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Hidden Holiness

Michael Plekon

Publication Year: 2009

In Hidden Holiness, Michael Plekon challenges us to examine the concept of holiness. He argues that both Orthodox and Catholic churches understand saints to be individuals whose lives and deeds are unusual, extraordinary, or miraculous. Such a requirement for sainthood undermines, in his view, one of the basic messages of Christianity: that all people are called to holiness. Instead of focusing on the ecclesiastical process of recognizing saints, Plekon explores a more ordinary and less noticeable "hidden" holiness, one founded on the calling of all to be prophets and priests and witnesses to the Gospel. As Rowan Williams has insisted, people of faith need to find God's work in their culture and daily lives. With that in mind, Plekon identifies a fascinatingly diverse group of faithful who exemplify an everyday sanctity, as well as the tools they have used to enact their faith. Plekon calls upon contemporary writers—among them, Rowan Williams, Kathleen Norris, Sara Miles, Simone Weil, and Darcey Steinke—as well as such remarkable and controversial figures as Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day—to demonstrate ways to imagine a more diverse and everyday holiness. He also introduces four individuals of "hidden holiness": a Yup'ik Alaskan, Olga Arsumquak Michael; the artist Joanna Reitlinger; the lay theologian Elisabeth Behr-Sigel; and human rights activist Paul Anderson. A generous and expansive treatment of the holy life, accessibly written for all readers, Plekon's book is sure to inspire us to recognize and celebrate the holiness hidden in the ordinary lives of those around us.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

"The patriarch Enoch was a shoemaker; with every stitch by which he joined the lower leather of a shoe to the upper leather, he united the Glory that is below with the Glory that is above.” This ancient rabbinical Jewish saying represents a vision in which holiness is a matter of connecting the ordinary matter of earth ...

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pp. 1-8

There has been an explosion of interest in saints in recent years. The cries and banners with the message subito santo—“a saint very soon”—during the funeral of Pope John Paul II come to mind. This same John Paul II was responsible during his tenure for creating more saints in the Roman Catholic Church than any other pope. ...

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1 Holiness and Holy People

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pp. 9-22

It well may be the glory of the church that all of the saints cannot be named or numbered, but this otherwise beautiful fact hides some confusing and frustrating attitudes. In the past few years,“holiness,”which sounds a great deal like and is intimately related to “wholeness,” doesn’t sound so bad. ...

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2 Celebrities as Saints: The Canonization of the Extraordinary

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pp. 23-40

Fascination with saints has been a constant in Christian history, but it is not an exaggeration to say that there has been a recent surge in interest that has led to a whole new literature on the making of saints, the kinds of people being canonized, and our relationship to the saints and the life of holiness. ...

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3 God's Humanity and Humanity's Becoming Godly

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pp. 41-54

Eternal life consists in being continuously present before the face of God and continuously seeing oneself in God’s light, from which one cannot hide. Does the dogma of the veneration of the saints and their canonization not exclude the notion of the relativity and compatibility of heaven and hell, ...

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4 A Call to All, But Can There Be Models?

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pp. 55-96

Evangelical theologian and president of Fuller Theological Seminary Richard Mouw, like many Christians, found it hard to get close to “saints” like Anthony or Jude or Francis of Assisi the way Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do. The halos and most likely the candles and prayers offered were too much ...

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5 Equipment for Holiness: Liturgy in Life, as Life

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pp. 97-124

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, widely recognized as a master in the spiritual life, and himself a most complicated personality, regularly urged his listeners to use the treasury of prayers of the holy people of the past, whether the texts of the liturgical services themselves or the many prayers gathered ...

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6 Holiness, Hidden, Ordinary, Yet New

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pp. 125-154

This quotation perhaps can serve as a book end, as it were, along with the short, playful poem that started the first chapter, “Saints,” by Matthew Brown. The passage is vintage.Weil, full of her brilliance and urgency, has absolute clarity but also is reluctant to spell out this new saintliness in detail. ...

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7 Differences

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pp. 155-186

Naturally speaking, people are filled with repulsion at the idea of holiness . . . After the last war, everyone was talking about the lost generation.After this war [World War II] thank God, they are talking more about saints . . . Archbishop Robichaud, in his book Holiness for All, ...


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pp. 187-202


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pp. 203-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780268089719
E-ISBN-10: 026808971X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268038939
Print-ISBN-10: 0268038937

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights
Publication Year: 2009