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Patron Saint of the Internet

Today's All Saints' Day, so it's a good time to talk about who might be the patron saint of the Internet. The Catholic magazine The Tablet announced in June that it's looking to anoint one. How about Marshall McLuhan? Don't laugh.

I feel a little guilty about scaring you yesterday. But I was raised Catholic and can feel guilty about anything.

Fortunately today is All Saints’ Day, or the Day of Allhallows. (And yesterday was Allhallows Eve; get it?) It’s a catch-all on the Catholic calendar for those saints who were really good but not good enough to get their own feast days.

Since this is an All Saints’ Day column, it’s a good time to talk about who might be the patron saint of the Internet. The Catholic magazine The Tablet announced in June that it was looking to anoint an official saint for the Net, someone you can pray to next time you get a 404 error at the wrong time.

This is not an election. It’s a selection to be made by Cardinal Medina Estevez, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the leading candidate is one a clueless autocrat could really love, St. Isidore of Seville.

I’m sure St. Isidore was great fun at seventh-century parties, and he is credited with the reference book “The Etymologies,” which included nearly all that was known at that time.

But I’m not certain his attitude is right for the job. In fact, a quote from St. Isidore in the Catholic Community Forum makes him seem to be the patron saint of closed minds:

    Heresy is from the Greek word meaning “choice”… But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the Apostles of God as authorities, who did not… choose what they would believe but faithfully transmitted the teachings of Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema.

Another candidate is Saint Pedro Regalado.This 15th-century saint reportedly had the ability to appear in two places at once. That’s very useful, but then he should be the patron saint of multitasking not the Internet. Maybe he could be the patron saint of UNIX. He certainly wouldn’t be the patron saint of Windows.

A third candidate is Saint Tecla of Catalan, whose name is at the root of the Spanish word for keyboard. She has the advantage of having her own “virtual chapel,” but it’s all in Catalan.

Martin O’Malley, a CBC columnist in Toronto, wrote about several other candidates when the news of Medina’s search came out.

Could he only be sanctified, the best candidate might be that good Catholic Marshall McLuhan. Don’t laugh — he was very much a good Catholic. He even won an appointment from the Vatican in 1973.

McLuhan’s truths, like “the media is the massage” (usually misread as “the medium is the message“), still resonate nearly two decades after his death. But my favorite is this one: “Most people are alive in an earlier time, but you must be alive in our own time.”

Give the Net St. Marshall, and even I might light a candle. Now that would be a miracle.

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