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 Post subject: Saints and Tattoos
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 9:07 am 
Hi everyone- I have a question about Catholic imagery and tattooing for a non-Catholic.
I was raised Atheist and converted to Buddhism when I was about 15. I've taken several Bible studies and courses related to the Catholic religion, but do not follow the beliefs myself. I greatly respect them, but they're just not for me. However, I have been contemplating for the last few years a tattoo of Saint Francis. (I am a veterinary student, and find the concept and images themselves very powerful. If there were a saint that I felt connected to, it would be him, as I see a lot of parallels between his work and life and what we as vets strive to accomplish.) I am concerned however that, being a non-Catholic, marking myself with this image would be considered not a symbol of admiration, but disrespectful to the faith.

I tried asking around, but none of my Catholic friends could give me a good answer on this subject. So I'm asking everyone here: how offensive would it be for a non-Catholic to be tattooed with a Catholic saint? None of my 9 other tattoos are related to a faith, even the one that I belong to, so I'm nervous about making that jump.


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 Post subject: Re: Saints and Tattoos
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 9:39 am 
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UberAlice wrote:
Hi everyone- I have a question about Catholic imagery and tattooing for a non-Catholic.
I was raised Atheist and converted to Buddhism when I was about 15. I've taken several Bible studies and courses related to the Catholic religion, but do not follow the beliefs myself. I greatly respect them, but they're just not for me. However, I have been contemplating for the last few years a tattoo of Saint Francis. (I am a veterinary student, and find the concept and images themselves very powerful. If there were a saint that I felt connected to, it would be him, as I see a lot of parallels between his work and life and what we as vets strive to accomplish.) I am concerned however that, being a non-Catholic, marking myself with this image would be considered not a symbol of admiration, but disrespectful to the faith.

I tried asking around, but none of my Catholic friends could give me a good answer on this subject. So I'm asking everyone here: how offensive would it be for a non-Catholic to be tattooed with a Catholic saint? None of my 9 other tattoos are related to a faith, even the one that I belong to, so I'm nervous about making that jump.


I would say that all of our Saints are merely reflections of the work of Christ... So, consider instead reflecting on the life and work of the person that St. Francis wanted you to really focus on... Jesus Christ.

You see, it would actually be disrespectful to St. Francis to give him a special place of honor over and above the person he preached. He would first want you focused on Christ before and veneration to him.

FJ

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 9:43 am 
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The Saints and their images do not belong solely to the Catholic Church. These very holy people are Saints in Heaven whether you're Catholic or not. And imitation of their lives is always a good thing, no matter who is imitating them.

As for a tattoo of a Saint.

You're going to get mixed feedback on that in part because of mixed opinions of the spiritual advisability of tattooing at all.

It is possible that even if you were a devout Catholic with an active devotion to St. Francis that tattooing the image of the Saint onto your body would be offensive to some and seen by others as an act of disrespect.

Personally I have nothing against tattoos. And I am not offended by the theory of religious art being used in tattooing. But I cannot say that I fully understand why a non-Catholic would wish to permanently add the image of a Saint to their body.

I know I haven't answered your question very well. But there is no clear cut answer to this.

I don't know that I, as a Catholic, would find it offensive - but I would consider it to be odd and confusing.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 10:26 am 
Annie Oakley wrote:
But I cannot say that I fully understand why a non-Catholic would wish to permanently add the image of a Saint to their body.

I understand the confusion. The best way that I can explain it is that I do not know if I believe in a deity. Not that I distinctly do or don't, but that honestly I'm not sure. However, St. Francis to me sums up principles that are very important to me in the practice that has pretty much become my life. As a symbol of peace, love and protection towards all animals, I find inspiration in his life. Therefore, it's not an issue necessarily of celebrating his Catholic connections and sainthood, but rather what he accomplished during his lifetime. Not sure if that makes any sense.


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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 10:36 am 
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UberAlice wrote:
Annie Oakley wrote:
But I cannot say that I fully understand why a non-Catholic would wish to permanently add the image of a Saint to their body.

I understand the confusion. The best way that I can explain it is that I do not know if I believe in a deity. Not that I distinctly do or don't, but that honestly I'm not sure. However, St. Francis to me sums up principles that are very important to me in the practice that has pretty much become my life. As a symbol of peace, love and protection towards all animals, I find inspiration in his life. Therefore, it's not an issue necessarily of celebrating his Catholic connections and sainthood, but rather what he accomplished during his lifetime. Not sure if that makes any sense.


UberAlice -

May I make one suggestion, then? Before you go off and have the image of St. Francis of Assisi permanently affixed to your body please take some time and actually research the life of this great Saint.

You keep talking about as a symbol of love and protection toward all animals - as though he is the Patron Saint of the Animal Rights movement or some other such nonsense. And as if that is the sum of his life's work.

There is much more to St. Francis of Assisi than the statue of him with birds depicts.

Before you commit to adding him to your collection of "body art" take the time to understand truly and fully what he represents and what his life, dedicated to Jesus Christ, really meant.

You're considering him as a role model and as an addition to your art collection based on one tiny sliver (and a relatively speaking an insignificant sliver, at that) of his life.

What makes St. Francis of Assisi worth our respect, honour, devotion, reverence and imitation is not that he was nice to animals. But that he lived his life in a sincere imitation of Jesus Christ.

If you're giving him honour for anything but that then you have completely missed the point of his life and you should get a tattoo of Ingrid Newkirk instead.

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 10:39 am 
I am not an animal rights activist. I take pride in the fact that I keep my beliefs on that subject relatively quiet.
I came here asking for advice, and had it been presented in a polite manner, I would have taken it to heart. I'm aware of his early life as a brawler, soldier and spoiled little brat. However, he is the patron saint of animals, and that is why I became interested in the first place.
I tried to remain respectful in my answers to your questions. Please try to do the same for me.


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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 10:49 am 
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UberAlice wrote:
I am not an animal rights activist. I take pride in the fact that I keep my beliefs on that subject relatively quiet.
I came here asking for advice, and had it been presented in a polite manner, I would have taken it to heart. I'm aware of his early life as a brawler, soldier and spoiled little brat. However, he is the patron saint of animals, and that is why I became interested in the first place.
I tried to remain respectful in my answers to your questions. Please try to do the same for me.


I was being respectful.

I am pointing out that he is much much much more than simply the Patron Saint of animals and that before you add a permanent image to your body you should know ALL of what he stands for.

I'm not talking about his life before his conversion, as a rich, spoiled and wordly man who gave little care for Christ or His Church.

I am talking about the life he built upon belief in serving and imitating Jesus Christ. Of his life's work as the founder and spiritual leader of the Franciscan order. Of serving the people of God through his ministry and his service. Cleaning and restoring churches, visiting the sick, ministering in the streets, caring for lepers ... leading an order of consecrated religious in living a life of simplicity and service to God, Almighty. Inspiring St. Clare of Assisi to a life of holiness and virtue (and later to founding the Poor Clares). Suffering the Stigmata. These are the things for which Francis of Assisi is honoured, venerated and imitated for.

Yes, he loved animals. But he loved them because they were a part of God's creation and above all things St. Francis loved and desired to serve God!

I am saying that there is little point in using his image if you are only honouring one aspect of his life and that aspect is not the most important aspect.

You asked a question. Don't be upset because you didn't get the answer you wanted.

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 11:37 am 
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A tattoo is permanent.

Why not wear a religious medal of St. Francis of Assisi for six months or so? It is much less permanent, and, as you are wearing the medal, you will be able to better gauge your own feelings and the feelings of others in response to your wearing the medal.

It is obvious that St. Francis of Assisi has been a great inspiration in your life; perhaps, as a role model, he will lead you to the Catholic faith. Even if he does not, his example has inspired you to be compassionate and caring.

Perhaps those who are opposed to your admiring St. Francis as a humanistic role model should consider how many people of all faiths have been inspired to make our world a better place through the contemporary example of Mother Teresa, and how much poorer our world would have been without their reaction to her example.

I hope that God will bless you in your chosen career.

Here is one link for a St. Francis medal (there are many others, I'm sure.)

http://www.religious-items.com/index.as ... rodID=1387


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 11:45 am 
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allegro54 wrote:
Perhaps those who are opposed to your admiring St. Francis as a humanistic role model should consider how many people of all faiths have been inspired to make our world a better place through the contemporary example of Mother Teresa, and how much poorer our world would have been without their reaction to her example.


I never said that I am opposed to admiring St. Francis as a humanistic role model. Just that before someone takes their admiration of any Saint to the point of permanently decorating their body with the image of that Saint they should understand all that the Saint stood for.

The OP asked if Catholics would be offended by an atheist using the image of a Saint. You're pandering to moral relativism aside the honest answer is that some will and some won't.

Never the less the advice to truly understand the fullness of the meaning of the life of the person you wish to honour with a permanent display of body art before getting the tattoo done is still a good idea.

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 11:57 am 
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Would I be offended? Of course not. A rendering of one of God's great servants, in and of itself is not offensive to me. Personally, the issue falls to why get a tattoo? Francis was solely concerned with inner conversion rather than externals like tattoos. Francis was a mystic who prayed with a united heart to Jesus, not one who put stock in fleshly and superficial things like body ink.

At any rate, I am sure that such a tattoo will be a conversation piece and, in time, a conversion piece. I agree that not fully understanding Francis and his life would be a huge mistake and would shortchange you personally. His love of animals was placed there by his God. Best of luck in your choice! :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 12:13 pm 
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And this is why, Carole, I suggested wearing a medal of St. Francis of Assisi, both as a way of showing respect while allowing more time for reflection before making a permanent decision.


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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 3:39 pm 
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Carole wrote:
The OP asked if Catholics would be offended by an atheist using the image of a Saint. You're pandering to moral relativism aside the honest answer is that some will and some won't.


How is suggestion "pandering to moral relativism"? The comment would have to be regarding a moral question. Given that the matter of potential offense is one of subjective opinion (at least as you pose it), the morality of the action itself really isn't at issue. It's not a sin to offend some one by not appealing to that person's subjective preferences.

Now, if you had quote the Levitical prohibition against tatooing, I could see your point.

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2005 6:43 pm 
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Dear UberAlice, there is a wonderful short story by Flannery O'Connor called "Parker's Back," in which the main character is faced with a situation nearly identical to yours; perhaps the story might draw out some of the blurry facets of this issue for you. Happy reading :!:

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