Saturday, September 18, 2010

How to become a Saint

We all know, from Pope Benedict XVI*'s well-founded, superbly researched and not at all lie-ridden speech in Edinburgh the other day, that all the world's ills are caused by atheists. Ills such as wanton, unfounded prejudice and discrimination, child abuse (including rape), terrorism, mass murder and genocide. Or knowingly and deliberately doing something that will further the spread of a particularly nasty disease.

So now we know how to be bad people: simply put, just don't believe in a god**. But if we want to look at the other end of the scale, ultimate goodness and eternal recognition for it, then how on Earth does one become a Saint in the eyes of the Catholic church***?

Luckily for us there are just a few easy steps to attaining eternal religious superiority over our fellow human beings. They are as follows:

Step 1: Die.
In all honesty, the Catholic church doesn't 'make' someone a Saint, they simply officially recognise their Saintly status, but for someone to classsify they have to have been admitted into heaven. It's difficult to get into heaven without being dead first.

Once you're dead, the process really kicks off.

Step 2: Impress a local Bishop
Obviously, in order to be recognised as Saintly you have to have officially been awesome throughout your life. The Bishop of the area you lived in, once alerted to your feats of heroic virtue while alive, will research and document your life, work and writings in order to provide evidence for consideration by the relevant authorities.

Actually, thinking about it it's probably better to impress your Bishop before you die.

Step 3: Be submitted for consideration to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints
This is a bunch of Cardinals and theologians based at the Vatican who work together to evaluate your life. If the evidence is convincing enough, the Pope will proclaim you to be a role model for Catholics everywhere. You will then be given the title "venerable", which looks fantastic on any C.V. but doesn't come with a badge.

Step 4: Perform a miracle
Because there's no such thing, so you have to pick and choose from stuff that just happens.
This is where it gets difficult: not only do you have to perform a miracle and get it recognised as such by the Church: you also have to do it whilst being dead (see step 1). When you have performed this miracle and been recognised for it, you are then beatified, which allows you to be honoured by a geographical region or group of people and presumably involves a makeover of some sort.

The standard miracle is curing someone of a disease or affliction after they have prayed for you (specifically) to do so. Well-known helper of people**** Mother Teresa was beatified in 2002 after she posthumously cured an abdominal tumour of Monica Besra by emitting a beam of light from a picture of Teresa kept within a locket owned by Besra. The Pope has, as part of his 2010 tour of the United Kingdom, beatified 19th Century brummie clergyman Cardinal John Henry Newman who cured Deacon Jack Sullivan's spinal disorder after being prayed to. The Vatican concluded that these things couldn't just happen on their own, therefore the most likely explanation was that someone who was long dead did them by magic.

If you want to get a head start in proceedings you could always put an effort into making step 1 occur for reasons of a particularly religious nature. An in-service death for a Catholic, (martyrdom) is a fast-track route to beatification and trumps the performance of a miracle.

Step 5: Perform another miracle
One miracle is not enough, presumably because a single miracle can feasibly be faked, fabricated, invented or even made up completely. But two miracles is an entirely different matter.

Worry not, however, as miracles come in many forms, as can be seen by the Miracle of the Herrings in the player below:

Once your second miracle is discovered and verified by the Vatican, then you will be canonised. Congratulations! You are now a Saint!

Where to next?
Sainthood may seem like the top of the ladder, which may be a disappointment for the more ambitious good-doers amongst us, but fear not! There are yet further steps to take for the truly brilliant Catholic follower:

This is a kind of upper level of Sainthood; becoming a Saint Prefect, or a Saint of Saints, if you like. If your life and deeds have shown particularly outstanding commitment to the cause of spreading Catholicism you may be raised to this pedestal of pedestals and adored by thousands in the true sense of the word.

Certain groups, occasions and other things have their own special Saints known as Patrons. To become a Patron Saint is certainly the crowning glory for any Saint, and the great thing is that you can become a Patron Saint of just about anything: the Pope is currently looking for a Patron Saint of the internet and computer programmers, with Saint Isidore of Seville being the current front runner. There are Patron Saints of ugly people, fireworks, comedians, procrastinators, coffee pots, various phobias, mad dogs, dysentry and sexually transmitted diseases (which is hilariously ironic, considering the Catholic Church's dislike of condoms).

* Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, or Palpatine to his mates.
* Or, rather, don't believe in Benny's God. The only way his comments make any kind of sense at all is if he is lumping followers of the thousands of alternative gods to his Catholic one in with those who follow no god at all. Which makes no sense anyway.
*** I'm looking at Catholicism because all other religious choices are false and therefore evil.
**** Unless, of course, they didn't want to convert to Catholicism, in which case she just let them die.