“BLESSED LAZARUS, known as Devasahayam, was a Brahmin of the Nair caste in India. Converted to Catholicism by a Jesuit priest in 1745, Devasahayam Pillai took the name Lazarus when he became a Christian. In his preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all peoples, despite caste differences. This aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749. After enduring increasing hardships, he received the crown of martyrdom when he was shot on 14 January 1752. Blessed Lazarus is the first lay person from India to be canonized.”
And thus Vatican News informed us about the latest from India to join the line of Catholic saints. This saint is somewhat controversial, though not by his doing. He was killed by the ruling Travancore king of the time but some, especially from the Hindutva corner, have argued the state had no such tradition of religious killings. But we needn’t go into debates that really will never have an answer because that is how it goes with matters of faith and history in a land that doesn’t believe in records. Let’s sidestep and take another issue involved here—the idea of the saint and the qualifications he or she must have.
A saint can only be one who has performed a miracle. And in Pillai’s case, the website CatholicSaints.info says: “The canonization miracle involved a 24-week fetus who stopped moving and whose heart stopped beating in India in 2013; the mother, who was Catholic and had a devotion to Blessed Lazarus, began praying for his intercession for the baby; within an hour, she felt the baby kicking, tests showed that the heart beat had resumed, and the infant was later born with no complications.” Further details or specifics are not available.
But miracles, as we all know, don’t exist because they cannot. Human beings, for example, will never fly flapping their hands on earth. That is why the long jump record is around 9 metres. Miracles have the problem of being one-off events. If any expectant mother knew that her unborn child’s heart was going to stop tomorrow and announced that she would pray to the Blessed Lazarus and doctors came with instruments to measure the vitals of the foetus and everything went as prophesied, then we could all believe it. But how many such miracles have you heard of that fulfil these conditions? A miracle is an interpretation of an event that has already come to pass and is not understood by the person involved. And from there, depending on the peculiar social, cultural or religious knot it gets entangled in, its journey begins.
Why then does the Vatican insist on this pre-qualification for a saint? It should be enough that someone died for his God and religion. But the process comes from a time when modern science was not even at its infancy. When life was considered run by the influence of spectral other worlds. But for the Vatican to recognise this progression also inevitably leads to the question of the existence of God.