John Bradburne: the Vagabond of God

by Didier Rance, DLT, £14.99

There’s something a little unsettling about saints. They’re weird. They make us feel uncomfortable. They’re eccentric and on the fringe of things. They put us on edge because they’re edgy.

The same can be said of mystics. Mystics are misfits. They don’t fit in.

There is a reason for all this. Saints are unsettling because they and we are not meant to be settled. We are, as St Augustine says, restless until we can rest in God. They are weird in the original sense of the word – wyrd in Old English, as used by the Beowulf poet and other Christian bards in Anglo-Saxon times – because they interweave themselves with the providential presence of the divine. They make us feel uncomfortable because they make themselves uncomfortable, choosing a life of self-sacrificial mortification, taking the Cross seriously enough to take it up and carry it. For most of us, addicted to our creature comforts, seeing someone choosing discomfort reminds us that we are spiritual couch potatoes who need to be shaken out of our comfort zones. This puts us on edge, even if it only shifts us to the edge of the couch.

And yet it is we who are on the fringe of things, not the saint – it is we who are the real eccentrics. The saint only seems to be eccentric because he centres himself in the real Centre of all things, which is the Creator of all things. The saint is a saint because he is centric, not eccentric. We, on the other hand, wandering far from the mystical Centre, are the real eccentrics.

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