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Biblical scholars and theologians may argue forever whether Moses was the single most important figure in the Old Testament. There are plenty of contenders, to be sure. But Moses enjoys a special distinction: In Venice, he is a saint. The evidence is the church of San Moise, built in the 10th century and remodeled endlessly since that time.
We don't know of any other saints with Old Testament names. And we're not at all sure Moses is a saint, Venetian church or not. Whatever the official status of Moses might be when it comes to sainthood, having a thousand-year-old church with "San" and your moniker on it is noteworthy.
Ordinary folk are impressed by Venice and Santa Monica in California, but even Venetians, a tough audience in a city with no shortage of churches, are acutely aware of their San Moise. Some of them say it's the most over-decorated of the lot and an eyesore. But none of them would tear it down and replace it. On the contrary, the building seems to be in a continual state of repair and upgrading. As recently as 1700, a local patron had an organ installed.
The church looks like hardware, but it's managed more like software. In other words, it has characteristics in common with networks and, in fact, with the whole of the Internet.
That's why I think Moses, or San Moise, if you prefer names made holy in the Italian style, is a terrific candidate for a job that seems to have opened up.
For those of you who are more interested in sinners, if for no other reason than they send lots of reminders by e-mail, there's a saintly kind of contest underway right now. It is a worldwide executive search, and the job to be filled is patron saint of the Internet, or, somewhat more accurately, a protector for users of the Internet, who certainly need at least one.
The beatific contest is being run, naturally enough, off a Web site. It's at www.santiebeati.it, and it's serious.
The pace has probably picked up since January 29, when the Washington Post ran a story on the way the process seems to be going. The reporter's apparent favorite, Gabriel, was in sixth place at press time, but all the other candidates seemed pretty worthy, too.
If you think about it, there are loads of candidates for the honor. On the off chance that California has any saintliness left, Santa Clara, San Francisco, and San Jose come to mind right away. Internet gamblers might want Santa Anita to get the job. Saint Sebastian is always depicted after being hit by flying cursors.
iSeries buffs know their favorite development lab is not all that far from St. Paul. Sadly, there's no Saint Charlotte to be found on the Web.
But there is a Saint Victor Hugo, although not in the Roman Catholic Church. The great French writer is one of the three principal saints of the Cao Dai religion, the third most prevalent system of faith in Vietnam. The two other parties revered by Cao Dai are the early 20th century Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen and the 16th century Vietnamese poet Trang Trinh.
There are a number of Cao Dai sites on the Web, and many references to the magnificent Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh. If you are curious, a good starting point might be www.religioustolerance.org/caodaism.htm or www.caodaism.net.
Even if you don't think Cao Dai is your cup of green tea, the idea of making Victor Hugo a saint is thought-provoking. He was never a martyr, although he was exiled and later punished far more severely by having Les Misérables made into that musical. Maybe we owe him the Internet as compensation. Or maybe that would just be another humiliation.
If Victor Hugo can be a candidate, at least among those who respect Cao Dai, we wonder, should we also consider a living person, such as Bill Gates? As a patron saint, he might prefer a more dignified version of his name, such as Saint William or Saint Three Sticks.
The idea would be not only recognition of past achievement but also encouragement for future accomplishments. His company's record shows that even the presentation of an eight-foot condom, as was done when Gates made a philanthropic trip to India last November, was not quite enough to inspire an effective commitment by Microsoft to combat viruses.
So far, Microsoft's customers have to depend on the likes of St Peter Norton and St John McAfee for virus protection. But when it comes to the plagues of the Internet, or some of them, people know where to turn. That is not true in most other cases.
To help people in search of a little spiritual support, Liturgical Publications of St. Louis (www.liturgical.com) has sponsored a thorough guide to saintly protection, nicely organized by topic, at www.catholic-forum.com/saints/patron00.htm. The long list there includes causes obviously worthy of protection and, perhaps, some of dubious merit. Despite its enormity, the list is far from complete.
Liturgical Publications should have noticed, for instance, that there doesn't seem to be a saint to protect against the blue screen of death. Perhaps it should be the firm's eponymous St. Louis.
— Hesh Wiener February 2003