Religion Rugby

Canonising Popes

They’re canonising two Popes tomorrow, which is fine by me as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Munster-Toulon match.

pope john paul

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.

Pope John XXIII

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.

Pope Francis

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?

Paul O connell

Limerick Rugby

Limerick in the Sun, With Rugby and Partying

Yesterday is another planet.

It’s hard to believe now, as I look out on the pelting rain, what a nice day yesterday was, and yet, far off in the west, I think I can see a clearance.  Maybe not all is yet lost.

It was late when I dragged myself out, due to carousing and excessive partification, but Saturday morning would not be complete for me — as you know– without a trip to the market. It has to be done.

There was a nice little buzz to the town already, with the red-jerseyed hordes wandering around, ready for the early kick-off.

I was feeling a little peckish when I bumped into this fellow eating what appeared to be a nice bowl of lamb Madras.

Excuse me, I said to him.  That appears to be a nice bowl of lamb Madras.

It certainly is, he replied.   You can get it over there.

So I did, and it set me up for the day.

I wandered down town, where I came across these ladies promoting use of the internet by elderly people.  There’s some sort of prize and I promised them I’d give them a link, so here it is.

Who’s it for?  I asked them.  Older people, they said.  Silver surfers.

Older? I replied. Look!  There’s a baby in a buggy.  He’s older than the other teenshy weenshy little baby in that pram.  Does he count?

No.  He’s too young.

But he’s an older person.

Yes, but he’s not an older person the way we mean.  You know, older?  Wink?  Wink?

You mean old?

Aaaarrgghhh!!  they screamed in unison.  You can’t say that.  La la la la  lalalalala can’t hear you!

How about me? I went on. I’m incredibly old, and I run a website all on my ownio, and I don’t even have a younger person showing me where all the buttons are.

No, they said.  You’re too older.

You mean far too old?

Aaaarrgghhh!! they screamed in unison.  You can’t say that.  La la la la  lalalalala can’t hear you!

I grow older, I grow older, I told them.  I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolleder.

This day was taking a turn for the weirder.  Time for a pre-match pint to steady the older nerves.

The town was getting ready.  Calm before the storm.  It was time to head for Thomond Park and see what these French chappies were made of.

The place was looking good. and the crowd were looking ugly, as usual, but as someone said to me later, what’s this Stand Up and Fight business?  Do we really think the opposition will be intimidated by one small woman singing Stand up and fight?

A haka is intimidating, but really now. Come on.  Remember the Maka?  Now that was a challenge.

The game opened with a Toulon try in the very first minute which brought howls of venom from the crowd, who weren’t blind and knew a forward pass when they saw one.  But in fairness to them, they stayed quiet for the conversion, apart from one or two day-tripping idiots who were soon put in their place.

It wasn’t so much a setback for Munster as a poke in the ribs, and before long they were battering away at the Toulon defence, with telly addict Wayne Barnes sending two clear tries upstairs for adjudication.  On this occasion, for some reason, there was a blind man in charge of the video.  It must be some sort of equality thing.

Not deterred by stupid refereeing, Leamy went over in the 10th minute after a lovely little reverse pass from Stringer, and ROG kicked the conversion.

The brakes were off the train.

After that, it was pretty much one-way traffic, although Toulon put up a solid fight, and as somebody pointed out to me later, the final scoreline of 45-18 didn’t reflect the quality or intensity of the game they played.

Jonny Wilkinson’s appearance for Toulon in the second half changed the shape of the game a little, but Munster didn’t blink and before long, he too was wrapped up and in the post.

Funniest moment of the match came when Dr Phil was sin-binned to chants of Cheerio from the laughing Munster crowd, but there were a few more worrying sights.  Paul Warwick didn’t look good as he limped off, assisted by two helpers.  I thought his left ankle might be injured.  The loss of our Australian and New Zealand players will tell against us when the Irish players are committed for the international campaign, so this is not good news.

And Jerry Flannery limped off after pointing at his calf, an injury he has already suffered this year.

On the positive side, Tony Buckley has imposed himself on the game in a way we haven’t sdeen up to now, and both the Munster and international management will be happy to see a credible replacement emerge for John Hayes, who can’t have much professional playing time left in him.

Stringer, as ever, had a solid, workmanlike game, covering huge amounts of ground, delivering lightning-fast ball and biting ankles, or at least tapping them.

Leamy and Wallace imposed themselves on everything that came their way while Micko as usual was a magnificent soldier for Munster.

Final score, Munster 45, Toulon 18.  All well with the world.

Time to head for town and grab a couple of scoops.  It’s over there, it’s over there.

After that, it’s all a blur.  The town is in party mode, despite woes of the economy, so let’s enjoy our own little Weimar Republic party while we can, before the Biffoites start taxing fun.

Somewhere in this huddle, I believe, are members of my family and assorted contributors to this site, but I’ll not be delving into such a crowd this night.   And so to bed …