Sai Baba - I got this image from another blog - sorry!
Last week a couple of interesting things happened.
First the little man, Sathya Sai Baba died, at age 84. He missed the mark by 12 years, since he had prophesied his death would occur at age 96, after which 8 years more would elapse before he would reincarnate.
I guess his miscalculation may mean he will not reincarnate. He may have missed the Reincarnation Express.
As mentioned before, Sai Baba was little - he was only about 1.57 meters tall. He became known as an avatar right in the middle of the peace and love era, the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies, when his afro look and his orange gowns blended well with the prevailing fashion and the rise of popularity of those oriental/indian beliefs in reincarnation and karma. Sai Baba seems to have been a skilled conjurer (watch this YouTube video) and he had a very long career (more than sixty years) in which he amassed a large fortune, which is now up for grabs.
No saint but just another merchant of faith, a pedophile and, possibly, a murderer. Little man, indeed.
During the weekend, John Paul II was beatified. Sainthood claims aside I recently heard that how great a man you are depends on how big a void you leave when you go. It seems to me that, for better or for worse, Karol Wojtyla left a huge void indeed.
He presided over a momentous time in the history of Humanity, the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of free market and liberty over many formerly occupied countries. And to many, there is little doubt that he was one of the architects of that fall.
He also painted a good face on a decrepit institution. His many travels around the world and his skillful use of the media made him a familiar and welcome face in every home. While remaning a stern critic of other religions (he shared the same belief Pope Ratzinger proclaims, that the Catholic Faith is "superior") he did indeed approach other religious leaders and was the first Pope to visit a mosque and a sinagogue.
Of course, the reign of JPII is tainted by his dogmatism, his sponsorship of very conservative factions like the Opus Dei and his poor handling of the sex abuse scandals that rocked the whole Catholic institution from 2002 on. For that, he will always be criticized.
A saint? Depends on what you call sainthood. From the religious perspective, sainthood claims for the late pope hinge on the testimony of a lonely nun (is there any other kind?), Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who claims her prayers to the late John Paul resulted in a miraculous cure from Parkinson's disease. While it remains to see if she really remains cured (she is not dead yet, so she has not lived a full disease-free life) and there are doubts about her mysterious and sudden "cure" the Vatican or, rather, Pope Ratzinger, fast-tracked the process so John Paul II could be quickly added to the already crowded catholic pantheon of saints.
But a great man? Basis my previous definition, definitely. He left his mark in both the secular as well as the religious arena, which cannot be ignored. He is missed by more than a few and that, too, cannot be ignored.
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