Sunday, August 30, 2009
Juniper is an Evergreen
There is a bandwagon for you to jump on. Just the other day, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times (I told you I read the paper every day), there was an article about a Saint in the making.
Let's review. To become a saint you have to be dead. You have to be in heaven.
Everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint.
To be a canonized saint, that is, someone who the Church has proved actually is in heaven, as opposed to your Aunt Tilly, who God only knows where she is, literally, there is a very long process.
There are saints-in-waiting out there who have been waiting for hundreds and hundreds of years because of one little thing.
Okay, it's not a little thing. A miracle.
But the first part of the process doesn't include any miracles. It's long, too, and every bit as intrusive a public examination of your life as running for President would be. First, we comb over every aspect of your life, leaving no stone unturned to make sure you have lived a life of heroic virtue.
This does not mean you've been perfect. Please keep that in mind as you mull over today's saint-in -waiting. But you do have to have lead a very, very virtuous life above the call of duty. No slacker saints, even if they were slackers to begin with.
All your relatives are interviewed. I'll bet a lot of people don't make it out of the gate, right there. "Uncle Elswood? A saint? Did you every eat dinner with him?" All of your friends. You might fare better there. These are people who chose to hang around with you.
Once your heroic virtue has been determined you are declared "Venerable", that is, worthy of our veneration. A good example for the rest of us, regardless of your table manners or what you did or didn't buy someone for Christmas.
But then, in order to reach sainthood, we are going to have to find two occasions where someone prayed for your intercession and a miracle occurred for them. We are talking miracles here, people, not 'I found a parking space!' (as miraculous as that may seem on any given day). It has to be spontaneous ("yesterday I had no toes, and today, my toes are back!") and unexplained.
This is really tricky, because, since you are not a saint yet, who is going to be praying for your intercession in the first place? Your mother? If she is still alive. A couple of well-meaning cousins? Hopefully, all those people for whom you had such kindness and compassion during your days of heroic virtue here on earth.
When you get one that satisfies the Church as an actual miracle (it's nice that you were cured of cancer, but chemo does work a lot of the time) you are declared "Blessed". You need two miracles for the whole magilla.
That's where the hundreds of years can come in.
So it seems that Father Juniper Serra, the founder of the Missions of California (which is why the story was in the LA Times), may have his second miracle. There is this poor lady who has had dozens of brain tumors. She has had dozens of brain surgeries. She is still alive.
That's not a miracle. When you have surgery to remove a brain tumor, even if you have 12 or 14 or 30 such trials, there is an explanation for why you are alive. It's not exactly spontaneous either. Now if she had brain tumors that were there one day and gone the next, we're talking miracle.
The miracle part is that her brain is functioning normally and she is happy and healthy. I think she still has some brain tumors in there, even. Her doctors don't know why she's okay. According to the article, she looks good!
I'm a little dubious about that. She has had so many brain surgeries that they finally weren't able to replace a hunk of her skull, not even with a plate. They put a plate in, but it got infected.
So, no plate, just skin.
Once, while I was having a chef's salad at a diner in Chicago, I looked up to see a man with a large piece of his skull missing. The skin moved over his brain as he chewed.
Now this would be a miracle: if I could ever manage to eat a chef's salad again.
So this brain that has been picked at like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass is still going strong and Father Juniper Serra may be canonized.
But just in case the Church decides it's not a miracle at all but some really great surgical techinque, you can get on the bandwagon and pray for the intercession of Father Juniper Serra. He may need a back up miracle.
But find your own parking space.