Backing up a bit: There's been a terrible accident in a mine in Chile. Dozens of miners are still alive: but trapped about a half mile down.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that the odds are pretty good that they can be brought out: in a few months.
And that there's a small hole drilled down to them: enough for communication and lowering vital supplies. Which, in the opinion of the trapped miners, included a Chilean flag and statues of saints. Those fellows are definitely Catholics.
Here's what I read in the news this evening:
"Chilean miners to create shrine inside mine"There's quite a bit more in that article - and news services aren't exactly ignoring this incident.
CNN (August 24, 2010)
"Communications and supplies were flowing efficiently between rescuers and 33 trapped miners in Chile, authorities said Wednesday.
"The miners have been trapped for a total of 20 days with minimal food. A probe sent by rescuers found the men alive on Sunday, but it could be three to four months before a hole can be drilled that will reach the men, 2,300 feet below the earth's surface.
"In the meantime, the miners are asking for certain objects to be sent down to make surviving in the cave easier for them.
"Officials have sent down playing cards, and the miners have asked for religious figures, such as statuettes of saints, to be delivered to them, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said.
"A crucifix has also been sent down. The miners intend to designate an area in their shelter as a shrine, Manalich said.
"They have also asked for a Chilean flag...."
Trapped Under a Half-Mile of Rock? Build a ShrineHere's the situation: almost three dozen people are stuck in a hole in the ground. They've got supplies, now, so they can stay alive. But they'll be there for maybe four months.
After a while, the Chilean (and Bolivian) equivalent of "I spy" would wear a bit thin - and people don't tend to handle boredom well.
The playing cards make good sense. Most folks enjoy playing games, it's a way to socialize, and you can spend a lot of time at it. Unlike a few of the American splinters of Christianity, the Catholic Church has no problems with playing cards - as long as there aren't side-effects.
About the shrine? I suppose it could be some sort of superstitious thing, where the miners think they'll bribe Saint Borewell to get them out. (Borewell isn't a saint, by the way: It's a sort of mining equipment.) I doubt it, though. Whatever you've been told, Catholics aren't superstitious. At least, we're not supposed to be. (August 18, 2010)
On the other hand, we're encouraged to ask for help - which includes asking people to pray for us. Which is where the Saints come in. I'll get back to that.
Designating part of that hole in the ground they're stuck in as a shrine makes sense on several levels, I think.
First: If they decide to do a little work on the area, it'll give them something to do besides play cards.
Second: On a strictly psychological level, my guess is that the shrine will give them something familiar to focus their attention on, a reminder of what they have to look forward to.
Third: Being stuck in a caved-in mine for months is a great opportunity for cultivating the Christian interior life.
Don't worry, that's about as "spiritual" as I'll get in this post.
Saints? What do They Have to do With Rescuing Miners?About Saints: They're folks who demonstrated that they're very much on the same page as my Lord: and have also demonstrated the ability to work miracles. After they died.
And yes, miracles happen. (June 7, 2010)
Asking a Saint for help is quite a lot like asking your neighbor to pray for you. Catholics don't (or shouldn't) think that Saints are gods (lower case g) - just that they've got a proven track record for working with God.
On a personal note, I've asked St. Jude for help: and my household and I owe him, big time. That's another story.
I looked up patron saints of miners on SQPN.com, and got this list:
- Removed from the Roman calendar in 1969
- Leonard of Noblac
- Virgen of Rosario AKA
- Our Lady of the Holy Letter
- Mary, Virgin Mother of Grace
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help
- Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary
- - - - and the list goes on
The Catholic Church was doing a lot of what I'll call spiritual inventory work then. It turned out that, when folks took a hard look at the documentation, quite a few of the very early saints simply didn't have their paperwork in order.
Barbara and others may very well be Saints: but, since the Catholic Church didn't have a complete file on them, they couldn't legitimately be recognized as Saints. Not officially.
And yes: We've got records going back almost 2,000 years. That's one reason the Church uses Latin as its official language: and that's yet another topic.
Those Miners Won't have a Statue of YouOdds are very good that none of the miners knows you, so you won't have a statue or picture of you set up somewhere in that mine.
But you could pray for their safety, sanity, and spiritual growth, anyway.
- "Saints: That's so Medieval"
(February 14, 2010)
A tip of the hat to CNN_Networks, on Twitter, for the heads-up on their article.