I had mixed feelings about last Sunday's elevation of Cardinal Newman to the status of saint. It was certainly good to see such a sense of visible church unity there given the background of schism and division that has been so prevalent over the past few centuries.
I reckon Newman would have been thrilled given all he experienced when he finally decided to convert to Rome. And I wonder what he would have made of Prince Charles' presence given the fact that he is destined to follow his mother, the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
And to be honest I have to applaud the Roman Catholic Church's approach to the question of miracles. As I understand it, anyone declared a saint must have two miracles attributed to them. These are usually remarkable medical recoveries that cannot be explained by current scientific understanding, and of course doctors are consulted in the whole process. Those who set out to investigate them are far from gullible; in fact they approach the claims with a fair degree of healthy skepticism.
That's the right way to set about it. It's all too easy to make grandiose claims without having a shred of evidence to support them. And sadly, experience shows most of us can be pretty gullible at times.
But having said that, miracles do occur. The Daily Mirror admitted as much in a front page headline it carried some twenty years ago when it detailed Dr Mary Self's story. Mary was miraculously healed of terminal cancer but, not surprisingly, reporter Rod Chaytor was pretty skeptical when I contacted him and told him that I had a story his readers needed to hear. Thankfully for us all, though, Rod made the effort to check the facts, and as a result he ended up co-authoring a fantastic book entitled "From Medicine to Miracle".
As the cover notes say: "The battle to survive became impossible as her strength failed but, through the prayers and the faith of her family and friends another miracle took place. Under the watchful eye of her medical team, the cancer went into inexplicable reverse."
Now, to my knowledge no one has ever suggested that Mary's family and friends should be declared saints at a ceremony in Rome. And I would not expect that to happen either. But saints they are and Cardinal Newman's canonization is a reminder that the church has failed to communicate the wonderful fact that God sees every Christian that way.
The word simply means "set apart" for God. No one understood that better than the apostle Peter himself who once told a group of churches that they had been set apart with the express purpose of being obedient to Jesus Christ. And that's never easy. It wasn't in Peter's day and it's no different now. The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near "genocide" levels, according to the report ordered by former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and even here in the UK it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold fast to traditional Christian teachings.
I would be the first to admit that Christians are not perfect. Even the greatest of the 'so-called saints' had their obvious flaws. But make no mistake about it, every Christian is a saint whether they make the national news or not.
Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.