The Gospel Truth

The Touch of Sainthood | February 12, 2014

I have written about my deep interest in massage therapy several times before.

In an important way it has become a necessary function of my life as I get older.

I told my therapist that for this to have any real meaning for me it had to resonate in some way with my Catholic faith and it has.

It did not take me long to find a religious connection for the wonderful feelings that my therapists engendered in this old body. It was a rejuvenation and a euphoria that I want to continue for all eternity.  I feel it every time she touches me.

This euphoria is what Heaven portends to be because a massage puts me in a short-lived state that approximates the best feelings I could ever have.

Lomi Lomi Massage

in a state of euphoria

After a massage I am not only happier but I want to pass these feelings of love and peace to everyone I meet that day.  It is like being in a Coca Cola commercial.

All these feelings inspired me to find out who was the saint of massage therapists was.  Catholics have a saint for almost every country, profession, hobby and avocation.   One can find a patron saint of architects, shepherds and chimney sweeps…but no massage therapists.

To my disappointment there was no saint listed.

I did find a reference to St. James without detail or verification.

One man submitted Sister Rosalind Genfre, whom I have mentioned a few times in these pages.  She is the Minneapolis nun who started a chain of massage spas, for want of a better term in the 1980s.

Sister Rosalind Official Massage Therapists for the Saints

Busted by St. Paul police

Her pastoral work was to elderly people in nursing homes in St. Paul, Minnesota. By accident she had discovered how favorably they responded to even the slightest touch.  She and a few other sisters learned how to do massages and then started out by offering them to the elderly residents of the nursing home to ease the burdens of old age.

I know first hand the importance of touch.  It is a form of personal validation and extension of one human soul to another just because we are all God’s children.

Well the local authorities thought otherwise.  They thought she and her fellow nuns were offering the kind of massage one found at a massage parlor or a brothel.

When the sisters finally proved their legitimacy a new profession was born and older adults like me had another assistance in fighting the ravages of age.

But Sister Roz is very much alive and you have to be dead..usualy a long become recognized as a Catholic saint.

That was a couple of years ago.  Just recently I got the urge to try again.  Maybe I missed something.

My search led me to Pam a massage therapist from Wheaton Illinois who writes a blog on massage issues.  In 2012 she addressed the issue of a Patron Saint for Massage Therapists.

Her vote went to Saint Mary Magdalene, who is usually thought of as the second-most important woman in the New Testament after Mary, the mother of Jesus.   She was present at Jesus’ two most important moments: the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Within the four Gospels, the oldest historical record mentioning her name, she is named at least 12 times,more than most of the apostles. The Gospel references describe her as courageous, brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death and beyond.

First massage therapist

St. Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches—with a feast day of July 22. Other Protestant churches honor her as a heroine in the faith. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, the Orthodox equivalent of the Western Three Marys.

What is her connection to massage therapy?

According to Pam she anointed the feet of Jesus with oil. That in itself should be enough.

Mary Magdalene’s actions were judged and misunderstood by those around her and even later in the Catholic Church.

Many people just don’t understand massage therapists–they think they are a little out there and their actions are suspect…what is she REALLY doing with those naked people?  Just like the Magdalene!  People saw what she was doing and said, Wow–that’s really inappropriate. If Jesus really knew who she was, he wouldn’t let her touch him!

Since then many people from Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century to director Martin Scorsese and writer Dan Brown have misjudged her and soiled her reputation.  It was Gregory I who confused her with the woman  by caught in adultery.

Confused his Marys

It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord’s feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer’s feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance.

Scorsese, a Catholic, vividly dramatizes in his controversial film about Jesus Christ–The Last Temptation of Christ. In addition Magdalene becomes jesus’ fantasy lover as well.    In his 2003 novel, the DaVinci Code Brown raises her to the rank of Jesus’ wife who escapes with him to Southern France were their descendants start the Merovingian  line of French monarchs.


Jesus’ wife?

Her sordid reputation sullied her memory until 1969 when Pope Paul VI exonerated her without commenting on his predecessor’s abject error. She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?

Pam, who is a registered psychologist as well takes it even deeper.  Because our society is physically and chronically disconnected from their own bodies and sexualize much of their somatic experience, people project and misinterpret the actions of others. People are unable to understand that massage therapists are able to communicate nurture, care and love through their work that is not sexual.

Jesus understood Mary’s desire to show her love for him the best way she knew how–honoring his body and person in a very concrete expression. Jesus told those around him to Leave her alone! She has done a beautiful thing for me! Jesus got it. He then said, Everywhere my story is told, hers will be too to honor her.

Thanks to Pam I can finally rest.  I will start praying to her with extreme intensity to bless my therapist every time she lays her hands on me.  I have felt for a long time that a massage therapist can serve as a transmitter of God’s graces and love.  Massage therapists,especially mine, truly perform the touch of sainthood.

history of massage symbolized by massage setting

A saintly touch

I can honestly say that what she does has the touch of sainthood in it.   I also pray that I will be in some way be able to repay her for all she has done for me in what for many septuagenarians can be years racked me with pain and depression.

Imagine all this and Heaven too!

Author’s note:  If you liked this one, check out the Fore-touch of Heaven from May 6, 2012.  See the list to the right.



  1. Good post, and Mary Magdalene seems a natural in that patron saint role. About people being “disconnected from their bodies” that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me. It’s physically impossible, for starters, and most people I know are quite attuned to their bodies – to their aches, pains, pleasures, etc. We’re also slavishly concerned about the way our bodies look, the way our hair and face look, etc…

    Comment by Thomas — February 13, 2014 @ 1:11 am

    • No mumbo jumbo I am afraid. The Gnostics, Jansenists, the Manchians as well as Neo-Platonists all hated the body and thought it was an invitation to evil. All those heresies have shown up in Catholicism at one time or another. St. Augustine who was a principal in developing earl Catholic sexual morality.

      You are correct about the primoing and super care many of us afford our bodies. That is OK if you provide the same for their souls. I see dozens of bikers, joggers etc working out on a Sunday morning when people like us are going to Mass. I have always wondered if they did what I had just mentioned for their spirits. We are all body and soul and the two are intimately melded like a liquid mixture that has been blended together so that each ingredient is undistinguishable.

      Comment by Bill Borst — February 14, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

  2. Perhaps of interest…:

    “Greek confidence in the [naked] body can be understood only in relation to their philosophy. It expresses above all their sense of human wholeness. Nothing which is related to the whole man could be isolated or evaded; and this serious awareness of how much was implied in physical beauty saved them from the two evils of sensuality and aestheticism.” – Kenneth Clark

    The key phrase for me is “serious awareness” and how that is the foundation for a Christian view of sex. There has to be a serious awareness of what the purpose of sex is, of its nobility, and how it’s related to wholeness and integrity.

    It’s interesting that even the Greeks only allowed men to be naked in Olympic games. The women were “lightly clad” which perhaps undermines Clark’s own argument. Were there limits to what Clark suggests the Greek felt, that they alone had “[overcome] Original Sin.”

    The Greeks felt spirit and body were one, which is extremely unfashionable in our Gnostic-influenced environment where body is seem to have nothing to do with spirit and or that the body is a weight on the soul (to the extent moderns believe in a soul).

    Clark says the Greeks had the “gift of giving to abstract ideas a sensuous, tangible, and for most part human form.” Isn’t that the goal of many a Catholic apologist? To imbue abstract ideas like natural law and the evils of artificial contraception with a tangible, explainable, “human” form?

    That spirit and body are one ultimately seems a matter for faith, which the Greeks had in a pre-Christian sense. Clark quotes William Blake: “Greek statues…are all of them representations of spiritual existences” and then goes on to say that that:

    “the bodies were there, the belief in the gods was there, the love of rational proportion was there. It was the unifying grasp of the Greek imagination which brought them together. And the nude gains its enduring value from the fact that it reconciles several contrary states. It takes the most sensual and immediately interesting object, the human body, and puts it out of reach of time and desire; it takes the most purely rational concept of which mankind is capable, mathematical order, and makes it a delight to the senses; it takes the vague fears of the unknown and sweetens them by showing that the gods are like men and may be worshipped for the life-giving beauty rather than their death-dealing powers.”

    Comment by anon — February 13, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

    • The Greeks sound as if they had discovered Eden in all of its freedom and all of its natural beauty. Oh I long for the day when I am free of all the purient urges that smear my appreciation for the human body in all of its wonder, purity and its reflection of God. Pope John Paul II had this understanding that I hope to internalize for myself but something keeps sullying that impulse.

      Comment by Bill Borst — February 14, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  3. Also, on that “disconnected from body” line, I’m not sure. Physically it’s impossible obviously and most of us are only too aware of our aches, pains, pleasures, looks, hair, body, etc…

    Comment by anon — February 13, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

  4. Of course no male would comment on the fact there was a “sexual” element easily camoflaged and clergy who have certain “disciplinary issues” would find a satisfactory release.
    I can understand Augustines stance in relation to religious, as a layman he had them himself and would know first hand the “moral” dangers.
    I’m with him on that.

    Comment by L. Newington — March 13, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

  5. I am currently at Lago Atitlan in Guatemala. I was in Panajachel today looking for a gift for a friend who is a massage therapist, so I asked around and ended up buying a statue of Maria Magdalena on the advice of someone there.

    Comment by David Scott Moyer — October 12, 2015 @ 12:43 am

  6. Wow! Your post brought me to tears! As a Licensed Massage Therapist, your words resonated with my soul. Bless you for being open to the healing touch, loving nurturing of your massage therapist and for educating others about how important this work truly is! When I am with my clients, I always endeavor to approach the session with a connection to the Divine, love and understanding.
    I agree with your statement about people being disconnected from their bodies. This happens when touch is so sexualized and looked upon as anything other than therapeutic and an important aspect of human nature, life and communication.
    I will adopt Mary Magdalene as one of my patron saints, as it makes so much sense and I have always felt a strong connection to her.
    You may be interested to know that upon a visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano, I inquired as to who the patron saint of massage therapists is and, interestingly, was told Saint Dymphna. She is a lesser known saint, but she is worth looking up.
    Thank you for you article. It will be life-changing, I am sure!
    Love and blessings to you!

    Comment by Charlisa — December 20, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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