238 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 20 halftones
- Published: March 2009
- ISBN: 9780268038939
- Published: August 2022
- ISBN: 9780268206284
- Published: March 2009
- ISBN: 9780268089719
In Hidden Holiness, 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.
“What is ‘holiness,’ really? Hidden Holiness is a scholarly examination of what is holy in modern society, and calls for people to make their own judgments on what really matters in today’s world. Could what is truly holy be hidden from the public eye, unbeknownst to many? Seeking to promote discussion of this topic, author Michael Plekon presents an intriguing examination of modern day holiness, making Hidden Holiness a highly valued read.” —Midwest Book Review
“Hidden Holiness, drawing . . . on Orthodox spirituality, but with an ecumenical sweep, discusses the holiness that can be attained by doing ordinary things. In seven meaty chapters, including an ecumenical cast of characters, Plekon searches for the strategies and resources that bring people close to God, for, as he rightly understands, holiness is a fundamental characteristic of God, and everyone else is holy to the degree that he or she is drawn closer to God. . . . This book is especially recommended to those who are interested in solid work on spirituality but who have little knowledge of the Christian East in general or Russian thought in particular.” —Commonweal
“At the core of this book is a strong argument that holiness can be revealed by the faithful living of ordinary people in the world. In so doing, it offers a powerful and practical model of Christian life, making this a thought-provoking work on hagiography, ethics, and spirituality.” —Religious Studies Review
“. . . in the new book [Plekon] reaches out to saintly icons in his own and other churches. His theme is straightforward: that holiness can be sought, found and lived in the simplicity and complexity of everyday life among ‘ordinary people’ who seek the foundation of their existence in the search for God.” —The American Benedictine Review
“Michael Plekon suggests in Hidden Holiness that our cult of celebrity has elevated some figures to sainthood, by process or public acclaim, while most holiness is lived out as ‘hidden holiness.’ . . . Recommended for personal or group study, Hidden Holiness would be particularly effective for a retreat setting and for anyone interested in contemplative reading.” —Congregational Libraries Today
“Without doubt it is usual for preachers to recall that the Christian life is one of everyday engagement—holiness is not reserved to a happy few ‘extra-terrestrials’ but each of us is called to sanctity by baptism. This is why it is not at all bad to sometimes examine the lives of Christians who are not and never will be canonized as saints but who offer us a reflection of God’s image . . . simply because they were human beings . . . Contrary to what we might think, these also reveal to us a side of God’s infinite love that we could really put to use. This is what . . . Plekon has set out to uncover, following the path he took earlier in Living Icons . . . [the individuals he presents] are not perfect and their very public failings are likely obstacles to their official recognition by the church. Nevertheless they turned to God who gave them the strength to fully live their lives on earth, caring for their brothers and sisters, in imitation of Christ. It is precisely in this that their witness raises profound question for us all, especially for all Christians.” —Irènikon
“This very readable book amounts to a verbal symphony on the theme of holiness: a holiness hidden and non-spectacular, contemporary and accessible, yet still beguiling and mysterious. . . . Hidden Holiness is an important contribution to the current literature on Christian holiness. In particular, it merits the attention of anyone interested in the growth of the calendar of saints in various branches of the church.” —The Living Church
“Hidden Holiness is particularly strong in showing that saints wrestle with faith, struggle with personal demons, and go about the business of their daily lives much as everyone else does. This book is a real joy to read, a challenging feast of the soul that not only nourishes but also inspires.” —Cistercian Studies Quarterly
“If asked to name a person who has exemplified holiness, do you think of one of the classical saints, or do you think of a friend or family member? Michael Plekon suggests in Hidden Holiness that our cult of celebrity has elevated some figures to sainthood, by process or public acclaim, while most holiness is lived out as ‘hidden holiness.’ His book will be best appreciated by those who have saints and icons as part of their faith heritage. But there is plenty here for any reader.” —Church & Synagogue Library Association
“Appreciation of holiness embedded in ordinary life permeates this book. Encouraging a reassessment of saintliness and educating people toward reimagining holiness are concerns here. Michael Plekon . . . focuses on women and men—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant—who model hidden holiness.” —Horizons