Thursday, April 05, 2007

All I Need Is a Miracle!

Newspapers here have been full of editorials demanding to know why it's taking so damn long to canonize the Pope John Paul II. On Sunday, there was even a woman outside the church up the street selling posters of John Paul with the words "Sainthood Now!" He's already halfway there because his successor, in less time than it took Ford to pardon Nixon, waived the five-year waiting period. Now all he needs is a miracle. Let the silliness begin!

A French nun has now come forward to reveal that her Parkinson's Disease was cured (and indeed it appears to have been) after she prayed to John Paul. The only apparent proof that the latter has anything to do with the former is that no one has come up with better explanation. To us, the whole thing raises a number of questions.

1) As required for a full-credit miracle, the nun prayed only to the pope, not to God (which we guess would be cheating?) Okay, you've got a horrible disease, you'd like to see it cured, and you're a deeply religious person. You have a choice of praying to God (who, if you believe this stuff, has a pretty good track record on the whole miracle thing), or to the new kid - a, with all due respect, miracle-granting rookie. You chose the new guy? A bit reckless, no?

2) You got the power to perform miracles. You look around at the world today and you decide to...cure a sick French nun? The ice caps are melting, the Mideast is imploding, famine and disease run rampant, and you're concentrating on steadying the palsied hand of a single person? I mean, eyes on the ball, people.

All this brings to mind this terrific site, which ponders then validity of miracles by asking the question "why does God hate amputees?"

No matter how many people pray, no matter how often they pray, no matter how sincere they are, no matter how much they believe, no matter how deserving the amputee, what we know is that prayers do not inspire God to regenerate amputated legs. This happens despite what Jesus promises us in Matthew 21:21, John 14:14, Mark 11:24, etc.

Mexicans nevertheless really buy into this miracle stuff. Four hundred years ago the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on a priest's cloak - she even brought flowers! - and wound up being patron saint of Mexico. Now admittedly, if I showed up with flowers, Laura would think it's a miracle, but that wouldn't technically be the case.

Querétaro is full of jacaranda trees that miraculously blossom in Easter-purple every year at Easter time. The miraculous part is that, while we all have to use Google to figure out when Easter is every year, the trees somehow just know. Of course, the trees have been bright purple for at least three weeks now, and will probably hang on for another two, but - miraculously - they'll be in bloom on Sunday. If memory serves, Easter does tend to fall in early Spring every year.

The same church up the street has a tree in its courtyard that miraculously produces thorns shaped like crosses. People come from all over Mexico to buy the miracle thorns (10 pesos in the gift shop). You know, we have trees in America that miraculously weep pancake syrup, but you never see pilgrims crawling along the highway into Vermont.

Anyway, we have no specific grudge against John Paul - we still remember waiting hours in the rain for him in Boston back in 1979, to see him come roaring past (he was running late, as if Mass was gonna start without him...typical rookie pope move) in a black Mercedes, standing up through the sunroof. It's just that it's been so quiet here this week, and we just know that whichever day turns out to be his Saint's Day will definitely be a fireworks-before-dawn kind of day, and Querétaro really doesn't need another one.


Anonymous said...

Just wait ... exploding Judases (Judi?) are yet to come. We hope you're back in time.

Leo Volont said...

Well, I find that you are complaining of the wrong thing. If one looks at the documented histories of many of the World Higher Religions, even in modern times, there have been many instances of Saints doing a great deal of the miraculous. The problem here, with the activities of the recent Catholic Church has been to cheapen all this by turning the process of canonization into a political or partisan-theological tool. It used to be that process identified miracles and the miracle workers and then went on to verify Saints, but now they are manufactured, and the miracles that used to instigate the process now have to be dredged up. And then there is the speeding up of the process for those who would hardly qualify. Take John Paul as a for instance. The man was ancient, and lived a terribly long life without working the slightest miracle. Oh yes, he may have received a miracle in not dying when he was so riddled with bullets, but receiving miracles is not the same as performing miracles, is it? The Catholic Church, that ought to know what a typical life of a Saint is, should know that John Paul, as good a man as he was, was no Saint. A Miracle Worker works miracles. The Catholic Church had had plenty of them – Bernard, Francis of Assisi, Francis of Paolo, Dominic, Anthony, Vincent Ferrer, Joseph of Copertino. These men were all copious in their miracles. Particularly Vincent Ferrer who was so copious in his miracles that he honestly made Jesus Christ look like an amateur. It was said of Vincent that any day without ten-thousand miracles would have been a miracle. He went about Europe in the High Middle Ages, leading a band of thousands of flagellentes, people whipping themselves in atonement for the sins of the World, and his boost was that while they bled from open wounds, fasted, and marched 30 miles a day, none of them fell ill. He would go from town to town and empty hospitals and cure everybody of everything. He would address crowds numbering in the thousands, without anything like a public address system, and everybody would hear him, and hear him in their own native language, even while he was only an old man speaking Castilian in a quiet voice that carried by power of obvious miracle. We all would have heard more of Vincent Ferrer except that the Catholic Church has always been ashamed of him, since he had followed the French Popes and not the Roman ones during one of the Church’s many schisms (which should make one wonder how much God really favors the Roman Church if some of the greatest Saints had flourished outside of that Pall).

Joseph of Copertino flew. They call it levitation, but his was no so lift up into the air that makes one suspect wires and winches. No, his flights were described as “swift as an arrow”, and he would occasionally “spin like a top”. Both inside Cathedrals and then outside above processions, flying over trees, over building and walls. He became such a tourist attraction that the Catholic Church sent him packing away to an isolated monastery. Too much attention was being taken from the Bishops who resent so much attention being taken up by a monk of the lowest rank that the Church could offer.

Dominic would levitate also, but tried to keep it a secret. One time it was noticed that Dominic came back to his monastery late at night after the gates had already been locked and he did not wish to awaken the gatekeeper and so he looked around to see if there were any witnesses. Well, Dominic’s eyes were apparently not used to the dark, because in the shadows there did happen to be a few other monks who had also been caught outside after curfew, and, well, since Dominic was their Superior, it could well be understood why they would wish to avoid being seen by him. It was their concern to get back inside without being caught. Anyway, once Dominic thought that he was unseen, he raised himself up into the air and up over the wall. No jumping. No climbing. He rose up and over. On his death, they found that Dominic had wrapped himself in heavy timber chains, they conclude so that he would be weighted down enough to inhibit a tendency for levitation.

Yes, of course the other Higher Religions of the World have had Miracle Workers. We have seen many from India, and then there are the Miracle Workers from the Sufi Orders (who originate out of Ancient Zoroastrianism, but nowadays have to say they are Islamic to keep their heads). There have been plenty of Miracle Workers. Indeed, Catholicism would have many more real and true Saints accept for a flaw in their process that applies a filter for Theological Correctness. Basically the less a Saint has ever said, the easier it goes for them. Since Christianity is a Religion that insists upon the doctrines of Original Sin and forgiveness of Sins on account of people believing it was a wonderful thing to murder their Messiah, well, you can see that any Saints given to any genuine moral reflection could easily talk themselves contrary to given Doctrine and accepted Orthodoxy. And so many documented Miracles were in effect defaulted to “Satan” because the simple monks could not keep within the party line of the Bishops.

Oh, have you noticed at all that there never seems to be any sort of miracle without a Miracle Worker? One wonders why everybody speaks so much of God? After all, even though the Saints themselves deny their own agency in these matters, still, we should go less by what they say about it and more by what we see for ourselves. We see Miracle Workers. We have never seen a God. And so it is that the Catholic Public has come to intuit the common sense fact that if one really desires a Miracle, then one needs to pray to those who are known to actually provide Miracles – Saints, living or dead. Or some pray to the Angels.

Anyway, perhaps we need to come to a better understanding about just who or what “God” is. Perhaps when considered in relationship to the World and Physical Universe, in anything that is not entirely transcendental and removed, that “God” is not anything entirely separate or particular, but is rather to be understood as the Collective Being of His Saints and Angels. It seems that they are the ones with the Power. They are the ones who exercise volition.

And what is there to argue against this except for the silly traditions of Greek Philosophy that insist that God, by some quasi-mathematically derived speculations, must be Absolute and qualified by all the Absolute attributes – that God must be All Knowing, All Powerful, and all of that business. Well, why? Even the Philosophers didn’t agree – it was as though half of the Greeks made arguments so that the other half could have their laughs by shooting them down. It seems most likely that Greek Philosophy designed its Theology mostly to give their Atheists the advantage.

But what do we see when we look empirically? We see supernatural miracles if we are willing to admit it. But these miracles are limited in their scope. We see nothing in absolutes. While we see instances of Supernatural Powers they are still confined within physical dimensions. Indeed, anybody who has studied the Saints can easily categorize them according to their relative strength, as Vincent Ferrer was obviously more powerful than Francis. And it is understood that some Angels are more powerful than others.

So, anyway, if one is really searching for the miraculous, then it is really a quest after the Spiritual Agent that has the most Spiritual Power. Praying to God, the Supreme Transcendental Being, seems to ignore the obvious problem that God is indeed Transcendental, that is, God, in His essence, is removed from the contingencies of His Creation – the One is not mixed up in Duality. So this would leave one to rally the Saints and the Angels to one’s sympathy. Now, the problem there is here is as I mentioned before – these Saints and Angels do not seem to have any Absolute Powers, and that what powers they may have may have to be budgeted. After all, the messages we get from the Saints and from the Marian Apparitions is that people need to pray and do penances in order to in effect charge the battery that the Saints and Angels use for their Miraculous Powers. Remember that the most prolific Saint in World History, Vincent Ferrer, also was the Saint who had the largest following of thoroughly enthusiastic penitents, all praying, fasting and atoning for practically every waking moment of every single day. And all of that power was channeled into the Miracles of their lead Saint.

But who does any fasting or atonement today. One need not wonder why even the Catholic Church can no longer boost of a single living Miracle Worker today, when, to be more like the Protestants, they have long since given up on prescribed fast days and discontinued any official call for overt acts of contrition. Now, just like the Protestants, Salvation is free because people once had the good sense to murder Jesus for the benefits of Free Sin.

Burro Hall said...

Totally, dude. Totally.