- Published on Friday, 19 February 2010 05:12
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 5176
The word "Saint" has become part of secular language - it's common to say: "he/she is a saint". We don't mean that the person can perform a miracle, it usually means that they go above and beyond the usually expected good ethics. So it's quite possible to have an atheist saint! But when the Catholic Church declares that someone is an official "Saint", they mean that they can be prayed to and will intercede with the Catholic God to cause a miraculous event. This declaration is only done after a process (usually long) that finds miracles that they feel can be attributed to intercession from the particular Saint.
First they would have to prove an event is a miracle - that's harder now with more advanced science but there's always some doctor to be found who can be quoted to say: "There's no scientific explanation for this recovery from a fatal disease". The Church evidence collectors have to be selective of course because many doctors would simply say "no current scientific explanation" and that would spoil it even though it is always true.
Then they have to prove that there was no-one in the entire world who was praying for the same miracle but addressing their prayer to God directly or to some other saint. At least I assume they'd have to do that if they want their evidence to be scientifically sound. But I suspect they'd be happy if one or more people clearly prayed to the candidate saint. But how do they know what people are thinking? Could people perhaps be saying one thing out loud but silently praying to god directly?
But my imagination boggles at the thought of a long line of saints in heaven all lined up to do their intercessions. And before they get to say their piece, they have received another prayer to intercede for someone else - so by the time they get to god, they have a list. At that point, God rejects most of them - we know that because otherwise there would be daily miracles and no-one would die. I know this is a futile question, but can anyone tell me how God decides which ones to do a miracle on?
I'm sure that Catholics don't think like that - actually I'm sure they don't think at all!
You can't help but notice that non-Catholic Christians only recognise saints if they are mentioned in the bible. I suppose that's a fringe benfit of being a Catholic - more people to intercede for you!
Why is this of interest? Pope Benedict XVI today announced the canonisation of six new saints at a meeting with Cardinals.
These include Canadian Alfred Andre Bessette (1845-1937) who founded Quebec's Saint Joseph Oratory and was "known for his gifts as a healer", Australia's nun Mary MacKillop (1842 - 1909) who apparently cured a woman of cancer plus Poland's Stanislas Soltys (1433-1489), Spain's Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola (1845-1912) and two Italian nuns, Giulia Salzano (1846-1929) and Camilla Battista Varanno (1458-1524). Story about Mary MacKillop here at Wikipedia and about Alfred Andre Bessette at the Globe and Mail here.
Note that none of the miracles involved believable miracles like re-growing limbs, restoring people from the grave or anything else that would be truly miraculous. If they did, most atheists would become theists - although the trick then would be to figure out which god and which church.