Beyond belief

Miracles sure aren’t what they used to be.

By Charles P. Pierce
August 9, 2009

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Dear John Henry Newman: Congratulations on surviving the preliminary rounds for sainthood. (I thought you were particularly strong in the Q&A segment.) Now that we’ve entered the talent portion of the competition, though, I begin to have my doubts. I have been reading that a gentleman from these parts asked for your intercession -- as an English cardinal who died in 1890 -- as regards some severe back pain and that it was granted to him so he could continue his religious studies. The Vatican has signed off, and apparently you’re on your way. As much as I respect you pitching in for the team that way, heaven knows, and probably does -- but, seriously, back pain? I do not doubt the supplicant’s sincerity, nor do I doubt that back pain can be debilitating, but, honestly, this is where the bar is set now for miracles? I remember Carl Yastrzemski used to have back pain in spring training, and all it took to cure him was permission to skip a bus trip to Fort Lauderdale. Nobody’s proposing former manager Ralph Houk for sainthood behind that. Not to play devil’s advocate or anything -- there’s already somebody in that job, and I’m likely in enough trouble already -- but we’re going to need a better class of miracles going forward. I recall a time when miracles meant something -- the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking. Sainthood once was an ICU. Now it seems to be a walk-in clinic.

Charles P. Pierce /

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