An earlier version of this Worth Revisiting post was first published 1 May 2016. To enjoy the work of other faithful Catholic bloggers see Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Elizabeth Reardon at theologyisaverb.com and Allison Gingras at reconciledtoyou.com.
|"St. George Slaying The Dragon"|
by Carlo Crivelli
Many years ago the public high school I attended was inviting art students to decorate ceiling tiles with their work. My sister, who was no longer an observant Catholic but knew a good image when she saw one wanted to do a painting modeled on a medieval depiction of St. George slaying the dragon by Carlo Crivelli. The school’s principal vetoed her proposed project, however, on the grounds that the not-terribly-bloody depiction of heroic dracocide was “too violent". My sister (along with many of the rest of us) was amazed that the principal would object to what was obviously a symbolic representation of Good defeating Evil.
This old incident came back to mind last Saturday, which was the feast of St. George. I was planning a blog post to commemorate the Saint’s Day, but circumstances prevented me from actually writing it. It seems that no good thought is wasted, however, because every day since I seem to come across something that brings that image back to mind.
For one there's the Washington Post report [HERE] that Indian guru and peace advocate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar recently tried to engage the Islamist terror group ISIS in a dialogue:
"I tried to initiate peace talks with the ISIS recently but they sent me a photograph of a beheaded body of a man . . . Thus, my effort for a peace dialogue with the ISIS ended."
The advocate for meditation and harmony offered this frank conclusion: "I think the ISIS does not want any peace talks. Hence, they should be dealt with militarily."
This man who has dedicated his life to spreading “meditation and harmony” can see (unlike my old high school principal) that not all violence is alike, and that sometimes there are dragons in the world that, for the sake of peace and justice, require slaying. To destroy such a monster actually furthers the cause of peace.
I am also thinking of the case of Michael Voris. Voris is the creator and public face of ChurchMilitant.com, and an ardent (although at times, perhaps, a little, um, strident) defender of Catholic Orthodoxy. Over this past weekend he revealed that earlier in his life, during a period which he has previously described as “horribly sinful”, he was in fact engaged in a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle “over a prolonged period of time”. He chose to reveal these personal details because, he said, somebody with the Archdiocese of New York was preparing to release information about his prior misdeeds in an effort to damage his reputation.
Now, not everybody is a fan of Michael Voris. Even some who agree that he is indeed engaging Real Dragons Out In The World find his style too abrasive on occasion, and his manner to be sometimes uncharitable. The past week’s revelations may provide a little humanizing context for his modus operandi, and this video, in which he discusses his past sins, but uses them as a prelude to a celebration of Christ’s love and mercy, is very moving. Voris’ story also serves as a reminder that before we can engage any dragons out there, we must first prevail over those inside of us. As the old Latin motto says, vincit qui se vincit (“he conquers who conquers himself”). We may not all contain within us the same dragons, or dragons as tenacious, as the ones that Michael Voris had to overcome, but we all need to do battle with disordered desires and sinful inclinations if we are to become the people whom God wants us to be (that is, saints). We can only find victory in that struggle, of course, with the help of God’s Grace.This last point, I have long suspected, is the real reason why my old high school principal refused to allow a painting of St. George and the Dragon. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see the symbolism, it was that the symbolism was all too apparent. Even three-and-a-half decades ago the image of a Catholic Saint killing the Embodiment of Evil was too controversial for a public high school in the United States. In the interim saints have only become less fashionable, and dragons rather more so. Fortunately, Christ has given us the Gospel, his Church, and the Sacraments, so that we might be armed as St. George was armed to confront dragons, both outside and in.