June 13/30, Feast of St. Botolph (Old Style)
Abbot and Confessor, of Ikanhoe, England (+680)
Patron saint of all Travelers,
Boston, England (founded 654)
Boston, Massachusetts (founded 1630) and Patron of Boston Pilgrim Tours (formerly Boltolph’s Town Tours, founded 2013, one year ago TODAY)
Happy First Birthday to this blog and Boston Pilgrim Tours! On this one year anniversary of Boston’s only (as far as I know) faith-based tour company, I would like to post a few words about the Puritan’s attitude towards sanctity in general and saints in particular. This is based on the curious fact which I am sure to mention in our founding tour that Boston is the only city in New England that contains the name of a saint, making that saint, Botolph, her default patron (Boston is an elided form of “Botolph’s Town”). I say default and not conscious patron because of the Puritan’s attitude toward sanctity and saints.
The Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the city of Boston did not believe in the ancient Christian notion of sanctity, but in a particular doctrine they invented called visible sainthood. Their beef with the Church of England is that she allowed all people no matter what their behavior in life to worship under one roof. Like the Gospel of the wheat and the tares, she let the final judgment of people’s relative holiness fall to God. This was not good enough for the Puritans who felt the need to purify the visible church of dead weight, people whose lives did not reveal them as part of God’s elect, predestined for Him before the foundation of the world.
To this end, the visible saints of New England strove by their life and holiness to imitate the invisible church of saints in heaven. But by this invisible church, they did not necessarily mean the specific saints canonized by the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Church. They meant the sainthood of all believers, united more by right belief than righteous practice. It was an amorphous ecclesiology that allowed them to redefine the Church.
So how and why did they name New England’s chief city after a specific Roman or Eastern Orthodox saint? The historical record so far indicates to me that it was in deference to the city in Old England that first bore them until their departure to the New World. I would like to believe that there was a more mysterious and spiritual reason, beyond the control of these well meaning Puritans.
I have argued elsewhere that the saints have a mind of their own, uninhibited by our blindness or weak intentions. It is for us who understand the significance of St. Botolph’s life to receive him consciously as our beloved city’s patron, whether the city’s founders meant us to or not. For he is a great champion and defender of those lost in the mire of sin and the neo-pagan confusion of modern times. On this first birthday of Boston Pilgrim Tours, I would like to say with all boldness, Holy Saint Botolph of Boston, England and Boston, USA, pray to God for us and thank you dear Puritan forefathers for unwittingly seeking his protection.