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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Holy Shmoly

Pope John Paul II is on his way to sainthood, which I don't mind and scarcely noticed, but then Nancy pointed out to me that during his papacy, John Paul II canonized 483 saints.  483!  That seems excessive, but maybe it's just me.
The fact is, we Protestants love saints; we secretly envy the Catholics this rich and mystical tradition.  And honestly, it's a shame, even as an outsider, to think the significance of sainthood is being watered down.  It's not that there aren't 483 exceptionally good people out there - people who, unlike Mother Teresa, may not be showered with international media attention, but nevertheless go about humbly serving God and fellow man and in many cases giving their lives, but 483 new saints?  If sainthood is going to represent a special category of humanity, a person you might turn to in prayer to intercede with God, it seems to me the number should be a tad bit lower.  I'm not saying 483 threatens to turn sainthood into the equivalent of Employee of the Month, but it still seems high.
Joan of Arc, now she's a saint.  After leading the French army to several crucial victories, making possible the coronation of Charles VII, she was sold out to the English, who tried her as a witch and burned her at the stake.  She was only 19.  Twenty five years later, in 1456, Pope Callixtus III reexamined her trial and declared her a martyr.  In 1909 she was beatified.  In 1920 she was canonized.  The whole process took a little under five hundred years.
Again, it's none of my business and I'm not in charge or anything and it's a good job I'm not in charge, but I think that ought to be the standard.  500 years.  And you can't just do good works, either, and even miracles won't cut it; to really be a saint, you should be betrayed, martyred, rejected, and neglected.  If you die at the hands of your enemies, that's ok, but to really be a saint, you should die at the hands of your friends.
Harsh I know, but we're not talking any ordinary honor here, we're talking sainthood.  But again, maybe that's just me.

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