Sunday, April 27, 2014

Super Saints!

I refer to John XXIII and John Paul II, who are super, of course, because they were canonized faster than a speeding bullet compared with what has been the norm for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (OHCAC), if not for its God, who was indeed the God of my joy and my youth.  They are the Super Santos!

I wonder what is in the mind of the Pontifex Maximus in allowing this simultaneous saint-saying.  Not just one but two saints are proclaimed, unique in the long history of the OHCAC.  But then there are not just one, but two, popes.  They are the Pontifices Maximi I suppose (right declension?) and together they have performed a kind of miracle of their own it seems.

Not that miracles are what they used to be.  It once was the case that no less than two attested miracles were required for sainthood, but it seems that is no longer true.  It's unclear there need even be one anymore.  And worse (for someone like me) is the disappearance of the office of the advocatus diaboli.  Yes, it's true that even the Devil should have a lawyer (no doubt he is one but is wise enough not to represent himself), but to have someone formally involved in the process to question whether canonization is appropriate seems only prudent, and creates at least the appearance of impartiality.

Has the OHCAC gone saint-mad?  Are there more prospective saints in the batter's box?

I've found the active pontiff (as opposed to the inactive one) to be an interesting and in some ways admirable Vicar of Christ.  I like his apparent humility, his self-reliance, his indifference to the baroque ceremony and the grand isolation of the papacy.  It seems also that he is not (yet?) the willing or unwilling slave of the Vatican bureaucracy.  He has said remarkable things, which is no small achievement for the leader of such an ancient institution.  He may even do remarkable things, even with doctrine, and that would be a great thing indeed.  Canonizing two of his recent predecessors seems somehow a step backward.

That's what may be behind it, of course.  It may be that this is a means of placating the traditionalists, and even an effort to assuage at one and the same time the Vatican II fans and their enemies in the Church.  My feelings for the Vatican II reforms are ambiguous, but what objections I have are more aesthetic than substantive.  Vatican II brought about the guitar masses I was obliged to sit through in my youth, and the banality of the liturgy, the gutting of which continues to this day.  I didn't have to sit through the old Latin mass, as I was a participant in it; as an accomplished but perhaps ugly altar boy judging from the fact I was never molested by a priest.  I was an Initiate, at least of the Lesser Mysteries of the Universal Church.  What mysteries are left for Catholics now?

If this is, then, more a political maneuver than anything else, I suppose it is understandable if not honorable.  If saints we must have there will continue to be saints made, and some unmade, like my favorite, St. Christopher, whose medal still adorns my chest after all these years.

I am fond of him if only because he became a saint by virtue of a kind of practical joke by the Deity (at least as I recall the story).  What seemed to be a small child asked to be carried through a river to the other side.  The child, of course, was God wearing a somewhat familiar disguise to those of us used to the symbols of the modern Christmas, but which may not have been familiar to Christopher.  The Divine Child rather mischievously made himself heavier and heavier as poor Christopher tried to make his way through the water, but he bore the child across nonetheless, no doubt cursing himself for agreeing to help.  But he was rewarded for his effort.   Thus he is (was) the patron saint of travelers, and will see you safe to your destination.  Or he would have, in any case, in the days of his glory.  Now he is a kind of stranger to the Church, as am I.

Perhaps, though, "saint" is being redefined.  Perhaps sainthood will be reserved for outstanding individuals of the Catholic faith, people of great influence or inspiring example.  The influence of these two saints in particular can't be questioned.  If that's to be the case, then miracles would seem unnecessary as conditions precedent; they would become a kind of extra, or bonus, qualification.  Becoming a saint would be similar to receiving a Noble Prize. 

Will the newest saints be patron saints of anything, and if so what?  Patron saints of speed, perhaps, their visages to appear on medals made for jet pilots and race-car drivers?  Do people still pray to saints these days?  One must wonder who will pray to them, the Super Saints, and for what. 

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