There’s controversy brewing over the impending beatification of John Paul II. It’s too speedy, they say. He’s only been gone six years, and you can’t even get on a stamp until you’re ten years cold. J.P. may have been adorable in his beanie and red shoes, but he’s just not dead enough for sainthood.
I don’t know how dead you have to be. In fact the entire business of generating saints is a mystery to me. It seems like the sort of thing that God should be in charge of, if anybody. Anything that’s done by committee here on the sphere doesn’t seem like it would be that valuable to the deceased. It’s hard for me to visualize the holy candidate looking down with his fingers crossed–I assume down, and I assume crossed–like any other Hall Of Fame hopeful. He has to be beyond such concerns now, and after all, while alive, he got to be pope, and you’d have to be Donald Trump to think you’re more important than that.
Some people have been critical on the grounds that numerous personnel who are expected to weigh in on his fitness for sainthood owe their jobs to him and can’t be expected to be impartial. It’s a scurrilous charge, implying they offered him the ultimate golden parachute to land a position. “Put me in as Bishop of Los Angeles, and I’ll totally vote for you for saint,” they’d say. I’m cynical, but even I doubt it.
There’s only one pope at a time. Oh, there are fake furry ones with big hats, but everyone knows the real one is the one in Rome. I don’t know why he gets called a pope and a pontiff as though there were a distinction. You don’t hear anyone calling a moose a mastiff, or not more than once. Anyway, even if they’re infallible, which I might be wrong about, they don’t all make the grade for sainthood. You’re supposed to perform a miracle, which by definition is something involving blood and suffering and visual disturbances that cannot be adequately explained. Menstruating girls with migraines would be a lock if these things were fair.
Other objections pertain to John Paul himself. Evidently he was way too involved in ecumenical affairs to go for the glory. He famously organized a peace prayer for people of all faiths and that is no way, sir, to promote Catholicism. No, the flock is supposed to be increased by keeping the club doors shut and the condoms off. But John Paul II wasn’t that kind of guy. He had the big tent philosophy, threw his arms open to all, Poles and Italians, capitalists and communists, pedophiles and children, the whole family of man. With the little women doing the cooking and cleaning.
Somewhere in my Lutheran past I recall being informed that we were all saints, and that’s what was meant by the Communion Of Saints–us. Even as a child I thought that devalued the brand. I didn’t feel like a saint and I knew darn well Mr. Oldham wasn’t, as he fumbled for communion under my choir robes. I don’t think it’s a good idea to dispense flattery like that. You spend enough time telling all the kids that they’re smart or athletic or talented or saintly, you just lose your own credibility. Then the kids grow up to be bored, dissatisfied, aimless, unholy, and too cynical to vote, and that’s why gay marriage isn’t yet the law of the land. It’s the Lutherans’ fault, not the Catholics’.
I have trouble working out the way into sainthood, Murr, but it's interesting to speculate in any case. Thanks for a fantastic post. I enjoy your slightly irreverent tone.
Not JUST the Lutherans. I'm pretty sure most of the Protestants are in on that ride. Anybody know what magic tricks JPII is supposed to have done? Other than escaping prosecution for harboring pedophiles, I mean, although that is a pretty big one.
Pretty funny, Murr. I think he was a really special guy and who knows what makes up a saint. I like the idea of seeing him up there with fingers crossed (assuming up and assuming crossed) — and assuming fingers as well. 🙂
Oh, Murr–where to start.
I am so thoroughly Protestant that I protest just on principle.
I have wonderful friends who are catholic and keep asking me when I will join the one true church–snicker (that's me reacting).
I had my first tangle with utterly rejecting catholic theology when I was a mere child. I had a younger sister who died of malaria at age 8 months. A catholic schoolmate asked me if she was baptized (my Protestant sect did not practice infant baptism)–and promptly informed me when I said no that my sister was in limbo. What?
That seemed so bizarre, even to my 6 year old self, that I confirmed for all time that I PROTEST.
I just don't get the whole saint thing, or streets lined with gold, and talking snakes offering apples. Simply saying a thing doesn't make it so. "Hey, he's a saint…up there with a whole gaggle of other saints." See what I mean?
But then it's not my organization, so whatever makes them happy…what the hey. Speedy smeedy, who cares.
This whole thing freaks me out a little, starting with exhuming his body. You can't be a saint from where you are? Now people can view his six years in teh ground coffin? I'll pass,I don't think he would miss my visit anyway!
Great post, I love the way you write.
Did JP perform a miracle? I must've have missed it. But your most telling comment had to do with sainthood by committee. That is a bit scary.
I love your writing, you have such a distinct voice that comes through. But this particular post is truly a pleasure to read, I love what you said about JP. Didn't the iron curtain collapse during his time? That prayer must have helped somewhat.
As a true Oregonian, I celebrate St. Swithin's Day, the patron saint of rain.
St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.
This was a good post, Murr. But what happened to "The Slow Twitch", which shows up on my dashboard twice, with no blog entry attached and a message saying that page does not exist. Are you foolin' with the dark side again?
Arrggh. Thanks for asking, laytonwoman. The Slow Twitch will be up next Wednesday. I accidentally hit the "publish" button before scheduling it, and then deleted it, which would be fine except that it leads people to believe my site blew up. The dark side is fooling with ME, I tell ya.
What about Saint Christopher? He got demoted. WTF kind of bullshit was that? See, this is why I'm a lapsed Catholic. I'd say "recovering Catholic" but that's just a contradiction in terms.
Yet another witty piece of prose, my friend.
I didn't know that about St. Christopher. Man. You mean he got Plutoed?
The Committee stuff is the bit that bothers me most. I can't off the top of my head think of ANYTHING that a committee improves. And the ones that do achieve things usually do so because one member pushes, pulls and forces the issue.
And yes, St Christopher got axed, though I am not sure why.
So there are others of us who wonder what the heck this sainthood is all about, especially when the popes all seem to be quite human under their pope-ly hats and wee red shoes. But if the possibility of sainthood is what they try to live well for, that seems to give it some purpose. Or is the idea of heaven enough, without being a saint to us'n on earth?
Murr, I got kicked out of Presbyterian Sunday school at the age of 4 for asking why Jonah didn't get digested in the whale's gastric juices. Sent home with a note asking that I not come back, actually. So I can't help you out with the saint thing because I brick-walled it at Jonah.
Isn't a committee a group of individuals who can't decide anything by themselves and get together to decide that nothing can be done?
Catholicism believes in the Communion of Saints, also. Go figure…
This business regards committees brings to mind the old adage, "a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee." Just thought I'd throw that in.
If I remember correctly, the reason they have the coffin open is to prove that he hasn't rotted – apparently one of the qualifications for sainthood. I read somewhere that his requisite miracle was curing some nun of Parkinson's, although he wasn't able to cure himself. Odd business all around.
My own outfit does its own version of the fast-and-loose with the communion of saints. The sangha means everyone who's attained enlightenment. Well, unless it means everyone who comes to the meditation center on Sundays. Of course you can say the exalted sangha and you know that you're not talking about Bob and Mary. Who are really nice but just not really, you know, exalted. But I think it's the same creeping inflation. In the old texts the sangha clearly does not mean Bob and Mary, not unless they've vanished into the celestial realms leaving only their finger- and toenails behind them. Running the Sunday potluck doesn't count.
You have all officially cracked me up. I thank you. We apatheists are all in the same boat. But nobody really cares.
I would add that in my personal church running the Sunday potluck counts big. Especially if there's a green bean bake.
Momma T was beatified in six. The race in on w/ JPII!
Oh, and to complicate things (which is the Latin meaning to the word, "Catholicism," right?) JPII (and Momma T) will be (are) "beatified" not "canonized," making them "blessed" but not "saints." Consider it third base on the road to a holy home run.
Not only don't I understand the whole saint thing, I don't understand the whole religion thing. But I am rooting for John Paul because we have a humongous bust of him (only one of two done by a certain artist) sitting on top of a bookcase in our guest bedroom. I'm thinking it might now be valuable, so we are going to take it to an auction house.
It just puzzles me that normally intelligent grown-up people can take this stuff seriously. I think, in general, the world would be a better place without popes, and in particular without the present pope.
Enjoyed reading that witty commentary.
Murr, I have a little story for you, it's about mormons, and not in Utah as one would expect, but in Sweden, where I lived. I will try to make this as confusing as possible. Perhaps it is not super-related, but I am satisfied with the link of me being raised Brazilian catholic, which is its own thing, and that Mormons don't like being called "protestants" (which they are). I do not consider myself catholic anymore, one of the reasons being that antiquated hierarchy of imaginary power and flamboyant hats; the very same reasons I am not a British monarchist. On to the story:
I had a Polish co-worker lady in her early forties who used to be a Jehova's witness in my small Swedish town. She had her hair dyed super-blond, wore generous cleavage and pink lipstick, and was a very pleasant co-worker. She was the only other female in my workplace (it was a small business).
One day she told me that she had been getting together with two mormon missionaries every weekend. She was truly open to their case and said she enjoyed debating the Bible with them, because, as she said, "nobody knows the bible better than I do." This went on for a while, about a month or two. I think she was actually willing to let them convert her, and those young missionaries were probably thinking that finally something good would come out of having to learn Swedish.
One day, I asked her how the mormon meetings were going, and she replied that she had dismissed them and they would not be coming back. So I naturally asked "why?" and this is what she replied:
"You know how God made us to his image? Well they had heard of that, of course. So I asked them if God pooped. They couldn't give me a satisfactory answer, so I am not going to become a mormon."
And she didn't.
(this is totally true)
Here in Maine, it was the Catholic church in Portland that spearheaded the drive to defeat the Gay Marriage Referendum – They even collected money during services to campaign against it. All the other pious religious denominations joined in and the referendum was defeated.
Not all religious people are bigots,but you can bet your ass when you find a bigot she or she is religious.
I started out a Catholic and ended up a Pagan for lots of reasons..One is the fact that all of the holy fathers sat by (and not idly) and allowed child abuse to continue and not only allowed it…hid the priest from prosecution, bu shipping them off to small villages in some South American country where they continued to abuse..so? doesn't sound much like a saint to me.
Doesn't seem to me that he did anything especially saintly. I mean, if he'd fed the entire population of China with a few loaves and fishes, or walked across the Mediterranean Sea whistling the Hallelujah Chorus, now that would be more like it.
It's hard for me to visualize the holy candidate looking down with his fingers crossed–I assume down, and I assume crossed–like any other Hall Of Fame hopeful.
I'm no expert, but sainthood probably gets him on the fast track to his 70 virgin altar boys.
"apatheists"…May I steal your term, Murr? I'm one of those. The only things I enjoy about church is the music and the food at potluck suppers!
Steal away, Wendy. I did. I only wish that were my term.
"He had the big tent philosophy, threw his arms open to all, Poles and Italians, capitalists and communists, pedophiles and children, the whole family of man."
This pope took The Faith, which I can't share but which makes up about 22% of the religious affiliation in the country, backwards by at least one generation. It was already a giant gum wad of irrelevance. Sideshow. Abracadabra. Bread and circuses.
Them, not you. You're fabulous and, thank Gawd, not a bit saintly.
Why do you talk about it if you don't believe in it and instead waste time talking about things that you aren't sure of?
Wait a minute. Talking about things I'm not sure of is a waste of time? I'm screwed. I should get a real job.
Understanding. Compassion. A life dedicated to gods children no matter what religion. Without his own children, he out lived his entire family, sacrifice. Forgiveness. Love, He deserves it, he's entitled to it, he erned it. Read more about it, you might understand it easier.