Saturday, December 15, 2007

Descartes becomes Cesidian Church's first saint

After urging support for the canonization of Descartes or Cartesius in November, the Bishop of the Cesidian Church consecrates Descartes as the church’s first saint after a canonization process.

According to the Bible, a saint is one who is sanctified, consecrated, set apart as sacred.

Early Christians were all called saints.

Over time, the term saint came to refer to a person who was recognized as having attained a certain level of holiness.

Bishops and martyrs became the first kinds of saints to be venerated by the early Christian church, and later the hermit type of saint became recognized. Later still, the terms virgin and matron were used to describe women saints, and other types of saints such as confessors, abbots and abbesses, and priests were added.

René Descartes was born on March 31, 1596, in La Haye, France, and died on February 11, 1650, in Stockholm, Sweden. Despite having an out-of-wedlock daughter named Francine, who became the greatest sorrow of his life when she died at the age of five, he lived an otherwise single, secluded life, very close to the style of the traditional hermit.

He was a brilliant mathematician, and a genius whose "Discourse on Method" and "Meditations on First Philosophy" have changed the way we think about ourselves and the world, yet he also advocated religious tolerance and human rights. He honored women as equals, even dedicated books not once, but twice to Protestant women, and all of this while trying to gain favor with Jesuit priests. Most people misunderstand Descartes and this behavior, but it is clear that he was not biased in any way towards men or towards Catholics, even though he was both a man and a Catholic.

He practiced medicine without charge, and healed both the wealthy and famous, and the poor and obscure. He did not die an agonizing death as a martyr, yet a martyr he was nonetheless in spreading truth and wisdom in the service of Queen Christina of Sweden, and he may have been fundamental to her later conversion to Catholicism.

The pious Catholic Claude Clerselier tried to turn Descartes into a saint after his death, clearly feeling he was a saint, yet the Catholic Church never honored or beatified him, and even put his books on the "Index of prohibited books" (Index librorum prohibitorum). His Cartesian philosophy too was condemned at the University of Utrecht, bastion of Calvinist thought, and the university only lifted the ban 363 years later.

On November 28, 2007, the Cesidian Church beatified René Descartes, and issued a "Saint René Descartes Declaration" urging support for his canonization. In response, several persons from various walks of life and different denominations, even an atheist, have signed the petition in favor of Descartes’ canonization, and together with the bishop of the Cesidian Church, two bishops and one archbishop have expressed their favor for Descartes’ sainthood.

In the presence of the gracious God of Abraham, of Jesus, and of the living Messiah, I consecrate Saint René Descartes on this day, and for all time, First Saint of the Cesidian Church.

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Sotto Voce

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