Since first learning of St. Drogo, I've been a fan. His name alone is rather incredible. Then, of course, one learns that he is the patron saint of coffee makers ... and of ugly people. His brief biography says that while on pilgrimage he was "stricken with an unsightly bodily affliction." Several years ago, friends and I doing pro-life work for the summer decided to ask for his prayers. We were rather mystified by this man with the odd name and the even odder patronage.
Whenever I tell people that I like St. Drogo, they either tell me, "You're not ugly!" or say, "God doesn't make ugly people, so why do they have a patron?" My early requests for his prayers were not due to poor body image, but rather an interest in a saint who is largely unknown.
But the second common response to my praise of St. Drogo (who I still maintain was responsible for some iced coffee brought to my fellow pro-life walkers and I on a hot June day several years ago during our 1,300 mile journey on foot throughout the Northeast) is one that is interesting.
Does God make ugly people? Do unattractive people exist? Why do they need a patron?
These are great questions. God, who is all Beauty, does not create that which is not beautiful. If we view someone as unattractive, it is not their lack of beauty, but our inability to perceive it.
Still, we have sin, which means we have suffering, which means we have all sorts of marks, wrinkles, blemishes and other signs that point to less than perfection.
But can these be beautiful? We look at Mother Teresa in all of her wrinkles and leathery skin and say, "How beautiful!" We see it in her eyes, in her smile, in her aged, wrinkled hands holding a child dying in Calcutta. Even her wrinkles and her tired eyes are beautiful, because in them we see signs of her selflessness, her love and her faithfulness.
The existence or not of "unattractive people" isn't necessarily the only reason for a patron, however. Unattractiveness, even if only perceived and not real, can also be felt. It's no secret that nearly every woman in the United States of America could point you to her "flaws" faster than her beauty. A zit. A wrinkle. A big nose. A crooked nose. Stringy hair. Frizzy hair. Little eyes. Big eyes. A double chin. Sunken eyes.
You get the picture. But what if we could learn to see ourselves how others see us? What if we could see ourselves how God sees us? Surely it would be different. One is seeing through eyes of love, wonder and gratitude. The other is seeing with eyes of criticism, anger, frustration and fear.
What's the difference? Here's a fascinating glimpse:
How do we begin to see beauty even in ourselves? It begins with seeing beauty as a gift from God and not as our own endeavor, the amount of money we sink into Cover Girl or the number affixed to our dress tag. If we see God as beautiful, and then see ourselves as made in his image and likeness, then the stage has been set for a healing in beauty. It takes time -- maybe even a lifetime -- but it's a gift that we can come to recognize, to receive and for which to be grateful. Perhaps St. Drogo can accompany us on this journey, realizing beauty where we thought only ugliness was to be found.