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Saturday, February 05, 2005 

Sinners and Saints

Several years ago, while vacationing on the Greek island of Cephalonia, I was reading a brief history of the island and I was amazed to find out that this little island with a population of less than 30,000 people was home to 5 of its very own saints. By contrast, Canada, with a population of about 31,000,000, to my knowledge, doesn't have any.

This realization resulted in many questions for me. Could it be because Canada is a relatively young country? Could it be because Canadians aren't that saintly? Could it be because you need to be baptised Catholic or Eastern Orthodox in order to be considered for sainthood? If that's so, does this mean that only devotees of these religions are worthy to become saints?

My personal opinion on the matter was that Churches use sainthood as a means to increase membership and keep their faithful followers faithful to them. By canonizing a person, they can accomplish this. Because the Catholic Holy See and the Orthodox Synod can't be everywhere at once to make sure people show up at church every Sunday and to keep the collection plates full, they need to reward them not only for attendance and monetary generosity, they need to give them a good reason to lead a 'worthy' life. When they make a saint out of an ordinary person, it sets an example to others in the community that extreme devotion to the Church is not only recognized but rewarded in such a way that no secular occupation could ever compete with...you can have your own icon and have millions of people pray to YOU for centuries to come. What other secular job can offer you that kind of reward? Not even Elvis comes close to that kind of worship and devotion.

With the latest scandals of the Catholic church, attendance has dropped sharply especially in North America. Faith in the Catholic Church itself has been damaged seemingly irrevocably. The time when only Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism ruled the planet seems to be over. In the past 500 years, so many new religions have sprouted up, you'd think the Church would be having a harder time to find new people to canonize amongst its declining membership. But apparently this isn't so. Pope John Paul II has been a very busy man. "From the establishment of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1588 until the election of John Paul II, there were 296 saints canonized and 808 declared blessed. The present Pope has canonized 459 saints and proclaimed 1,274 blessed during his pontificate. " (http://www.opusdei.org/art.php?w=32&p=3943)

In 390 years, almost 300 saints and 800 blessed. But John Paul II has been able to find 460 more saints and a whopping 1,274 to bless in just 27 years? The Church says that's because the lengthy procedural process for canonization has been shortened. Or could it just be because the Church is desperately trying to fill its pews again to counter the mass exodus of the past 30 years?

Even after many hours researching religions, saints, the canonization process and the history of saints themselves, I still don't have any conclusive answers to my original questions but I still haven't found anything convincing enough to prove that I'm wrong in thinking that Sainthood is a religious marketing ploy either.

Maybe we just give too much attention to the whole idea of sainthood anyway. The American writer, Ambrose Pierce once wrote that a saint is nothing more than a sinner revised and edited.

First link is dead.

I am not catholic, so I do not know how this works, and whether the people in the nomination process are attempting to improve the status of Catholicism with or without the Pope's awareness (I have heard his mental capacity is less sharp today, but that is rumor until I have reason to definitely believe it).

But I do wonder if it might be possible that, though lowering attendance and contributions are an obvious motivator, the Pope John Paul II might have canonised more than would be expected because society might have changed to be more open minded as to standards for Sainthood and the church has chosen to follow this, and that the Pope might be more liberal on the matter than past popes. Perhaps his experiences in the second world war brought him to the consideration that more things deserve recognition for their goodness.

Just speculating.

Anonymous...The first link is now working. Thanks for pointing it out.

F14...Interesting points. There is that possibility especially since Mother Theresa died. Many Catholics have put pressure on the Church to speed up her canonization. And you also could be right that Pope John Paul II's experiences during WWII could influence his desire to start rewarding a greater number of candidates for sainthood.

It's actually rather funny you talk about saints and sinners at the time when the Church is dealing with having its very own sinners exposed for all to see. To be honest, this isn't a topic that crossed my mind as I suppose living in Greece, it's considered normal to have 56 billion saints, this is the saint of all video store workers and so on. Also your point about Kefalonia having 5 saints and Canada having none, although that didn't surprise me that much, I mean I can't think one one Canadian worthy of being a saint, actually thats wrong, possibly two although I don't think 'Saint Celine' and 'Saint Shania' have the right sound to them! I do think though that the reason why more people are being made saints, especially by the Catholics is that it no longer takes 400 years to complete the process.

Then, maybe the question is...why did the Catholic choose NOW to speed up the process? Why do they feel the need to canonize more people faster? It still comes back to the same thing...they need to keep people showing up at Our Blessed Lady of Chiquita los Nuevos church so they just process them faster.

Velvet Elvis and the franchise customized to the local's preferences. Good blogging.

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