This week Bernard Darnton miraculously gets round to writing another post.
The most obvious good thing to come out of the Canterbury earthquake is the swift reversal of Jim Anderton’s fortunes and the deflation of the puffed up old dullard’s ego. Not that Bob Parker is much better, given his pre-quake advertisements boasting about how much money he’d spent, but “my enemy’s enemy” and all that.
As someone whose share of the $4 billion worth of damage was some wine glasses (don’t worry - I have plenty) and a couple of picture frames, and whose child is beginning to sleep through the night again, I can see other silver linings too. Chief among them has been the outstanding entertainment to be derived from letters to the editor.
The letters page of The Press has been afire with argument about whether God’s quake-related actions have been good, bad, or indifferent. The pious have pointed out what a top chap God is for causing the quake at half-past four in the morning, when even the drunks had gone to bed, and ensuring there were no casualties. A miracle!
The less pious have suggested that God would have been better to slide the Pacific plate another four metres under the Australian plate a little more gently. Others have wondered why God’s hand shook secular New Zealand so unkillingly, while allowing Catholicism-riddled Haiti to suffer a quake the same size but with hundreds of thousands dead. The Lord moves the earth in mysterious ways.
All that we tongue-cheeked sceptics can know about mysteries is that it’s a sin to try and explain them. What we do know is that the plan is too complex for one deity. Fortunately God, at least in his Catholic incarnation, has subcontractors. He handles the big stuff, like earthquakes, and leaves the listening to prayers to the saints.
If you want a disease cured there’s one saint to pray to. If you want protection on a journey there’s another. If you’re a three year old lining up Christmas presents there’s probably a patron saint of tricycles somewhere amongst the ten thousand.
The canonisation of Mary MacKillop last Sunday left my jaw flapping. Eight-thousand Australians had travelled to Rome to witness the Pope’s announcement that one of their own had made the inner circle.
Apparently the process is that someone dies, God turns him or her into a saint, and then those left behind have to work out who made it and who didn’t, a process that can take hundreds of years.
The way to work out who’s got the nod is to look for miracles. One miracle could just be good luck, but two and you’re in. Miracles are fine for the demon-haunted pages of medieval history, or for casual chatter about a deathless natural disaster, but - come on.
Maybe it’s growing up in a modern protestant church where agnosticism is a poorly guarded secret and the church is not much more than a social club (or socialist club in many cases) but the credulity displayed on Sunday made me gasp.
It’s fine for an organisation to recognise it’s achievers with honours and titles, but surely, I thought, in this century and in a country as practical and earthy as Australia, this talk of miracles must be accompanied by a nod and a wink and a crossing of fingers.
If it was, it was kept well hidden. Either way, Australia has its first saint. Perhaps, if we’re talking miracles, a virgin and three wise men aren’t impossible.
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