-thou (or more likely, more-concerned-for-holiness-than-bad-Lutherans), I am glad they are still talking like Protestants. Indeed, it is a mystery to me that Christians would import pagan virtues into any scheme of divinely revealed holiness, almost as mystifying as the stakes for sanctity being so high not here and now — since you’ll have time in purgatory to burn off sin — but in the afterlife. If only Chesterton had remained a Protestant. He could have been a twentieth-century saint.

17 thoughts on “Maybe not a Rich Man but What about a Fat One?

  1. Chesterton—-It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against the Catholic Church they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout the Catholic Church down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to the Catholic Church they begin to be fond of it.


  2. I understand Purgatory has an excellent gym and spa with a number of attentive personal trainers. Surely Saint-in-waiting Gilbert can slim down enough to make the cut. Fat burns too.


  3. I am interested to see how the pro-obedience crowd handles this one. In my observation over the years, there seems to be a strong positive correlation between the degree to which a church emphasizes obedience and the size of its members waistlines.


  4. Cw,
    With jerry walls bringing the Protestants into purgatory as well, I imagined it will be segregated and look a lot like Boston. White people with only tiny little sins will live uptown in ‘the purgs’.


  5. I thought the sins of eating also consisted of:


    pickiness, especially in an insulting way

    thinking you are holy because you don’t use plastic bags at the grocery store, and put the dripping pork chops right into the cloth bag along with your bananas and milk cartons


  6. There may still be hope for Chesterton:

    “The proud, the vain, the ‘Christians in appearance’ will be demolished, humbled,” the Pope said, while “ the poor will be those who triumph, the poor in spirit, those who in the presence of God consider themselves to be nothing, the humble, and they carry forward salvation, putting into practice the Word of the Lord.” He continued, citing St Bernard: “Today we are, tomorrow we will not be. Think, man, what will become of you: [you will be] the food of worms… The worms will eat us, all of us. If we do not have this rock, we will end up trampled down.”

    Under that girth hides holiness.


  7. O.K., now I’m confused. Chesterton is out because he’s fat, and poor people are in because they’re poor. A lot of poor Americans are fat, though. If you don’t believe me, go to Wal-Mart or the Iowa State Fair.


  8. Simul justus et peccator?

    However let us keep in mind that saints are not declared such because they were infallible or immune to the errors of their times. St. Paul accepted slavery. Saints in Merovingian times accepted things we would find horrific today.

    Saints are named saints because of their holiness of life, how they lived the virtues in a heroic way. As one person put it, the saints are an annotation of the Gospels. So even if Ms. Day was morally inconsistent, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t holy.

    That clears it up (not).


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