Monday, July 22, 2013

Counter Culture

Antonio Busiello 
Winner of the Gold Award of The Royal Photographic Society 2013

Christianity is, if anything, counter-cultural

In a world where bodily perfection is the ideal, the above photograph illustrates counter-culture, towards the real and the permanent and away from fantasy and the transitory

The "cullatori" are men who have tremendous calluses on their shoulders from bearing the weight of huge wooden structures year after year at the Festival of the Lillies in Nola, a small town in Southern Italy. 

Since 410 AD the team of "cullatori" carry eight 82 foot traditional derrick-shaped structure weighing over 2,000 pounds through the narrow streets of the town for one day and one night. 

Busiello said that he  was impressed by how proudly they wear their huge calluses as symbols of their sacrifice and devotion to Saint Paulinus, who gave up his freedom and all his possession to save the citizens of Nola during the Visigoth invasion. 

Other images by Busiello of other cullatori are available here on his website

Paulinus of Nola (also known as Paolino di Nola;  and Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulinus) (ca. 354  – 22 June 431) was a friend and contemporary of St Augustine. He died one year after St Augustine. They corresponded.

He also was in contact with Saint Ambrose and St Jerome and many others

He is one of the Fathers of the Church and was the subject of one of Pope Benedict`s catecheses on the lives of the Fathers (2007)

Born in Bordeaux he experienced a total conversion. He gave up all his substantial material goods

The seed of his conversion was according to Pope Benedict "the simple and intense faith with which the people honoured the tomb of a saint, Felix the Martyr, at the Shrine of present-day Cimitile." 

The tomb is still there. 

He became a monk, then priest then Bishop

He did not write "theological treatises, but poems and ample correspondence ... rich in a lived theology, woven from God's Word, constantly examined as a light for life."

He called the poor "his masters" but for him poverty was the final objective but only the beginning of a pilgrimage towards unity with Christ:
"The relinquishment or sale of temporal goods possessed in this world is not the completion but only the beginning of the race in the stadium; it is not, so to speak, the goal, but only the starting point. In fact, the athlete does not win because he strips himself, for he undresses precisely in order to begin the contest, whereas he only deserves to be crowned as victorious when he has fought properly" ( Ep. XXIV, 7 to Sulpicius Severus). 
His cult is not limited to Nola and Southern Italy. It extends to the United States

His cult also was strong in France especially in the 16th and 17th centuries

Montaigne said this of him in his essay On Solitude:
"When the city of Nola was ruined by the barbarians, Paulinus, who was bishop of that place, having there lost all he had, himself a prisoner, prayed after this manner: 
“O Lord, defend me from being sensible of this loss; for Thou knowest they have yet touched nothing of that which is mine.” 
The riches that made him rich and the goods that made him good, were still kept entire."
One of the stories about the saint is his heroic gesture of offering himself as a prisoner in the place of a widow's son. The historical truth of this episode is disputed

It is retold by St Gregory the Great and in The Golden Legend

It is shown in the image below in the Belgian manuscript of The Golden Legend

Workshops of Willem Vrelant and of Jean le Tavernier and others
Saint Paulin de Nole se livrant pour libérer le fils d'une veuve 
From Jacobus de Varagine  The Golden Legend
c. 1470
F. 177 Mâcon - BM - ms. 0003 

There may be an element of truth in the story. 

Paulinus was married. He had a son, Celsus, who died while still young. There were no other children. 

Several of his poems are about parents who have lost their only child. They are authentic words of comfort as only who who has suffered such a loss could understand. 

Perhaps his offering of his life for the only son of a widow is credible standing such a background

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