Of Vulcans and Saints

I may have mentioned before that I like Star Trek and that I’m re-watching the episodes of Enterprise. One of the main characters in this series is T’Pol, a Vulcan science officer. When I originally watched the series, she was my hero. Cool, calculating, master of her emotions (read: master of suppressing her emotions), living by logic and reason. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. *cue “I am a Rock”* On last night’s episode, “Fusion,” the crew of the Enterprise meets a strange set of Vulcans: friendly, open to trying new things, cooperative. These Vulcans claim that the teachings of Surak have been misinterpreted and that Vulcans were never meant to suppress their emotions but to integrate them with logic and reason. T’Pol disagrees, calling the sect, “Vulcans without logic” and warns the captain that they are dangerous. “Just because they smile and eat chicken doesn’t mean they have learned to master their emotions,” she quips.

What does this have to do with saints? Well, I often find myself making the saints into Vulcans. They are perfect. They have reached Kolinahr–mastery of their emotions. They always please God because they are perpetually living in happy land where nothing bad ever affects them, sadness is received as joy and pain as pleasure. And after last night’s episode (which showed that T’Pol was right), I was slightly distraught at the apparent “score one” for the Vulcans. I know in my heart that the Saints were not Vulcans, but how were they different?

Then this morning I read in St. Faustina’s Diary that she was greatly upset by something false someone had said about her. She says, “My heart felt a twinge of pain.” She resolves to show greater kindness to the offending person. “I became aware, however, that I was not strong enough to bear this calmly, because the matter lingered on for weeks. When I saw the storm building up [I took this to mean storm of emotions]…I went before the Blessed Sacrament and said to the Lord, ‘Lord Jesus, I ask You to give me the strength of Your actual grace, because I feel that I will not manage to survive this struggle. Shield me with Your breast'”(#1150).

What?!? A saint feeling offended, overwhelmed by a storm of emotions, unable to fight hurt with kindness and accept false accusations? Yes, actually. The saints didn’t please God because of their super-human control, the suppression of their emotions. Saints experienced pain, sadness, anger, humiliation, melancholy–all the emotions known to Man. But they knew how to take both the negative and the positive to God, to thank Him for the opportunities for growth in virtue, to beg mercy, grace and consolation, to give Him praise in all situations. They knew their weaknesses, knew and humbled themselves to ask for grace and mercy and for forgiveness when they fell.

I don’t displease God when I feel emotion. And I don’t please Him when I suppress emotion. He made me; He made emotions. “And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good” (Gen. 1.31). Emotions are good. They can be misused and abused like any good thing. The answer is not to suppress them, to stop feeling, but to acknowledge them, take them to Our Lord, thank Him, praise Him, ask for His grace, His assistance, whatever the situation requires. Well, at least that’s part of the answer. Still working on it myself, to tell the truth.

Watching Enterprise the second go ’round,  I find myself pitying T’Pol. Emotions are terrible, but they are also wonderful. She may not be able to feel sadness or pain or disappointment or anger, but that also means she cannot feel joy, exhilaration, love. What a loss.

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