One of the differences between Australia, where I grew up, and the United States, where I now live, is that the first immigrants to Australia were convicts and the first immigrants to the United States were Puritans (I know that others settled here earlier but the Puritans get the credit - and if they didn't turkeys would be much safer on a certain Thursday in November).
This explains a lot. In many ways, Australia and United States are quite similar - they are relatively young cultures of predominantly British origin. Both settled the east and then spread west - and both have a western lore identified with traits of their national character. Both love sports.
But convicts tend to be a whole lot more frisky than Puritans and that too resonates long-term in the culture. Australia, in short, seems an unlikely source of saints, give how much fun the sinners are having.
But that all changed last week. Here's the there-goes-the-neighborhood story that explains the shocking news:
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI approved sainthood for Mother Mary MacKillop on Friday, making the woman known for her work among the needy Australia's first saint.
The pope made the announcement during a ceremony at the Vatican and set the formal canonization for Oct. 17 in Rome. Five others - from Italy, Spain, Poland and Canada - will be canonized at the same time.
MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order that built dozens of schools for impoverished children across the Australian Outback in the 1800s, as well as orphanages and clinics for the needy.
I confess to having a soft spot for nuns, especially as a couple of them have declared themselves readers of my column. So I harbor no doubt that she was a good woman and a worthy candidate for sainthood.
But the press reports were silent on the miracles that had been worked in her name, which is the traditional requirement to becoming a saint.
I am thinking that any of the following may have done the trick in the Australian context:
She turned the lemonade into beer.
She cured English people of their irritating English accents.
When cricket fans prayed to her to send a sticky wicket to challenge a rival team, she sent so much rain the grandstand floated way.
She blessed brewery operators who, so blessed, took the yeast extract left behind in the brewing process and made it into a nutritious sandwich spread that can double as axle grease (you know it as a Vegemite).
She persuaded the sharks only to bite loud-mouths. Visiting swimmers from Texas have not been safe in Australian waters since.
She prayed over puff pastry so that it would be strong enough to hold meat and gravy. Thus the meat pie, the basic Aussie food staple, was born.
She invented the barbie because throwing the shrimp on the bush fire was not the best use of time and effort.
(Feel free to suggest your own possible miracles.)