Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Miracles and the Saints

Miracles and the Saints

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As I considered this post, I thought, “What can I say about the canonization of our two newest Saints?”  Certainly, I could speak about the men themselves forever, but what could I really add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said?

Then, a couple of things happened.  First, I checked my email on Yahoo.  As always, headlines of breaking “news” scrolled past on the home page before I logged in to my In-box.  It occurred to me that by staying up to date on world affairs through Yahoo, I had recently learned that a man caught a really big fish, another man was really happy to become a grandpa, and some family cut their cable and has decided to start streaming their television from the Internet.

In the midst of these current events, I had also been asked a question by one of my students: “Why don’t miracles happen anymore like they used to in the Bible?”

Then I realized what I could write about.  To become a canonized Saint, besides living a life of heroic virtue, two verified miracles attributed to the Saint after his or her death are needed.  Without question, the heroic virtue of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII are the important elements of their lives, upon which their great achievements, as well as their miracles depend.  It is not the miracles that put them in Heaven to be used by God, but their openness to His Grace, manifested in a life of holiness.

However, since we generally can not know for certain whether a person is in Heaven, the miracles are seen as confirmation.  The Church, of course, investigates every alleged miracle thoroughly, and will only acknowledge those that can have no natural explanation.  Without question, there are many miracles the Church will not officially declare due to another possible explanation, however remote the likelihood of it.

Shortly after his death, a French religious community prayed for Pope John Paul II’s intercession on behalf of one of their sisters, who was dying from Parkinson’s Disease, the same ailment the late pope had died from.  The 47 year-old sister woke up completely healed.

More recently, a woman in Costa Rica had been told by her doctors, after suffering a brain aneurism, that she had only days to live.  She prayed for John Paul’s intercession and was miraculously cured.

If you frequented Catholic news sites or radio stations, you may have heard these stories, but most people to this day never have.  Pope Francis dispensed with the requirement for Pope John, who was canonized with only one approved miracle.

My point, however, is that even with the canonizations upcoming, here are three bona fide miracles that have gone essentially totally unreported by the secular press.  And these are not alone.  Miracles, healings the sort of which we read about in the Bible, occur all the time.  A study of Catholic history (from a decent source) reveals innumerable and incredible miracles that have happened from the time of Jesus to our present day.

So why do I have students asking me why miracles never happen anymore?  You would think, for example, that if a man’s foot was crushed and scheduled for amputation, and if his wife, the day before the scheduled operation, put a holy card of a Saint in the cast and prayed for healing; and if the doctors found the leg in perfect health and did not need to remove it; that would be news.  I would expect it to be on every news show, and headlining every news Web site.

But no, an event like that is completely ignored, to make room, perhaps, for a story about a family who has decided to give up cable television.

Our Faith should not need signs and miracles to sustain it, but God gives us these great gifts, presumably, for a reason.  They are a great display of His great power, and in many ways, the continuation of Jesus’s life and ministry.  They also confound atheists and contradict the current materialistic dominant world view.

We wouldn’t want miracles to become the center of our Faith, or turn the humble servants of God into televangelists, but they are a part of our Christian reality.  We should share them with our children, and our atheist friends.  And we should thank God for using them to raise heroes of the Faith to the altar, so that we can have sure role models and intercessors as we strive to follow Jesus more closely.

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us!