Chances are, if you’ve heard of a miracle attributed to a saint or holy person in the last hundred years, that miracle is going to be one of healing. Unexplained healing of cancer, paralysis, brain injury, or other terminal illnesses are some of the most incredible stories that we hear today. Even for Catholics like ourselves who put our faith in God wholeheartedly, there’s something reassuring about hearing these stories — they’re like the proof we don’t need for God’s existence, but are happy to know and experience.
Over 90 percent of the miracles that have qualified holy men and women for sainthood in recent years have been related to healing. Why? They’re often some of the easiest to verify. When the Vatican begins the sainthood process for any person, there are two criteria that must be verified before the person is officially canonized. First, it must be proven that the person “led an exemplary life of goodness and virtue worthy of imitation, or were martyred for their faith or experienced a powerful conversion process that inspired them to replace a life of immorality with outstanding holiness.” Second, and more central to our discussion today, is that there must be two verifiable post-mortem miracles associated directly to them.
In order to limit speculation among non-believers, the Vatican is extremely strict about the cases it dubs “miraculous.” Massive teams of investigators, both within and outside of the Vatican, including doctors, forensic scientists, detectives, historians, and lawyers are called on to explore supposed miracles. Often, it’s not until a source completely unaffiliated with the Vatican accepts the miraculousness of an event that the miracle can be attributed to a candidate for sainthood.
Why miracles? Well, we venerate saints because we see them as intercessors on our behalf — they bridge the gap between us and God, which sometimes (in spite of God’s overwhelming mercy and love) can feel pretty daunting. Saints are people, like each of us (imagine one of those spreads in a tabloid magazine: “The Saints! They’re Just Like Us”), who knew the challenges and humility of humanity. The Vatican sees miracles as “proof” of a person’s capabilities as an intercessor. After all, if you can pray to someone for guidance and healing and those prayers are answered in a big way, it’s likely that they have been bringing those intercessions to God (because all healing comes from God).
Two women helped Pope John Paul II become a saint (from his track record as pope, it was hard to deny that he’d lived a life of exceptional holiness): one, a French nun named Sister Marie Pierre who was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s disease, and two, a Costa Rican woman, Floribeth Mora Diaz, who was miraculously healed after a brain aneurysm left doctors telling her she had less than a month to live. You can read more on these miracles. There’s incredible documentation about the process of their verification.
It’s undeniable that living a life of holiness is probably the most important part of the canonization process (Pope John Paul II reduced the miracle requirement for canonization from three to two). But there’s something to be said for a “verified” work of God that just can’t be explained away.
—Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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