The Holiness of Susan Boyle, Tiger Woods, Russell Crowe and Dorothy Day

Susan Boyle has made her sophomore appearance to the world, singing “Memory” from the musical “Cats” on Britain’s Got Talent.   I watched it on YouTube.   I thought I heard one shaky note in the beginning (literally shaky, as if from nerves, and if so, who could blame her having to meet such unbelievable expectations from her audience?).  There was maybe one other note that lacked confidence, but it wasn’t any of the notes that mattered.  I was watching her face, and she just glowed with serene self-possession, living out, in that moment, the word “enthusiasm” which, from the Greek, originally meant “inspiration or possession by the presence of God.”

There is nothing like watching or being inspired by people who are thus enthused and infused with a Divine presence.  When people are living out their true calling they take on a different aura, and it’s magnetic and powerful.  It turns the homely into true beauties–which Susan Boyle can attest to, given the masses of people who have begged her to “stay the way you are.”  That is, being possessed of her own special kind of beauty–a kind of beauty that’s nowhere to be found at any cosmetic counter.  

It is enthusiasm, and not a certain well-advertised after-shave of the 70s that will turn a nerd into a sex magnet.  It’s that kind of enthusiasm that pushes people into a stratosphere of holiness–and it doesn’t matter if the rest of their lives aren’t exactly holy.  Holiness doesn’t necessarily mean saintliness, although saints, of course are holy.  Holiness is defined as “to be devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity.”    Dorothy Day was holy working with the poor.  Tiger Woods is holy on a golf course.   Russell Crowe is holy on film.   Steve Jobs is holy when leading technological innovation.    We may not be able to explain it when we see it, but we can recognize it because somehow when we are in their presence, “it” is transmitted from their beings to ours and makes us one with them.   Their energy lifts us up and draws us in to a higher place.

I don’t know how to “learn” from people like this.  Learning is rational activity, and this is not a rational process.   You hear about people pursuing their calling in a way that other people call lunatic.  But they press on because they must.   You hear Bob Dylan admit that when he wrote the songs in the 60s that have become classics for all time, he said that he wasn’t writing those songs–they seemed to come through him, not from him.    There are no self-help books that can teach you how to channel God’s energy in 10 easy steps.   This is the kind of thing in which you’ve either got it or you don’t.  It is nothing that can be faked.  

I thank God for the opportunity to every now and then to at least be in the presence of these people–people like Susan Boyle, who you wouldn’t look twice at in a supermarket line, but when she opens her mouth to sing, you can’t let go of the voice or the face that beams with that supernatural glow.



  1. 4854derrida says:


    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One was made for the Christophers [1971]–i.e., Christopher Closeup– and the other for WCVB-TV Boston [1974].

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable lay minister.

    They may be located here:

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

    • Catherine says:

      Thank you for this! Very timely comment. Just yesterday I was on the plane going from New York to LA, and happened to have grabbed for the trip her first autobiography, written when she was 40, From Union Square to Rome. I read the whole thing before reaching LA. She was certainly an inspiration. My daughter (who, by the way, shares Dorothy’s birthday) has already sent me the Christopher Closeup piece–I look forward to watching the other. Thank you so much for sharing these videos!

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