I was once told the vocation story of Blessed Raniero of Borgo San Sepolcro, a friar who lived around the turn of the fourteenth century. Anybody who knows better please correct me.
He was from a poor family. When he grew up he attempted marriage with a young woman who was also from a poor family. They had a lovely wedding, and somehow the families scraped together enough money to have a nicer meal than either Raniero nor his bride had ever seen. Unfortunately, however, the food was so good that the would-be Mrs. Raniero ate so much that she died that very night.
Raniero interpreted all this as a sign that he ought to become a Franciscan, and entered the Order. Miracles were attributed to him, and he was beatified by Pius VII in 1802.
It just goes to show the vocation story is a category of religious narrative that proceeds according to certain accepted rules and critical vocabulary. Can you imagine someone going to a vocation director with this story? He would probably be sent away, told to get counseling, and his 'vocation story' would be a joke in the community from then on. I bet there are a lot of saints who had 'vocation stories' that wouldn't fly nowadays. Have we become wiser in our sense of God's action in the lives of individual souls, or more boring in the cautiousness of our claims?
Our current age has this funny preoccupation with the notion that "historicity" and "truth" are synonymous. A story that is in any part non-verifiable as "historically happened as described" is therefore not true. As such, it is to be confronted as a lie, and the teller as deceived or deceiver, needing punishment and/or counseling. It's a bad mix of poor logic and not being able to separate wisdom from epistemology of the age.
A few safe venues remain - music and science fiction come to mind - but those of us who are called as storytellers need take the risk of public ridicule and continue telling these stories as truth, even if the packaging of that truth does not meet the current standards of the world.
While Blessed Ranieri's vocation story might not fly today, apparently he was the flying friar of his day. At least that's what the paintings depict.
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