Monday, June 2, 2014

I'm concerned about the devaluation of saints. In the old days, saints did impressive stuff. St. George killed a dragon. St. Joseph of Cupertino could fly. Even after St. Longinus had his tongue cut off and his teeth pulled out, he continued to preach the word of God.

Sure, maybe they didn't have the best documentation back then. The Guinness World Record folks weren't around to double-check. And God knows, people weren't particularly smart. They thought earthquakes were caused by armadillos that lived underground. They thought health problems were caused by demons rather than that eight-foot pile of poo standing next to their cutting boards. But the unlikelihood of these things happening was undeniable.

Over the years, though, miracles have been devalued. First, now they take place after the saint has died. Because even if dude is one of God's favorite people, how can you expect him to do something incredible in his life? We've got to add that open-ended infinity thing to give a guy a running chance.

And second, modern-day miracles just aren't as good, mostly consisting of nuns healed of health problems. Sister Bertrille had a stomach ache that vanished after she prayed to some guy. Sister Margaret had a bad cough that went away. Needless to say, these miracles are inherently questionable, because somebody who exists to serve God isn't exactly an unbiased observer. They go into the convent kitchen and see the dishes are washed, and they'll assume St. Matthew of Pecorino did it.

Besides, health-related miracles are the hardest to prove. Some people are hypochondriacs. Sometimes doctors make mistakes. And sometimes people, you know, get well.

It seems to me like the Vatican does it backwards. They don't see somebody who does saintly things and beatify them: no, they decide who they want to beatify and then fire up the old phone bank. They call every nun around and ask if they've ever prayed to the dude and gotten better. It's like an Avon lady going door to door selling cosmetics. Sure, a lot of people are going to turn her down, but eventually somebody will cave. "Oh, what the hell," they'll say. They don't actually want these products: they're just feeling sympathetic for the poor lost soul. "Put me down for -- I dunno -- do you sell hand cream?"

Of course, Catholics aren't alone in this field. I've never been impressed with the Jewish miracle of the oil. I mean, at least with Catholic saints either a doctor made a mistake or a disease went into remission. With the miracle of the oil, it's more like an accounting error. If I was expecting to find two chicken legs in the fridge but I found six, I wouldn't require future generations to recite this story over bad wine for eight days every year.

But mere facts won't stop the Catholics. They even maintain that miracles still occur, like the miracle of St. Januarius. Eighteen times a year his dried blood becomes liquid again, despite the fact it's scientifically impossible. It sounds interesting, but I'll reserve my actual praise for after they've set up a webcam.

Plus, you know, there are tons of possibilities for actual miracles that'd make skeptics like me believe. Somebody could produce another hit record for the Tom Tom Club. Somebody could make the Kardashians go away. Those are the kinds of things that'd get me wearing a medal around my neck. Instead it's always, "Oh, there was a nun with a blister on the sole of her foot, and with prayer and Gold Bond it's almost healed." Even St. Longinus would say, clear as a bell, "Oh, you can go fuck that shit."

1 comment:

Yet Another Steve said...

And what's even worse, they got rid of a lot of the tried-and-true old ones. Saint Christopher, he of the bazillion medals and dashboard statues, is now just Mister Christopher, so don't count on him to get you home safely when your blood alcohol is three times the legal limit.