Having trouble finding what you're looking for online? Is your Net connection getting interrupted for no good reason? Does your computer crash every time you download a video clip?

Have faith, ye troubled souls salvation is near.

Word out of Vatican City is that Pope John Paul II is considering naming a patron saint for the Internet. And if you ask me, it's about time. We Net users have been left to muddle through far too many high-tech problems that could be solved quickly and easily by a good old-fashioned saint.

For those who weren't raised Catholic, I'll explain that patron saints are sort of like the Lord's lobbyists. You can always pray directly to God, but his plate is usually pretty full with war, famine, pestilence and whatnot. So Catholics came up with patron saints to serve as middlemen. While they don't answer prayers, they sympathize with your problems and try to convince God to spend a minute solving them.

The church periodically names patron saints from the ranks of dead priests and other pious figures of the past, presumably because they've got some spare time on their hands. And to make sure they're not overburdened, these saints are assigned to oversee very specific sorts of people, problems or tasks.

The Internet might seem an odd choice for a patron saint. But there are already saints assigned to watch over arms dealers, pets, flight crews, customs officers, abdominal pains, excessive rain and snakebite victims. Indeed, the Internet beat would be a pretty good gig, right up there with serving as patron saint of television (St. Clare) or art (Catherine of Bologna). And it beats the heck out of watching over hemorrhoid sufferers (St. Fiacre, can you pass the Preparation H?).

The leading candidate for the job is St. Isidore of Seville. He lived in Spain between 560 and 636, which suggests he was still surfing the Net with a 14.4 modem.

Church historians say Isidore spent much of his life compiling the world's knowledge into a series of books, thus serving as sort of a one-man Internet for his age. He also spoke out against the barbarous manners of the Goths, who were the earliest known predecessors of modern-day spammers.

St. Isidore was actually nominated for the position two years ago, but the Pope hasn't yet acted on the matter. In the meantime, two groups of Spanish Catholics are trying to give the job to someone else.

One group wants the Pope to chose San Pedro Regalado, a priest who lived during the 15th century. San Pedro (dirtecdirac.com/san-pedro/index.htm) was renowned as a navigator and was once spotted in two separate monasteries at the exact same time an occurrence his contemporaries considered a miracle but now seems as mundane as an online simulcast.

Residents of Catalonia, meanwhile, have gone ahead and anointed Santa Tecla as the Net's patron saint. You can visit her home page (santatecla.org) and ask forgiveness in Spanish for a prepared list of sins that includes spamming or failing to pay for shareware. Santa Tecla also claims to cure computer problems, so if your "El Windows no em reconeix," you might want to drop by.

Those who'd rather hold out for St. Isidore can visit www.catholic.org and read a prayer already prepared in his honor. It includes a request that we "treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter," which is sound advice for flamers and chat room pests alike.

The prayer also asks that "During our journeys through the Internet, we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to thee." Those without faith may doubt the ability of this simple phrase to block pornography and other objectionable material. But I figure it'll work about as well as a software filter without blocking any innocent sites.

Praying to saints might seem a little anachronistic for modern-day Net users. But ask a believer, and she'll tell you a story about how a saint saved a friend's life, steered someone away from harm, or at least helped get rid of a nasty mole.

So I'm keeping an open mind about the possible promotion of old St. Izzy. I don't expect him to save my soul. But if my computer crashes while surfing the Net, maybe he can help save my files.

To contact syndicated columnist Joe Salkowski, you can e-mail him at joes@azstarnet.com or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, Inc., 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.