The Saint and His Cat: localization of religious charisma in contemporary Russian Orthodox Pilgrimages
The charismatic authority of living saints, startsy, poses a challenge to the official Church, whose legitimacy is based, using classical Max Weber’s typology, on the legal-rational type of authority. At the same time, the church tends to represent itself as a traditional pre-modern (and even anti-modern) institution in order to stress its role as a vehicle for transmitting the national traditions throughout the troubles that affected Russia in the 20th century. This dissonance between real practices and their discursive representations leads to the credibility gap faced by the Russian Orthodox Church. This is probably one of the reasons why many people prefer to practice religion outside the church walls, without being controlled by a parish priest or a congregation. Very different in their political orientations and regularity of their religious life, all these people can accept intimate and to some extent folkloric image of a saint who was attached to his cat and knew the future.