Aristocracy and sanctity

July 12, 2012

St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney

For it cannot be denied that there have been many saints who were not aristocrats...

It should not be deduced from the preceding that the condition of aristocrat is synonymous with sanctity. For it cannot be denied that there have been many saints who were not aristocrats and many aristocrats who were not saints.

But if aristocracy is not to be confused with sanctity, neither can it be entirely dissociated from it. A person might be a saint but not realize in his personality all the temporal reflections that sanctity can yield. There can be saints whose virtues are not permeated with the qualities that distinguish the aristocrat because this is not within their vocation.

Brenda Frazier, the first “celebutante.”

...and many aristocrats who were not saints.

Some aristocrats limit themselves to guaranteeing the solidity and strength of the temporal order. Others strive to go further and to achieve the highest standards of beauty and perfection in this order. This course can make the aristocrat a saint. Following his God-given vocation, he strives to make his qualities, especially the temporal ones, flourish and rise to the highest peaks. In so doing, he strives to see the relation between temporal things and the goods of the spirit and God Himself.

In those who are not aristocrats, sanctity does not necessarily tend toward aristocracy. It undoubtedly favors the realization, in an excellent way, of what is inherent to the condition of the person. Sanctity, elevates the individual within his condition, but not necessarily to a higher one.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), American Appendix, pp. 194-195. Editorial comment: —
There is a strain of one-eyed religiosity inside the Catholic Church that believes that sanctity must be synonymous with poverty, shabbiness, and misery. More extreme elements of this squinted view are decidedly anti-aristocratic and deplore artistic beauty, pomp, splendor, and Court ceremony.
Certain saints were called to shine in the virtue of poverty, like St. Francis of Assisi. It is wrong to conclude from this, however, that sanctity cannot be found amidst great wealth and aristocracy.
The poverty that is a must for all sanctity is “poverty of spirit,” meaning detachment from earthly goods. One can have this detachment, and have it even in heroic degree, amidst the aristocratic splendor of great power and wealth. There are numerous saints who were kings, queens and great nobles. One example, is St. Henry II and his wife, St. Cunegond, Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.
As this post explains, aristocracy and sanctity are not the same, but they are not mutually excluding.




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