|St. Maria Goretti|
What I don't understand, however, is the seemingly insane adoption of another person's pain, even long after they're dead.
Take the example of St. Maria Goretti: she was 12 years old in 1902 when she was stabbed to death by a rapist. A horrible tragedy, I'm sure no-one would disagree. Now, 110 years later, Catholic devotees gathered by the thousands in Toronto to view her body, as if by doing so, their imaginings of her pain and heroism somehow effected their lives in a positive way; they were somehow blessed by looking on at her century-old corpse. No doubt, Catholics also imagine Maria is considering each one of them from her extra-planar vantage, if not bending her knee to the Almighty as he sifts the sin from contrition and radiates the better portion to Miss. Goretti.
But who were these people who gathered? Why did they cry as if Maria's pain was theirs? What kind of neurosis induces such hysterical worship (yeah, I know: dulia not latria. Apparently a darker shade of gray explains the "worship" as distinct from the "like, worship worship") of a dead girl?
Not being a qualified psychologist, I can't legitimately attach a 'condition' or diagnosis to such hysteria. Though I do think there's something fundamentally wrong in the psyche of people who would gather to weep and worship at the sight of a girl they never knew, and have no connection to beyond their contrived emotional states.
At the root of it, I think it has a lot to do with being told they should have some feelings for those who died professing the faith. In the same manner, we pay tribute to fallen soldiers who secured our freedoms in the Great Wars. On that note, though, I really don't see anyone hefting caskets about with wax-recreations of degenerated bodies, and people falling over each other to toss garlands and tears at long-dead riflemen. There's no hysteria about soldiers we never new. There's no haughty ideologies about fox-hole victims recovered from the trenches being able to confer special blessings by their mere presence. And that has most likely to do with no-one demanding certain emotions of the general population that they should react this-or-that way to a long-dead soldier.
So to sharpen the focus a little more, I think the craze about a dead girl lauded to be a 'saint' (whatever that really means) comes from the external demands placed on Catholics to behave in a certain way when they encounter certain objects of their faith. I'm certain no-one alive today knew Saint Silvan. He died in AD 350, and enjoys the status of being 'incorruptible.' So, however that happens that a corpse doesn't degrade -- I'm sure there's a natural explanation for it -- it really shouldn't make any difference to anyone's feelings, nowadays. Except that the faithful are told that it should. Because he was declared a saint. And saints are to be reverenced; that is, honoured and respected as exemplars of the faith.
Even so, that doesn't explain how a passing nod in honour of an unfortunate girl mutates into the emotional surges of Catholic devotees. It isn't a rock concert where hordes of less-than-twenties tear at their faces and scream themselves hoarse in a hero-worshiping frenzy. It's a wax recreation of a dead girl who, had she lived, would most likely already be dead by this time, anyway. She said 'no' to a psychotic lunatic and was murdered. Allegedly she forgave the man before she died. It's not anything like a rock-concert, is it? There's really not any reason to induce apoplectic fits about the arrival of a glass-walled casket containing a dead girl.
My assessment is far from scholarly. Really it's just a general confusion that I've written down. I've wanted to call into question the reality that Catholic faithfuls get so worked-up about dead people who have no real effect on their lives now other than to be an emotional focal-point for their otherwise dubious faith-claims. Quite simply, I don't understand the fervor surrounding saints, the emotional mania that is often alleged as being contrition and deep humility for God, or the dressed-up agnosticism that gets passed-off as knowing theology about things for which there really is no evidence (e.g., that dead saints confer any discernible benefits to the living faithful).