Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Michael Plekon Publishes Hidden Holiness

In Hidden Holiness, Weissman Professor Michael Plekon challenges us to examine the concept of holiness. He argues that both Orthodox and Catholic churches understand saints to be individuals whose lives and deeds are unusual, extraordinary, or miraculous. Such a requirement for sainthood undermines, in his view, one of the basic messages of Christianity: that all people are called to holiness.

Instead of focusing on the ecclesiastical process of recognizing saints, Plekon explores a more ordinary and less noticeable “hidden” holiness, one founded on the calling of all to be prophets and priests and witnesses to the Gospel. As Rowan Williams has insisted, people of faith need to find God’s work in their culture and daily lives. With that in mind, Plekon identifies a fascinatingly diverse group of faithful who exemplify an everyday sanctity, as well as the tools they have used to enact their faith.

Plekon calls upon contemporary writers—among them, Rowan Williams, Kathleen Norris, Sara Miles, Simone Weil, and Darcey Steinke—as well as such remarkable and controversial figures as Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day, to demonstrate ways to imagine a more diverse and everyday holiness. He also introduces four individuals of “hidden holiness”: a Yup’ik Alaskan, Olga Arsumquak Michael; the artist Joanna Reitlinger; the lay theologian Elisabeth Behr-Sigel; and human rights activist Paul Anderson. A generous and expansive treatment of the holy life, accessibly written for all readers, Plekon’s book is sure to inspire us to recognize and celebrate the holiness hidden in the ordinary lives of those around us.

Article text from University of Notre Dame Press, edited by J D Sallen

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"Father Michael Plekon pushes a boundary here. Our usual understanding of those who are saints involves something heroic,  something extraordinary -- and it allows us to put too comfortable a distance between ourselves and those we consider saints. We are able
to look away from the Lord's demand that we are to be holy, as God
is. By focusing on the manifest holiness of a number of people who
did not demonstrate such extraordinary heroism, people whose lives
nevertheless give witness to the transforming power of the gospel, he
challenges all of us to become what our baptism calls us to be." -John Garvey, author of Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other
Religions

"In Hidden Holiness, Michael Plekon writes about the ways holiness
and grace are everywhere, not just located inside church buildings.
He writes of people living out their faith. I loved this book and
recommend it to anyone who wants a relationship with divinity that is
creative and on-going, a religion deeply embodied unconfined by
doctrine and rules." -Darcey Steinke, author of Easter Everywhere: A
Memoir and Jesus Saves

"Recent years have seen a great resurgence of interest in the
saints-not as legendary heroes or heavenly patrons, but as spiritual
companions and models of faithfulness. Michael Plekon writes with
compassion and insight about a number of those models. But his great
contribution is to highlight a new style of holiness, hidden in the
ordinary duties and challenges of everyday life. A profound,
ecumenically rich, reflection on the meaning of sainthood in our
time." -Robert Ellsberg, author, All Saints

"The world around us does not look for high achievers, religious
celebrities, but for the saving glimpse of what is quite Other to us,
made known in a humanity we recognize as really human. Only the
saint-not the hero or the success story-can meet this hunger for
light and truth and transformation. In these vivid pages, this is
what is offered for our challenge and our joy." -from the Foreword by
Rowan Williams

Michael PlekonMichael Plekon is a professor in the department of sociology/anthropology and the Program in Religion and Culture at Baruch College, City University of  New York. He is also an ordained priest in the Orthodox Church in America.

 

 


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