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Happy St. Gabriel Possenti Day!

February 27 is the Saint Day for Gabriel Possenti, one of my favorite saints. According to The One Year Book of Saints, as a young man in 19th-century Italy, Francesco Possenti was known as the best dresser in town, as a "superb horseman," and as "an excellent marksman." He was proficient with rifles and shotguns. The young man was also a consummate partygoer, who was once engaged to two women at the same time. Twice during school he fell desperately ill, promised to give his life to God if he recovered, and then forgot his promise. On August day at church, Possenti saw a banner of Mary. Her eyes looked directly at him, and he heard the words "Keep your promise."

Possenti immediately joined an order of monks, taking the name Brother Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin. Then in 1860:

On a summer day...a slim figure in a black cassock [Possenti] stood facing a gang of mercenaries in a small town in Piedmont, Italy. He had just disarmed one of the soldiers who was attacking a young girl, had faced the rest of the band fearlessly, then drove them all out of the village at the point of a gun....
[W]hen Garibaldi's mercenaries swept down through Italy ravaging villages, Brother Gabriel showed the kind of man he was by confronting them, astonishing them with his marksmanship, and saving the small village where his monastery was located.

The soldiers were from the nationalist army of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was defeating the Papal States and bringing Italy under his unified control. As is not uncommon in warfare, some of Garibaldi's soldiers, once the fighting was over, went off on their own, on free-lance missions to pillage and terrorize defenseless nearby communities. About twenty former soldiers and non-commissioned officers showed up in the tiny town of Isola del Gran Sasso.

Possenti was studying for the priesthood in the nearby monastery run by the Passionist Order. (The order is devoted to the "passion" or suffering of Jesus.) When Possenti heard the disturbance in town, he asked the rector for permission to go see if he could help, and permission was granted.

Possenti arrived just in time to see two sergeants on the verge of raping two young women. Possenti snatched one sergeants gun out of his holster, and then quickly grabbed the other sergeant's handgun. Presumably, the sergeants were drunk and carousing, expecting no resistance, and not particularly focused on weapons retention. Next:

The two of them, dumbfounded, let the woman go.
When the other soldiers in the band of about 20 heard the commotion, they rushed toward Possenti, thinking they easily could make short shrift of this slightly built, cassocked theology student. One of them apparently made some sneering remark about him attired in his cassock.
At that moment, a lizard ran across the road. The marksman Possenti took aim, fired, and killed it with one shot. It was then that he turned his weapons toward the advancing gang, surprised and shocked by this amazing demonstration of handgun marksmanship.
Possenti ordered the terrorists to put down their arms, which they did. He ordered them to put out fires that they had started, which they did.
He ordered them to return the property that they had taken from the villagers, which they did.
He then ordered the whole lot of them out of town at gunpoint. They left, never to return.
The Isolans then accompanied Possenti back to his monastery in triumphant procession, naming him the Savior of Isola."

This was not the only time that Possenti drew a weapon. On one occasion, the young seminarian was taking a walk when a young man came along, and began chatting and walking with Possenti. The conversation was friendly, until they came near a deserted shack, and the stranger tried to lure Possenti inside for a homosexual encounter-—a triple sin in Possenti's eyes, since the sex would be non-marital, homosexual, and a flagrant violation of the seminarian's vow of celibacy. Apparently afraid that the stranger might attempt to rape him, Possenti drew his hunting knife, which he always carried when walking in the woods, and yelled, "You fiend! If you try to touch me, I'll stick you through." The stranger fled.

Possenti died on February 27, 1862, at the age of 24.

Possenti was declared a saint in 1908. Today, there is an international Catholic lay movement called the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society. The Possenti Society, which has been approved by Catholic authorities, seeks to have Possenti declared the patron saint of handgunners. Although the Society has a Catholic orientation, it includes non-Catholic members.

Should the Vatican eventually grant the petition, St. Gabriel Possenti would join a long line of Catholic saints who are associated with arms, freedom, the military, or crime-fighting.

These are saints for ammunition magazines (Barbara), ammunition workers (Elmo), anti-Communism (Joseph), archers (Sebastian), armies (Maurice), armories (Lawrence), armorers (Barbara, Dunstan, George, Lawrence, and Sebastian), arms dealers (Adrian of Nicomedia), arrowsmiths (Sebastian), artillery gunners (Barbara), battle (Michael the archangel), against battle (Florian), against burglaries (Leonard of Noblac), cavalry (Martin of Tours), Crusaders (Charles the Good, King Louis IX of France), fortifications (Barbara), freedom (Holy Infant Jesus of Prague), hunters (Hubert), hunting (Eustachius, Hubert of Liege), infantry (Martin of Tours), knights (Gengulphus, George, James the Greater, Julian the Hospitaller, Michael the Archangel), military chaplains (John of Capistrano), paratroopers (Michael the Archangel), quartermasters (Martin of Tours), security forces (Michael the Archangel), swordsmiths (Maurice), United States Army Special Forces (Philip Neri), and the Women's Army Corps a/k/a WACs (Genevieve, Joan of Arc). There are also a large number of saints for the armies or navies of particular nations.

References: Clifford Stevens, The One Year Book of Saints (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Div., 1989)(source of the 1st block quote).
John Michael Snyder, Gun Saint (Arlington, Vir.: Tellum Pr., 2003)(source of the 2d block quote). Snyder is the founder of the Possenti Society, and a long-time lobbyist for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
The list of saints is from Patron Saints Index (part of Catholic Community Forum), and Snyder, pp. 16-18.
Passionist Order website, including a biography of Possenti which focuses on his intense spiritual development and devotion to Mary. (BTW, another Passionist Saint is Maria Goretti, about whom I've written previously. Hungarian version of Goretti article is here.)

Miscellany: On hearing this story, I have always felt sorry for the lizard, which was, after all, completely innocent. Presumably though, it was better for one innocent lizard to die so that many innocent people not be raped, robbed, and assaulted. Symbolically, the lizard might be seen as a miniature dragon, meaning that Possenti was symbolically slaying evil. (Snyder, p. 96).

Most Rev. Custodio Alvim Pereira, Archbishop Emeritus of Lorenzo Marques, Mozambique, Vice President of the Chapter of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, has accepted two St. Gabriel Possenti Society Medallions, which were blessed at the Society's official luncheon in Rome. Pope John Paul II accepted a St. Gabriel Possenti Society gold medallion with an official Vatican letter of acceptance and thanks, signed March 12, 2001 by Monsignor Pedro Lopez Quintana, Assessor of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

I am a member of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, from which I have received a silver engraved Medallion of Honor.

Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
As I recall, there was a move long ago to have Joan of Arc made the patron saint of artillerymen ... a logical choice, since she was the one saint who had actually promoted the use of artillery ... but it was opposed by the British, for obvious reasons.
2.27.2007 1:40am
cthulhu (mail):
"God moves in mysterious ways" -- as the saying goes. It is not a great stretch to suppose the lizard was a phantasm created for Possenti's exhibition of marksmanship.
2.27.2007 2:26am
English teacher:
I believe that St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery, was "defrocked," or whatever the term is, about 25 years ago because the Vatican concluded that there was little historical evidence that she had ever existed. However, the Catholic church in Lawton, OK, which is adjacent to Ft. Sill, the main US Army artillery base, remains named after her.


[DK: I looked around a little bit on the Internet. Although I'm not sure, here's my best answer so far: in 1968-69, Pope Paul VI removed some saint days from the official church calender, largely because of doubts about their historical existence. I haven't seen a cite showing that Barbara was removed, but it's possible she was. It's clear that the historical record for her is sketchy, to say the least. See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02284d.htm. She's still popular though; she's a common figures on the glass-tube candles (popular with Hispanics) which depict Catholic characters.]

According to legend, the barbiturate drugs are named for St. Barbara because the chemist who invented the structure celebrated his successful synthesis at a local pub in the company of some artillery officers on St. Barbara's Day, whom they were toasting. He apparently also toasted his discovery, and, after a long evening at the bar, ended up combining "Barbara" with the chemical "urea" in the name.
2.27.2007 8:20am
Anderson (mail):
[W]hen Garibaldi's mercenaries swept down through Italy ravaging villages, Brother Gabriel showed the kind of man he was by confronting them, astonishing them with his marksmanship, and saving the small village where his monastery was located.

They sure don't make saints like they used to. Maybe Steven Seagal can play him in the movie.
2.27.2007 9:32am
Justin (mail):
Greatest...thread...ever...
2.27.2007 9:34am
James Dillon (mail):
Pardon my total ignorance of Catholicism, but how does Michael the Archangel get to be a saint? I thoutht you had to be human to achieve sainthood?
2.27.2007 9:50am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Dave, re the lizard, read Borges' (very) short story "Canto XXIII".

... I think that's the right number. It's a half-page long and has Dante and a tiger as characters.
2.27.2007 9:52am
Alan Gunn (mail):
My son, a paratrooper, tells me that the sergeants who run the airborne school at Ft. Benning once made a few bucks selling St. Michael the Archangel medals to the trainees before their first jumps. They'd assure the trainees that they didn't have to buy them, but they'd add that it was common for trainees who jumped without a medal to break their legs. Today, though, the sergeants airborne make DVDs of the jumps and sell those.
2.27.2007 9:58am
Colin (mail):
Dillon,

I don't think that Michael was ever cannonized. I think the title is just honorary.
2.27.2007 10:29am
anon231 (mail):
"Possenti died on February 27, 1862, at the age of 24."

Why did he die so young? Does anyone know?
2.27.2007 10:31am
Edward Swaine:
I guess there's some kind of art to this: putting aside the postscript on the poor lizard (or, just maybe, the supposed seducer/rapist, who was no matter what well advised to flee), I thought you were building up a candidacy for "patron saint of disarmers," or maybe "patron saint of a knife's as good as a handgun if self defense is what you're after" (if that translates into Italian).
2.27.2007 10:31am
D_Atch (mail):
I'm not an arms historian, but seems to me that should you fire your "handgun" to slay a lizard in this period you have probably disarmed yourself. I believe that cartrage firearms, the only quickly reloadable ones, and revolving handguns capable of multiple shots were very uncommon in 1860. Of course, I'm also generally unfamiliar with the various capabilities of Saints so perhaps this was not an issue.


[The Colt six-shooter revolver was invented in the 1830s, and quickly entered into very widespread use, as did other revolvers. Among other things, it drastically changed the military balance in the U.S. wars with the American Indians; before that, an Indian with a bow could fire multiple shots much faster than a white with a gun.]
2.27.2007 10:31am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
You feel sorry for the lizard what about the poor gay guy who was just trying to get some action?

I mean it must have been bad enough being gay at the time having to sneak around and try to make assignations in secret much less having your proposals met with threats of deadly force rather than polite denials.

Frankly this is yet another reason I'm glad no longer to be catholic. As far as saints go this guy seems pretty good, just a touch of homophobia and he didn't even kill anyone. Many of the saints seem to be either mythical or have done things that I find pretty abhorrent.

No intention to cause a fuss but I couldn't pass up the apparent glorification of this man's homophobia (was there any indication the gay guy was going to rape him?).
2.27.2007 10:34am
lucia (mail) (www):
Unfortunately for the pro-archery set, St. Sebastian, soldier and captian in the pretorian guard, is associated with arrows because he was sentenced to execution by archers. He lived-- possibly suggesting that arrows don't always get the job done.

Picture of St. Sebastian shot full of arrows and story here. Another picture.

Evidently, he was eventually clubbed to death. Lucky for tourists visiting Catholic churches in Europe, painters chose not to paint the nearly nude Sebastian being clubbed to death. (Art can be pretty gory.)


[DK: I knew about St. Sebastian's death. There are a lot of martyrs who ended up being the patron saint of the instrument that was used to kill/torture them. Sort of a long-term triumph over their adversaries.]
2.27.2007 10:41am
rarango (mail):
One of the most interesting posts on VC in a while! Thanks!

Clearly St. GP should be the patron saint of the NRA--sounds like a great fit.
2.27.2007 11:15am
Marc in Eugene (mail) (www):
James Dillon -- 'Saint', after all, in the one sense just means 'holy', sanctus, the customary appellation being used for both the angels and those human beings recognized by the Church to be 'definitively' holy, i.e. dead in this life, in Heaven with God.
2.27.2007 11:55am
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Why did he die so young? Does anyone know?
Consumption. (tuberculosis?) http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06330c.htm
2.27.2007 11:57am
nitpicker:
Please note that, when referring to clergy or many other people with adjectives preceding their names, we must use "the." Thus, "the Most Rev. Custodio Alvim Pereira" and "the Rev. Al Sharpton," etc.

Keep that in mind. ;)
2.27.2007 12:08pm
David W Drake (mail):
Lucia--

I saw a painting in St. Florian's Abbey in Austria (part of a large tryptich) of St. Sebastian being clubbed after having been shot full of arrows. Even bought a postcard of the tryptich as it is a pretty interesting and well done series of paintings. The arrows are more popular, of course.

Catholic art in particular can be gory--there is no attempt to sugarcoat the subject.
2.27.2007 12:44pm
TomHynes (mail):
Colin, re your comment:
"I don't think that Michael was ever cannonized"
Even the patron saint of artillery would be prefer to be canonized.
2.27.2007 12:47pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
Assuming he was of sufficient calibre, Tom.
2.27.2007 12:51pm
Pete Freans (mail):
logicnazi:

Possenti arrived just in time to see two sergeants on the verge of raping two young women.

I suppose the two young women were heterophobic?
2.27.2007 12:56pm
Justin (mail):
"These are saints for ammunition magazines (Barbara), ammunition workers (Elmo), anti-Communism (Joseph), archers (Sebastian), armies (Maurice), armories (Lawrence), armorers (Barbara, Dunstan, George, Lawrence, and Sebastian), arms dealers (Adrian of Nicomedia), arrowsmiths (Sebastian), artillery gunners (Barbara), battle (Michael the archangel), against battle (Florian), against burglaries (Leonard of Noblac), cavalry (Martin of Tours), Crusaders (Charles the Good, King Louis IX of France), fortifications (Barbara), freedom (Holy Infant Jesus of Prague), hunters (Hubert), hunting (Eustachius, Hubert of Liege), infantry (Martin of Tours), knights (Gengulphus, George, James the Greater, Julian the Hospitaller, Michael the Archangel), military chaplains (John of Capistrano), paratroopers (Michael the Archangel), quartermasters (Martin of Tours), security forces (Michael the Archangel), swordsmiths (Maurice), United States Army Special Forces (Philip Neri), and the Women's Army Corps a/k/a WACs (Genevieve, Joan of Arc). There are also a large number of saints for the armies or navies of particular nations."

I should point out there is a large difference between someone being sainted *because* of some act or relationship, and someone being *adopted* as their patron ssaint by some organization. As mentioned above, Sebastian was not sainted because of his archery, and Barabara, who is listed as the saint of ammunition magazines, armorers, artillery gunners, and fortifications, never was involved in a war, and was sainted due to her steadfast support of Christianity despite being jailed and tortured by her father (miracles helped her briefly escape and protected her for a while during the torture).
2.27.2007 12:56pm
Justin (mail):
"These are saints for ammunition magazines (Barbara), ammunition workers (Elmo), anti-Communism (Joseph), archers (Sebastian), armies (Maurice), armories (Lawrence), armorers (Barbara, Dunstan, George, Lawrence, and Sebastian), arms dealers (Adrian of Nicomedia), arrowsmiths (Sebastian), artillery gunners (Barbara), battle (Michael the archangel), against battle (Florian), against burglaries (Leonard of Noblac), cavalry (Martin of Tours), Crusaders (Charles the Good, King Louis IX of France), fortifications (Barbara), freedom (Holy Infant Jesus of Prague), hunters (Hubert), hunting (Eustachius, Hubert of Liege), infantry (Martin of Tours), knights (Gengulphus, George, James the Greater, Julian the Hospitaller, Michael the Archangel), military chaplains (John of Capistrano), paratroopers (Michael the Archangel), quartermasters (Martin of Tours), security forces (Michael the Archangel), swordsmiths (Maurice), United States Army Special Forces (Philip Neri), and the Women's Army Corps a/k/a WACs (Genevieve, Joan of Arc). There are also a large number of saints for the armies or navies of particular nations."

I should point out there is a large difference between someone being sainted *because* of some act or relationship, and someone being *adopted* as their patron ssaint by some organization. As mentioned above, Sebastian was not sainted because of his archery, and Barabara, who is listed as the saint of ammunition magazines, armorers, artillery gunners, and fortifications, never was involved in a war, and was sainted due to her steadfast support of Christianity despite being jailed and tortured by her father (miracles helped her briefly escape and protected her for a while during the torture).


[Sure. Barbara ended up with the job of taking care of artillerymen because her father got struck by lightning. The question is a little more intricate than "adoption," though. Currently, Possenti is being "adopted" by handgunners, but the Catholic Church hasn't officially declared him to the patron of handgunners. In contrast, Barbara is the official patron of the artillery.]
2.27.2007 12:56pm
Justin (mail):
Just to note, I am sure David Kopel is aware of the distinction (as mentioned before, this guy was already sainted). I just wanted to clarify the point for commenters.
2.27.2007 12:58pm
Colin (mail):
It doesn't matter. The proper ordnance can cannonizing anyone of any calibre. It's just a question of procedure.
2.27.2007 1:00pm
rbj:
I'm getting a charge out of these puns.
2.27.2007 1:11pm
Justin (mail):
Also, a question: does the facts alleged in One Year Book of Saints find acceptance in any official Catholic reference? If so, does the reference find such an activity tending to show piety or detract from piety? Certainly, the idea of Christians-as-supporters-of-self-defense is not a universally accepted viewpoint, in light of several statements attributed to Jesus.


[DK: It doesn't have the imprimatur, which is an official certification that it's free of serious errors. I don't know how much the imprimatur is in use these days. It's published by Our Sunday Visitor, which I think is pretty mainstream among Catholics. You're right that some Jesus quotes are sometimes read as pacifist (and sometimes not, see: http://davekopel.com/Religion/Is-the-best-defense-a-good-book.pdf); but at Possenti's time, I don't think self-defense was controversial among Catholics; Aquinas had made the case for self-defense that was (and is) the mainstream view. In any case, Possenti wasn't engaged in self-defense, but in defense of others; even some scholars (e.g., Augustine) who were selfd-defense skeptics agreed that there was a duty to defend others.]
2.27.2007 1:11pm
Cameron:
A fascinating tidbit from that post is that Possenti was approached for a homosexual encounter while the seminarian was walking alone in the woods. Presumably, the stranger would not have made such advances if they didn't have some reasonable chance of success. I guess the lure of avowed "celibacy" for those not wanting to explain why they aren't dating or married is not a new phenomenon.
2.27.2007 1:30pm
Cameron:
A fascinating tidbit from that post is that Possenti was approached for a homosexual encounter while the seminarian was walking alone in the woods. Presumably, the stranger would not have made such advances if they didn't have some reasonable chance of success. I guess the lure of avowed "celibacy" for those not wanting to explain why they aren't dating or married is not a new phenomenon.
2.27.2007 1:30pm
Colin (mail):
I'm getting a charge out of these puns.

That's good. But if we start to get bombarded by them, we may need to impose some pun control.
2.27.2007 1:32pm
An0n:
Justin, I can't answer the first part of your question, but I believe this at least partially answers the second part (from the POV of Catholic teaching):

"2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. 'The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.'65

"2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

'If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66'

"2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."

(Reference here.)
2.27.2007 1:43pm
BobNSF (mail):
Gay-panic defense as a qualification for sainthood... now, that's novel.



[DK: That's not what got him sainthood. Nor, for that matter, did his heroic defense of the town. The criterion is posthumous intercession resulting in at least two miracles--which have to be verified according to an established procedure of inquiry. There's currently a move afoot to reduce the miracle requirement to just one. There's no requirement for a saint to have an earthly life free of significant flaws; otherwise there would probably be no saints. In terms of traits for modern people to admire, he was very strong on selfless courage, and (after a very weak start) very good on keeping his vows, which might partly explain his unadmirable over-reaction to the proposition.]
2.27.2007 2:30pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Barabara, who is listed as the saint of ammunition magazines, armorers, artillery gunners, and fortifications, never was involved in a war, and was sainted due to her steadfast support of Christianity despite being jailed and tortured by her father (miracles helped her briefly escape and protected her for a while during the torture).

Think I heard somewhere she got the patronage of artillerymen because after her death her tormentors were hit by lightning, which would have had some analogy to artillery.

Tho you'd think the lightning and explosion would disqualify her for patronage of powder magazines!
2.27.2007 2:54pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think a great miracle that could get him promoted to saint would be the ability to do "Hollywood style" shooting, that is, the ability to fire a handgun, one handed, while running, and still hit a moving, man-sized target 100 feet away. Even better would be if he could do it while falling through the air after jumping out of a third story window. I'd be darned impressed by that, though I admit I don't get a vote on whether he gets promoted.
2.27.2007 4:18pm
Justin (mail):
An0n, I wasn't asking a legality question, I was asking a moral question - and if something is morally neutral, that is different from something being morally commanded or morally supported (like the Jewish Mitzvot). DK answered my question in the way that I expected the answer to come out.
2.27.2007 5:21pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Guess I'm just a cynic, but I wonder how much of this is just really stale political propoganda. After all, in 1860 the Vatican was a significant *political* player in Italy. My cynicism is fed by the statement that these folks were Garibaldi *mercenaries.* My understanding of that time period was that Garibaldi typically had more men than money/equipment and I've never read that he employed mercenaries. On the other hand, some of his *volunteer* troops were quite ill-disciplined.

Add this to the fact that the Italian government which finally emerged was engaged in more-or-less constant conflict with the Vatican on *political* issues into the 1920s, so that creating this guy a saint in 1908 would certainly have served the Church's mundane intereests.

Finally, the assertion that these guys were "terrorists" seems to be a little over-the-top. They may have been looters, rapists, criminals and generally rotten people, but the description makes it seem that their objectionable actions against civilians were for their private benefit, not in service of the larger political goals of the force to which they belonged. Given that: (1) there were strong motivations at the time to "spin" the story; (2) the First Amendment wasn't much of an issue; and (3) at least some details of the story were plainly distorted in a way which makes the Church look good, I tend to wonder whether any of it bears much relation tothe truth.

BTW, I am not Catholic, but I am by no means anti-Catholic. I beleive that, taken as a whole, the Catholic Church has had a huge positive impact on the world. This is hardly the most egregious case of spin I've ever seen, but I'm disturbed that everyone here seems to be taking is as Gospel.
2.27.2007 5:45pm
Syd (mail):
anon231 (mail):
"Possenti died on February 27, 1862, at the age of 24."

Why did he die so young? Does anyone know?


Revenge by the lizard's family?
2.27.2007 6:25pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
After rifling through these comments I've been mortarfied by the lack of respect for this saint. I fear there's been a breech of etiquette, but I may need to review my primer to make a case for it.
2.28.2007 9:01am
Colin (mail):
Before you come barrelling in here, making explosive charges, take stock of the situation. You don't want to trigger a flame war - some of these posters are primed and ready to go.
2.28.2007 9:42am
Randy R. (mail):
"The criterion [for sainthood] is posthumous intercession resulting in at least two miracles--which have to be verified according to an established procedure of inquiry. "

Which to my mind never makes any sense. if you are devoutly Catholic and greivously ill, who would you pray to? I would pray to an established saint, one who's miracle-powers are proven. Or pray to God, who can certainly do any miracle he or she chooses.
But to pray to an unknown dead guy? With a zero track record? Who in their right mind would pray for intercession to this guy?
Of course, you could just pray to everyone dead that you know in the hopes that someone might want to be named saint and would intercede on your behalf. But then you have to figure out who actually did.

Maybe these people make a deal -- after I die, pray to me for recovery of your next serious illness. I'll intercede and cure your cancer or whatever, and, assuming you get the appropriate paperwork filled out, I'll get named a saint! It's win-win for everyone.
2.28.2007 11:23pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Cornellian said:

I think a great miracle that could get him promoted to saint would be the ability to do "Hollywood style" shooting, that is, the ability to fire a handgun, one handed,...


You've got the whole "miracle" idea mixed up. What has to happen is after the as yet unrecognized saint dies, he goes to heaven. Then someone else who believes the unrecognized saint is up in heaven, prays to him. Then, up in heaven, the saint blesses the person who prays with the miraculous ability to do "Hollywood style" shooting.
3.1.2007 11:34am
Randy R. (mail):
"Then someone else who believes the unrecognized saint is up in heaven, prays to him"

Yes, exactly. But why would anyone pray to this guy after he died? You don't just pray to any dead guy -- you would, I think, pray to someone who lead a life so devoutly catholic that you are hoping he or she has some sort of 'in' with God and will consequently help you out.

(And being dead, he has every incentive to help you. so that he can be proclaimed a 'saint' and thereby have a higher standing in heaven, right? See, the whole system is rigged towards catholics.)

Some people today are no doubt praying to John Paul II, hoping that he will in turn bless him. That I can understand, since a dead Pope would naturally have some higher status in heaven than your ordinary priest.
3.1.2007 2:56pm