Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.
Those considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church go through a rigorous process of scrutiny. First, the life, works, and writings of the holy person must be studied and deemed as heroically virtuous. Once this process is complete, then one awaits confirmation of this heroic virtuousness by one, preferably two “miracles,” one for beatification and one for sainthood. Sometimes the second miracle is bypassed.
The cause of sainthood is taken up by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In terms of “miracles,” the medical commission of physicians and scientists never pronounce “a miracle,” rather they pronounce that a “remedy” or “unexplainable” cure has occurred which is contrary to modern science’s aptitude and the modern scientific literature.
Underlying the relationship between saints and miracles is the belief in the communion of saints. This is a doctrine that teaches that our relationships change, but remain. Just as we can ask a loved one to pray for us here on earth, we can ask him or her to pray for us in heaven, in the very presence of God.
There is a beautiful expression of this belief in the words of the late Colonel David Heinz who died in the Israeli War of 1948: “As I stand upon the seashore, a beautiful sailing ship is in my view. I watch and watch until the sea and sky meet, and then she is gone. Where? Gone from my sight, that is all! And just as she is gone from my sight, she becomes visible in the site of others on the other side of the world. That is what dying is all about.” Relationships change but do not end.
As we examine the following documented cases, we must ask ourselves whether we are dealing with coincidence, synchronicity, chance or dealing with that which breaks the boundaries of determinism and thus allows for the reality of something beyond the natural world to intrude—that intrusion being more likely divine than not. (1)
Jacalyn Duffin’s 2009 exhaustive study Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World by Oxford University Press is a detailed documentation of scientifically inexplicable phenomena attributed to the supposed intercession of saints between the 16th and 20th century. I encourage all to explore this text.
Let us sample some of the proposed curative powers attributed to saints and the blessed—particularly those known to most Americans:
Brother Andre Bessette of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal
During his lifetime, Andre healed an incalculable amount of pilgrims who visited St. Joseph’s Oratory. As a child I remember being awed by the number of crutches, wheelchairs, braces, etc., that covered the walls of the oratory.
In his death, Brother Andre continued to bring healing. Joseph Audino, calling upon the intercession of Brother Andre, was cured of cancer in 1958.
Elizabeth Ann Seton
By calling upon Elizabeth Ann Seton, Anne Theresa O’Neill was cured in 1959 of acute lymphocytic leukemia. Carl Kalin was cured of fulminating rubeola meningo-encyphalitis in 1963. Sister Gertrude Korzendorfer was cured of inoperable pancreatic cancer in 1935 through the intercession of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Eleven year old Eva Benassi was cured on her deathbed of acute peritonitis. Michael Flannigan was diagnosed at the age of six with cancer and given six months to live. He was cured in 1963.
Frances Xavier Cabrini
Through her intercession, Peter Smith, blinded by an accident, recovered his sight in 1921.
Her intercession is attributed to the healing of Amy Wall and Robert Gutherman in 1974. Both were cured of deafness.
Jake Finkbonner, an eleven year old Indian boy, was healed in 2006 of a flesh-eating bacteria.
Travis and Bonnie Engstrom gave birth to a stillborn child on September 10, 2010. With no pulse for sixty-one minutes, the doctors proceeded to declare the child dead. Suddenly, baby James had a heartbeat. He is a healthy child, with no signs of brain damage—which is usually the case when a brain goes without oxygen for ten minutes.
Consiglia De Martino was healed in November of 1995 of a ruptured thoracic duct and a huge lump filled with lymphatic fluid. Chest x-rays and a CT scan confirmed the disappearance of any signs of illness. Matteo Pio Colella was healed in January of 2000 from septic shock, weak breathing, and an irregular heartbeat. After being revived by doctors after a cardiac arrest, he was placed on a respirator. He remained in a comatose stage. After his mother prayed at the tomb of Padre Pio, the boy recovered. He has no lingering effects.
John Paul II
The Costa Rican mother of four, Floribeth Mora Diaz, who had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurism in 2011, sought the help of John Paul II. Confined to bed, with a one month prognosis of life, her prayers, she believes, were answered. Her aneurism disappeared. Dr. Alejandro Vargas Roman stated of his patient: “If I cannot explain it from a medical standpoint, something non-medical happened.” Another miracle attributed to John Paul II is the healing of the French nun Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who recovered from Parkinson’s disease in 2005.
Sister Faustina Kowalska
Maureen Digan was healed of incurable lymphedema in March of 1981 after praying at the tomb of Sister Faustina.
In May of 1966 Sister Caterina Capitani was healed after calling upon John XXIII. After undergoing fourteen operations for gastric hemorrhages, doctors had little hope for her future recovery. She would recover completely.
Damien de Veuster (Leper of Molokai)
Sister Simplicia Hue was cured of “intestinal disease” in September of 1895. Audrey Toguchi was cured of cancer in 2008.
Sister Mary Joseph Massimi, after being given the last rites, and suffering from a duodenal ulcer was cured in 1928 by Bosco’s intercession. Catherine Lanfranchi Pilenga, suffering from chronic arthritic diathesis and organic lesions, was restored to health in 1931.
In July of 1948, through prayer to Kolbe, Angela Testoni was cured of intestinal tuberculosis. In August of 1950, Francis Rainer was cured of calcification of the arteries/sclerosis.
Joan of Arc
Therese Belin, suffering from peritoneal and pulmonary tuberculosis, complicated by an organic lesion of the mitral orifice, was cured in August of 1909. Others attributed to be healed through her intercession include Therese of Saint Augustine of leg ulcers, Julie Gauthier of cancer of the left breast, and Marie Sagnier of cancer of the stomach.
When we look to the late-twentieth century, the following “miracles” have been attested to as not explainable through science or current medical knowledge. Nine miracles have been attributed to the Cardiac System, four to the Vascular System, thirteen to the Respiratory System, twenty-eight to the Neurological System, twenty-eight to the Gastrointestinal System, nine to the Liver System, six to the Genitourinary System, ten to the Gynecological System, four to the Eye System, one to the Ear System, two to the Endocrine System, eight to the Bone and Joint System, and six to the Blood and Lymphatic System. Other miracles have been associated with the skin, wounds, infections, and tumors. (2)
When we look at the “unexplained phenomena” attributed as “cures” from the 16th century to the 20th century, we find 1,410 cases! (3)
As we examine the documented cases, we must ask ourselves whether we are dealing with coincidence, synchronicity, chance or that which breaks the boundaries of determinism and thus allows the reality of something beyond the natural world to intrude—and if there is such an intrusion, this intrusion is more likely God than not?
What about psychosomatic healing? Or spontaneous healing? All these are possible. But a stillborn child or infant would not seem to be subject to psychosomatic occurrences. Also, the healing of the ill by the prayers of others not associated with the ill, also eliminates the likelihood of psychosomatic healings. As far as spontaneous healing, this is possible, but not likely in so many cases (1,410 cases). Given the fact that people specially sought intercession from believed saints, does not make spontaneous healing likely.
One of the most famous places to find documented miracles is found in Lourdes, France where it is believed that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a young girl Bernadette.
Lourdes has a medical bureau with doctors of various religious persuasions, including atheist doctors. If a cure seems to have no medical reason behind it, the case is sent to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes—a committee of specialists. After examination, a pronouncement is made. The doctors never pronounce “a miracle,” rather they make the pronouncement that the “cure” is “unexplainable” according to modern science and the modern scientific literature. Since 1905, with the establishment of the medical bureau, sixty-four inexplicable phenomena have been declared as “unexplainable” by modern science.
Henri Busque was cured on April 28, 1858 of tuberculosis, purulent adenitis, a septic ulcer, and inflamed lymph glands. Louis Bouriette was cured of blindness in his left eye on July 28, 1858. Justin Bouhort, unable to walk and suffering from consumption, was restored to complete health in July of 1858. Madelaine Rizan was cured on October 17, 1858 of a left-sided paralysis that kept her bedridden. Marie Moreau was restored to health on November 9, 1858 after suffering from blindness. Blaisette Cazenave was healed on January 18, 1862 of a chronic infection of the conjunctivae and eyelids. Aline Bruyere received her miracle on September 1, 1889, being cured of pulmonary tuberculosis. Joachime Dehant was cured on October 13, 1878 of a gangrenous ulcer on her right leg. Ameilie Chagnon was restored to health on August 21, 1891 after suffering from a long series of “bone diseases” and tuberculous arthritis. Clementine Trouve was healed of tuberculous osteoperiostitis of the right calcaneum on August 21, 1891. Elisa Lesage was cured of ankylosis of the joint in the right knee on August 21, 1892. Father Cirette was restored to health on August 31, 1893, being cured of a nervous disorder brought about by influenza. Aurelie Huprelle was healed of “cavitating pulmonary tuberculosis” on August 21, 1895. Esther Brachman regained her health on August 21, 1896 after suffering from tuberculosis. Jeanne Tulasne was healed of Pott’s disease on September 8, 1897. Clementine Malot came to Lourdes with a case of “tuberculosis with spitting blood” and was cured on August 8, 1898. Rose Francois was restored to health on August 8, 1899 after a year of suffering from the effects of a “chronic infection of the right arm, with numerous fistulae and gross lymphoedema of the upper arm and forearm.” The capuchin priest, Father Salvator was healed of tuberculous peritionitis on June 25, 1900. Marie Savoye was healed of rheumatic fever and heart disease (with signs of a mitral lesion) on September 20, 1901. Sister Hilaire was cured of chronic gastroenteritis on August 20, 1904. Sister Beatrix was cured of tuberculosis and laryngeal-bronchitis on August 31, 1904. Marie-Therese Noblet was healed of Pott’s disease “of peculiar appearance, owing to some concomitant nervous phenomena” on August 31, 1905. Cecile Doubille de Franssu was restored to health on September 21, 1905 after being cured of tuberculous peritonitis. Antonia Moulin suffered from an abscess of the right leg with phlebitis and lymphangitis; she was restored to health on August 8, 1907. Marie Borel was healed of abscesses, fistulas, and bowel obstructions on August 21, 1907. Sister Macimilien was restored to health after being cured of a hydatid cyst of the liver with phlebitis of the left leg on February 5, 1908. Virginie Haudebourg suffered from constant urinary infections, cystitis and nephritis. She was cured on May 17, 1908. Johanna Bezenac suffered from progressive cachexia, localized lesions, and a severe pneumonia when she was cured on July 2, 1908. Pierre de Rudder, on July 24, 1908, regained his ability to walk. Marie Mabille was cured of a “longstanding chronic infection in the right iliac fossa, with vesical and colonic fistulae” on August 8, 1908. Sister Marie of the Presentation was saved from starvation on August 15, 1908 after being cured of a case of “chronic gastro-enteritis.” Anne Jourdain was healed of “tuberculosis with gross apical lesions” on October 10, 1908. Elisa Seisson was made well on July 12, 1912, being healed of “chronic bronchitis with severe organic heart disease.”
If there are things that cannot be explained or will ever be able to be explained on merely human grounds, then there are such realities as “miracles.” And if there are truly miracles, then there is a God. (4)
Life’s experiences favor the existence of miracles, and therefore favor the existence of God over his non-existence.
Adapted from Fr. John Pasquini’s book God Exists: Convincing Arguments.
1. I am deeply indebted to the work of Jacalyn Duffin for her rigorous study of more than 1,400 miracles attributed to the intercession of the saints from the 16th century to the present: Jacalyn Duffin, Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
2. Jacalyn Duffin. 110.
3. Ibid., 76.
4. The following are from the case files of the Medical Bureau of Lourdes. Also found in Pasquini, The Existence of God (Lanham: University Press of America, 2010), 46-48. See John Pasquini, The Existence of God (University Press of America, 2010). Atheist Persona: Causes and Consequences (New York: University Press of America, 2014).