Popes, Saints, & Neanderthals

James Hilgendorf, Author

James Hilgendorf

So the Vatican finally discovered a second miracle to attribute to Pope John Paul II, thus clearing the way for his path to sainthood.

Not many of the masses of humanity make it into the category of “saints” in the Catholic Church.  It entails a difficult and long process of canonization.

What is a saint anyway?  An exemplary person?  A person to be venerated and emulated?

I see them all around me everyday, performing miracles that you and I behold in awe.

The saints I know may hold down two or three jobs to give their children food and an education.  They care for an aging parent with alzheimers.  They are people of all ages, with little money or hope, who keep going.

I know a woman who has diabetes and has suffered over seventeen bouts of pneumonia, who lives in a small trailer, little income, little food, who cares for her sick mother, and yet finds money enough to somehow care for others also.  You do not hear her complain.

Her diabetes became so severe that she was hooked to a dialysis machine several times a week.  This went on for months, yet she persevered, and eventually actually restored enough energy  to her kidneys that she was able to remove herself from dialysis.  This was a real miracle.  She did not hear voices.  She did not experience a cure from on high.  There are millions of ordinary men and women who have experienced the same.

In antediluvian times – going back several hundred thousand years, men and women roamed the landscape – called Neanderthal, not quite human, but a subspecies of the genus Homo, closely related to all of us today.  They led lives obscure until about 30,000 years ago.

Then came Cro-Magnon men and women, early modern humans.

For some 10,000 or 15,000 years, these two existed side by side and intermingled and even interbred to some extent.  What must it have been like, two different species of humanity going about their days and nights in close proximity?

We live the same rhythms today.  We live among our own Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons.

They take shape as things past that hang on with their last breath – old, discarded, defunct ideas and philosophies that breathe even now among us, yet are dying and dead, hanging on like dead leaves on withered branches.

They are antediluvian thoughts and convictions and dogmas that live on in the bodies of many of the people whom we pass each day, and these thoughts and convictions have already died and are passing away, yet they are still among us, and we intermingle and interbreed and life keeps moving on as strong and simple as the sun returning each day and the wind blowing away with fresh vigor and energy all detritus and debris to make way for new growths and expansion and for the proper vehicle to express the heretofore inexpressible mind and heart of the universe.


James Hilgendorf is the author of six books, the latest being “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”.  His other books include “The Buddha and the Dream of America”“The New Superpower”“Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization” , and A New Myth for America.” His books are available through bookstores, and online at Amazon.com.

More information is on his website.

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