They’re canonising two Popes tomorrow, which is fine by me as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Munster-Toulon match.
As far as I’m concerned, Catholics can call dead people whatever they like, including Saint, and besides, it will be a great boost for our indigenous Polish population, fervent Catholics every one of them. My mechanic might even be able to work a miracle on that
heap of shit fine car I’m hoping to sell to some unsuspecting interested purchaser in the coming weeks. Who can tell? We live in hope.
I’m not entirely clear on this canonisation process, but it seems that there are some implausible things the candidate needs to do, much like someone running for any election, with the single unusual requirement that you have to be dead. Or maybe not so unusual, when you take into account some of the people knocking on my door looking for a vote.
Now, I’m no expert on canonisation, though I do seem to recall that Karol Wojtyla, one of the current pair up for election, abolished a whole heap of saints after he was first appointed to the position of Head Honcho but on the other hand, he canonised 110 new people, including the truly saintly Maximilian Kolbe but also the truly criminal Mother Teresa.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, by contrast, canonised just ten, but of course, he was only Pope for five years, while Wojtyla lasted nearly 27 years, which is why the Vatican insiders will never again elect a fellow in his Fifties to the papal throne. Certainly not. Late 70s is a much better bet: you don’t want to be looking at the same guy for the next quarter century and it’s not as if you can be murdering them all. Look at the fuss when they whacked the lad who came before Wojtyla. The papers are still talking about it.
It isn’t easy being canonised, incidentally. Leading a saintly life isn’t enough. It’s not sufficient to do good throughout your life, to be horribly murdered, to bear your pain with dignity and to go to your grave believing in the justice of the Lord. As a matter of fact, looking at the life of Mother Teresa, it’s not even necessary to lead a saintly life. Instead, you can use the starving disease-ridden poor of Calcutta to amass a huge fortune, hang out with despotic murdering tyrants like the Duvaliers of Haiti, receive your medical treatment in Swiss clinics and still be recognised as a saint, provided you fulfil one small requirement.
That’s right. The miracle.
You see, apparently, what happens is this. After you’re dead, someone prays to you, or to your memory, or to a photograph, and then something highly unexpected happens. Something highly unlikely. A sick person gets better after swallowing cyanide, which it seems is the miracle Wojtyla performed posthumously. And then the Vatican decides that they could not possibly have got better without the intervention of a dead person, and therefore this is a miracle.
Or to put it another way, you got better by magic.
Now here’s the thing. Roncalli was a nice old Italian, much loved by everyone for his avuncular style, his taste for fine food and his generally pleasant demeanour, whereas Wojtyla was a dour, Communist-era authoritarian central European Pole. Maybe that explains why Roncalli has two miracles while Wojtyla has only one, a very secret-police sort of miracle involving the cyanide, but we’ll come to that in a minute.
Oddly enough, in the entire history of saintly miracles, there seems to be a limit on the sort of miraculous cure that takes place. True believers recover from drinking unspecified poisons, from appalling tumours, from general malaise of one sort or another, but you never, ever hear of anyone growing a leg back or reassembling themselves after being squashed flat by a bulldozer.
Are some miracles too hard, or is it just that nobody with a missing leg ever prayed to a dead Pope for a new appendage? What are the odds of that? If I lost a leg I’d pray to my cat if I thought it could help.
And besides that, you never need to do miracles like ending hunger or bringing about world peace, you don’t have to do any miracles while you’re still alive and you don’t need to tell the future like prophets used to do in the old days. Proper prophets and saints with beards.
There you go.
Who am I to question the ancient wisdom of the Catholic church?
Now, the current Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is a wily old Jesuit. Don’t be fooled by his humble manner — this guy has a backbone of sanctified polycarbonate and he knows that his flagging church needs a couple of credible saints after the embarrassment of the old Calcutta crook. Besides, he probably owes favours for getting the job, so he did what any clever supermarket manager would do: a two-for-one offer, not to be repeated.
Unfortunately, with only one miracle, Wojtyla is at a bit of a disadvantage, but it’s like a multi-seat constituency. The hugely-popular Roncalli will walk in, and his surplus votes will carry the Polish lad across the line.
Here’s an offer I wouldn’t normally make to a dead Pope.
As it happens, the canonisation is taking place tomorrow, around the same time Munster meet Toulon in the Heineken Cup. On the face of it, given the amount of money Toulon have available to buy the cream of the world’s rugby players, and given how easily they swatted away Leinster’s challenge, it will take a miracle to beat them.
And therefore, if Karol Wojtyla could see his way to ensuring a Munster win, I’d be prepared to call him a saint. Provided, of course, that the Vatican could prove Munster didn’t do it all on their own.
That seems fair, doesn’t it?