The Hall of Fame of Saints: What the Church can Learn from Baseball

Haken Loob:
The Man. The Myth. The Legend
In 2017 the National Hockey League welcomed Paul Kariya into the Hall of Fame. The pint-sized forward played 15 years in the NHL, amassing 989 points in 989 games. Literally a point a game player. Now he sits enshrined next to Gretzky, Orr, Richard and Howe. It feels wrong to mention Kariya in the same breath as those other players. There are greats, and then there are pretty goods. Kariya was pretty good. Am I being too fussy?

I ask: Why raise the "pretty good" to the highest honours we have? While we're at it, why not allow the pretty good Hakan Loob into the Hall of Fame? He was almost a point a game player in the 1980s, not to mention he scored 50 goals and 106 points for the Calgary Flames in the 1986-87 season. Nevermind it was the 1980s. A time when Gary Leeman scored 50 goals. Yes, it's been said that even a fire hydrant could score 40 goals back then. Though that was if the fire hydrant played on Gretzky's line. But enough about the greatness of "The Great One" personified, we need to celebrate the pretty good too, right? If Kariya is a Hall of Famer, so too should Haken Loob. And then what about Gary Leeman?

Then there are the meanies over at Major League Baseball. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two homerun gods of the steroid era, cannot buy a ticket to Cooperstown (Hall of Fame location). They admitted to juicing up. Good for baseball. Legends Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds cannot get in based strictly on allegations of steroids (credible ones, I might add). Bonds put on almost 30 pound overnight, though many of those pounds clearly went to his head. Pete Rose, perhaps the greatest hitter of all, struck out on account of betting. Shoeless Joe Jackson? Discalced and dishonoured. Even though he batted .375 in the 1919 World Series which he "threw." What about the non-controversial? Don Mattingly? Nine golden gloves. Three silver slugger awards. Career hitter of .306. Nicknamed "The Hit Man." He was great, but not great enough. There are many more. Hopefully you get the idea. To be in the Baseball Hall of Fame you must be a great player, play the game honestly, and even then there are no guarantees of enshrinement.

Now to my main point... like many, I'm sad to say, I shuddered at the news of Pope Paul VI being canonized by Pope Francis recently. Paul Kariya, meet Paul VI. Is it prudent to simply say "Humanae Vitae" and expect a heroically saintly life from the same man who aided and abetted one of the more tumultuous times in the history of Catholicism? Or is it reasonable to conclude that, sure he wasn't a perfect pope, but he was personally holy, and even saintly? Can I be a holy and saintly man while at the same time being a second-rate father? "Sorry kids, I was too busy praying today to go and earn money to buy food."

How can I judge Pope Paul VI? I cannot. Rumours are he wore a hair shirt. Rumours also abound that he made side deals with communists. We don't know. But the burden of proof shouldn't be on me to provide perfectly clear evidence against his sanctity. It should be on the canonization process, one gutted thanks to Paul VI (and JPII), to prove his heroic sanctity. Read Peter Kwasniewski if you want details. All I am saying is that Pope Paul VI's canonization, in my opinion, happened way too quickly. There were no cults for his cause. No one was gushing over his greatness. No clear explanation of how he stood up, in a saintly manner, against the ungodly forces of the 1960s (except, of course, Humanae Vitae). The Church is still a mess to this day. Previously we went through a 700 year stretch with only having two popes canonized. We now have had three popes canonized from the 1960s and up. One such pope is, oddly enough, nicknamed "the good pope." Not the great pope, the good pope. Add to this now Pope Saint Paul VI. We might as well start the process for Benedict XVI. He could be the first living pope to be canonized. Or, dare I say, Francis.

Enshrine the good. Admire them. Hold them up as the ideal. Stir rousing devotion to the demi-great. As for me, I will look to the great saints of the past. At least I know they hit a homerun in life. And are truly deserving of being called great in that Hall of Fame in the sky.


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