Sinners and Saints

Saints in stained glass.

I am definitely a lapsed Catholic. I just need to put that out there. I talked about it before.

But I am a cultural Catholic through and through. Catholicism was my conduit into faith, and spirituality. It was also my baptism for ethics and morals. I am a big fan of Jesus. Super big fan. For realz.

I was conflicted by my draw to Pope Francis as he visited my fair city. I think I give him too much slack, on the basis that he’s not totally awful. Actually, he is frequently brilliant. No need to pull out that old Catholic guilt. But that’s not today’s story.

To be truthful, Catholic news grabs me and makes me look. Because lapsed or not, it’s my identity. I get it. It made me. I embrace much more of it than  I reject. Even though I’d intellectually like to reject more. But I am not of the majick view of religion. I am of the philosophical bent.

Anyway, today’s big news, the induction of Mother Teresa into the Catholic Church Hall of Fame, also known as canonization into sainthood, stood me at attention.

Being inducted into the club of Saints isn’t like the yearly ceremonies at Cooperstown, Canton or Cleveland. No, there is not a regular rhythm of nominations and voting. But there is a process. And an officiating body, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This almost sounds like a J.K. Rowling invention. But it’s real. It’s a  department in the Catholic Church that makes recommendations to the Pope on saints. I am not making this up. Seriously, look it up.

There is a five step process to become a saint.

  1. Step one: Wait five years after you die. This is to minimize the emotional push to sainthood. HOWEVER, if you’re super popular–like a recent Pope–you can get a papal dispensation from this requirement. So much for a sober choice.
  2. Step two: Become a servant of God. This means that your local Bishop thinks you’re worthy and petitions the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to open a case. If they say okay, you’re an official Servant of God. But the Bishop has to vouch for you.
  3. Step three: This is where the Congregation for the Causes of Saints does their own legwork to see if there’s proof of a life of “heroic virtue,” and getting the Pope to agree. Passing through this gate means you are now venerable, but not yet a saint.
  4. Step four: This one is called beatification. This is some hocus pocus stuff,  AKA verified miracles. A modern example is someone is miraculously cured of some disease after saying your name in a prayerful way. This somehow proves that you are in heaven. That place in the clouds, just on the other side of St. Peter. Super holy ground. And you are now at stage four.
  5. Step five: This is Canonization. To get there, people dig around to find another example of a miracle that occurs after your beatification. I guess to make sure that you’re still paying attention. This second miracle step may be waived, but only if you’ve been martyred. So if you died a natural death, you need a second miracle and then you get a huge special mass with Latin chants that make you sainted. Tu autem in sanctoTu autem in sancto. Tu autem in sancto. If you say something three times, it’s true.

Now, I truly mean no disrespect to my non-lapsed brothers and sisters, but what does sainthood mean in 2016? What does it mean to modern people? People of science and letters, of the internet and DNA sequencing. Why would an unexplained remission of Parkinson’s Disease be credited as a cure via the intervention of a dead guy or gal? Seems like an incredible stretch, to me anyway.

That all said, there has been more than one occasion when I have lost something precious or something important and I have beseeched St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, to intervene on my behalf. And to be truthful, he has delivered. Dang, I can’t quit this thing.

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