Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Time Capsule: The Subject of Fidgettine Scholarship

Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies
November, 1966: Of all the silly things we’ve read, heard, and seen about the life of Saint Fidgeta, nothing seems more absurd then it being used as a classroom textbook.

In a college class.  Taught by John Bellairs. 

In December, 1966, Shimer College faculty member John Hirschfield recommended the Spring 1967 Humanities II course include Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies as a text. The course would have an emphasis on readings from different type of literature of which Fidgeta would represent parody.

Bellairs said of the decision, in an article in the Excalibur, the Shimer student newspaper, “I always thought that writings books and then requiring them for courses that you teach was a racket. Now I know it is--lust! Greed!"

Before all that, however, Shimer's Church Scholar in Residence (and early fan), the Reverend Robert Hall, composed the following analysis/review/tribute to the tiny saint - and her creator. Could this be the article that first described Bellairs as the “famous author,” a phrase that Bellairs self-applied for much the rest of his life.

Church scholar Hall on St. Fidgeta Question
By the Rev. Robert Hall, Church Scholar in Residence
The Excalibur, November 7, 1966

At long last, an authoritative study of St. Fidgeta is available to hagiologists whose scholarship is limited to works in the English language. Previous to the publication of Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, English students were at the mercy of the many questionable inferences and misinformed conclusions of Sister Regina Coali Laerte's "Fidgeta and the Problem of the Catholic Artist in an Altogether Too Secularized Society" (Altoova, 1932) for which work the "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" (Peter Cardinal Stuyvescent, 1932) never should have been granted. Fortunately many American Catholics realized the spiritual dangers of trusting a Dutch "Imprimateur" and read no further. In defense of Sister Regina, however it should ne said that she did not intentionally demythologize the cupids in Fragourd's "Saint Fidgeta in Ecstasy." Sister argued only that the action of the cupids in this painting, and not their beings-themselves, may be interpreted allegorically. Such an interpretation, indeed, presupposes a literal signification as St. Thomas said, "-- vero significatio...dicitur seusus spiritualis qui super lileralem foudaur, et eum supponit." (Summa Theologica I, I Q1, Art 10) This is but one example of the many misunderstandings, which for years have served only to thwart proper devotion to this blessed saint, now dogmatically clarified by the brilliant scholarship in this volume. Fidgeologists everywhere will applaud its appearance.

Much of the merit of this work must be attributed to the direct influence of Saint Fidgeta. It's author, Mr. John Bellairs, has demonstrated that sound scholarship is the product of life-long devotion. His sincere adoration of Saint Fidgeta is evident not only in the unerring orthodoxy of his life. Those who know Mr. Bellairs are often aware of the spiritual presence of the saint as they see him fidgeting about. Indeed, this young and now famous author seems at times to reflect the image of Saint Fidgeta herself (see pictures).

The subtle protest, Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies can be taken to heart by any Christian. Though Mr. Bellairs directs his wit mainly at customs and conditions which have thus far escaped the aggiornamento, he does not hesitate to point a finger toward those sins (idolatry, superstition, authoritarian exclusivism, prejudice, and injustice) which cut across more denominational lines than ecumenical enthusiasts have yet discovered the ambiguity of this serious humor is the great merit of St. Fidgeta. Those who are unable to laugh at (and lament) their own sins or the sins of their church may be offended. Those who do laugh may be reformed as well as entertained. We certainly hope Saint Fidgeta will be followed by other authoritative studies. By the way, what was in the last Fatima letter?

No comments: