The death of Hugo Chavez at the early age of 58 is presumably a tragedy for his family who, in the ordinary way of things, would have expected him to live many years longer. It may also be a tragedy for the people of Venezuela, although I have some reservations on that score. What cannot be in any doubt is the way in which his death has shown us, yet again, that the appetite for saints is not diminished. Even the BBC, which is not known for its enthusiasm for religion, seems to have decided that Chavez should be treated with the reverence accorded the unassailably good. It is all rather rum.
When you drive religion out, you end up with superstition and perhaps worse. The deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, or, in a South American context, of Eva Perón, show something similar at work. Could it be that our need for heroes and heroines can never be extinguished? If so, on this International Women’s Day, I’d like to suggest that, after Christ, the most perfect — in every sense — being who has ever lived is Mary of Nazareth, Our Blessed Lady. She is indeed an inspiration, and the real thing.