Holy Popes!

On Sunday, for the first time in history, two popes will be solemnly canonised at the same time, i.e. formally declared to be saints. Only God can make saints, but the Church has the power to recognize individuals as holy and hold them up as models to be followed, people whose prayers and intercession can be invoked with confidence. So far so good. Unlike some, I have no problem acknowledging the holiness of either man. Sanctity transcends personal preferences because it is all about God’s choice rather than ours. Those who think, for example, that John Paul II cannot be a saint because he failed to do what they think he should have done about some of the sex abuse scandals in the Church are wide of the mark. The Church doesn’t demand omniscience or infallibility in the popular sense of the word: it demands heroic virtue and love, and it is possible to be both virtuous and loving yet still fail to be perfect in everything.

Where I do have difficulty is with the suggestion that it could become a matter of course to canonise popes, as though sanctity went with the job, so to say. That makes me uneasy. In the nineteenth century, it was almost de rigeur to try to get the founder of one’s Religious Order canonised, and a great deal of time and effort went into trying to prove what could not be proved as the number of causes that never got beyond ‘Approved Cult’ status testifies. Tomorrow, I shall give thanks with the rest of the Church . . . and quietly ask the intercession of our two new saints that canonising recently dead popes does not become the new ecclesiastical fashion.


Beatification, Blogging and JP II

John Paul II uses the internet to publish
John Paul II uses the Internet to Publish, November 2001

On 22 November 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first pope in history to publish an official document via the internet (allegedly using the laptop pictured here). Today, on the Octave Day of Easter, he is being beatified, not because he was flawless but because he was demonstrably holy. Beatification is recognition of having lived a life of heroic virtue. For some it may seem too much, too soon; but goodness is a quality most of us find attractive, however much we may dislike the tackiness that surrounds some aspects of the process of beatification (vials of blood kept as relics, anyone?). I have no difficulty asking the prayers of Pope John Paul II and I pray that he may encourage many to aspire to holiness of life.

By the time you read this, Digitalnun will be on her way to Rome, not for the beatification (she arrives too late for that) but for the Bloggers’ Conference hosted by the Vatican — another internet ‘first’, but perhaps a rather overdue one. Please pray for all who are attending. If there is to be real dialogue, we shall need the gift of the Holy Spirit in abundance: to listen, to ponder, to argue with wisdom and respect, and all within a little space.