Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Random thoughts at 4 a.m.
Just how much of Canada is burning? Every time we have a sunny day, it turns real hazy because of the smoke drifting across the lake from Canada, and I heard on the news that Minnesota actually did an air quality alert because of the smoke from Canadian fires. When I did a news search, the information I found said the smoke is coming from northern Alberta. That is a long way away from here, so just how many hundreds of thousands of acres of Canada are smoldering? I know Alaska is burning, too, thanks to unusually hot, dry weather in a region that is normally cool and damp.
I've been wondering lately exactly what's involved in getting someone declared a saint. There's been a push (sort of) for many years now to get Bishop Frederic Baraga (aka the Snowshoe Priest) canonized. Or there was a few years ago -- I have no idea if the Cause for Bishop Baraga is still promoting him. I keep hearing the man is "one miracle away" but have no idea just exactly what that means. But I've been thinking about Father Baraga lately because I'm in the middle of cataloging miscellaneous papers that belonged to Bernard Lambert, author of a book -- Shepherd of the Wildnerness -- that is apparently a hagiography to end all hagiographies. Lambert spent a decade or two obsessing about Baraga, immersed himself in the archives (there is quite a trove of documentation; Catholic bureaucracy is good about keeping records forever), and managed to weave Frederic Baraga into just about everything he did. He pushed the Knights of Columbus into funding a statue of the good bishop that was erected at Assinins (the site of Baraga's first mission on Keweenaw Bay), and then pushed for a second, bigger and better and more spectacular shrine to be erected in a more dramatic setting. Reading through Lambert's papers as I've been sorting them has been rather interesting, although I'll confess that having skimmed various chunks of Shepherd of the Wilderness in rough draft form I now have no desire whatsoever to read the actual book. To put it kindly, Lambert could have used a good editor.
Anyway, what has me wondering now about the canonization process was a letter from Thomas Noa, Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, written in the late 1950s. The Bishop reminded Lambert that it was important that no cult had built up around Bishop Baraga, i.e., that Baraga wasn't being treated like a saint prematurely. That struck me as a bit odd. If there wasn't a "cult," a group of people who viewed Baraga as being able to intercede with God for them, how would Baraga ever accrue the requisite number of miracles? How would anyone ever know that something should be attributed to Baraga if no one was obsessing about him to begin with? It's a classic chicken and egg story. Which comes first? And for sure it was more than a bit bizarre to see Lambert reminded that cults were verboten when if anything Lambert was so obsessed with Baraga that it comes close to qualifying as mania. Although who knows -- ihere's still a pile of Lambert material a couple feet tall for me to wade through; maybe the answer to the sainthood process question is hiding in it.
And while I may not view Shepherd of the Wildnerness as especially readable, other people must. We discovered the museum owned multiple copies, way more than we need for any archival reason, so decided to list a few of them on Amazon. The first day the listing was up, we sold one for $44 plus shipping. Does that count as a miracle? Maybe I should drop a note to the Vatican. The museum started listing miscellaneous books through Amazon over a year ago; the one we move the most copies of is a history of Pequaming (a lumber company town). We've got about 50 books in total listed on Amazon, most of which are used books the museum received as donations, but a few are new. . . more or less. How new is a book if it's a never-been-read, been sitting in a storage box for decades, originally published in 1970 tome? We have a gazillion copies of some local history books the historical society published over 40 years ago. There was at least one year when whoever was in charge of dealing with the printer ordered 3,000 copies of a historical pageant book. We also have several hundred copies of calendars for various years in the 1980s; the calendars were another example of optimistic thinking.
Are we ever going to have summer? It's been so cool and damp for the past six weeks that the rhubarb refuses to go dormant. It just keeps cranking out new growth. Usually the rhubarb shuts down for the summer shortly after Memorial Day. This year it's still pickable and we're into July. Yet another sign of the end times. . .