Simeon Stylites may have heard a vocational call to stay in one spot for most of his life, but his feast day is all over the place, calendar-wise. He’s on the Roman calendar for January 5, although in this country the celebration of St. John Neumann would dominate that day – as if we’d be celebrating a Pillar Saint at all…Various Eastern Christian groups celebrate him on different days, but even though I have him for January 5 in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints, I wanted to chat about him a bit today…since Byzantine Catholics celebrate him on September 1.
The question might come up – why include this nutty guy in a book of saints for children in the 21st century at all? Isn’t he a little scary and off-putting? Don’t we want the kids to feel that Christianity is normal and fun and won’t make them weird?
Nope. Christianity, to take a Chestertonian sort of position, is both the most normal thing in the world and the weirdest. It is normal because it alone reflects the whole of life and reality as it is, but since the World dwells mostly in denial of this reality, yes, Christianity is weird. The sooner kids understand that paradoxical dynamic, the better.
Further, Catholic spirituality is all about seeing the movement of grace everywhere. Read the great spiritual writers. They will advise you to seek God in all that happens to you: in those who hurt you, in those who mock you, in suffering and in witnessing what seems strange and even insane.
This kind of radical spirituality – dwelling on a platform on a pillar for decades – is unusual, but St. Simeon Stylites was not the only figure who embraced it. There were others, some saints, some not. St. Simeon is important for us because September 1, which coincides with his feast, begins the Byzantine Catholic liturgical year.
So just a couple of pages from the book. He’s in the section, “Saints Are People Who Surprise Others.”