As I write this, all the TV stations are carrying the news of the day: Vatican has beatified the late Pope John Paul II. It was the fastest process of beatification in the almost 2000 years of the Church history. However, this post is not about the biography of the Blessed John Paul II (as he is officially addressed after the beatification) nor is it a news flash of this event. I am sure the web is full of such articles. This post is here to explain why is it such a special feat to be recognized as “Blessed” by the Catholic church because every such event means at least one testimony about something that science can’t explain.
It is a widely known fact that in order for someone to be beatified, there must be at least one documented miraculous cure that occurred after praying to the venerated person which is to be beatified.
I have heard some skeptics who would have us all believe that these are cases of some poor uneducated, naive people who see someone with a nasty cold and once the cold is over, they think it’s a miracle.
The reality is very different. Congregation for the Causes of Saints has a set of clear guidelines for separating a miraculous cure from an ordinary one and each of these points has to be satisfied:
- It must be established that the patient was sick
- There was no known cure for the ailment
- Prayers were directed to the Venerable
- The patient was cured
- The cure was spontaneous, instantaneous, complete and lasting
- Medicine cannot find a natural explanation.
For the argument of something being “unexplained” the points 2, 5 and 6 are especially important.
No case of miraculous cure can be recognized unless it is a case of ailment for which the medical science knows no cure. Therefore, someone suffering from something that a doctor can cure doesn’t count. That is not to say that people don’t pray for healing even for something that your local doctor can handle and they may indeed enjoy faster healing from it, but such cases do not count towards beatification or canonization of someone.
Point #5 is probably the biggest hurdle. It can’t be a case where someone was getting better over the course of few days. Rules clearly state that the cure must be instantaneous and all signs of ailment must be completely gone. One moment someone was ill, the next day (s)he is healed. There can be no return of any symptoms.
Once that is satisfied the point #6 (Medicine cannot find a natural explanation) comes almost automatically. Medical science doesn’t know about any process or pill that can instantly heal anything. That is what separates cure from miraculous cure.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Case
The miraculous cure that decided the beatification of the John Paul II was the case of French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre. She is a member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards, and she was confined to her bed by Parkinson’s Disease. She experienced a “complete and lasting cure after members of her community prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II”. As of May 2008, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, then 46, was working again at a maternity hospital run by her order
The case of Marie Simon-Pierre has made rounds through YouTube and news but to really understand how instant a healing can be, one needs to look at the case of Anna Santaniello.
The Miracle of Anna Santaniello at Lourdes
Bouillaud’s disease is a genetically imparted illness of the heart. It causes problems with breathing, swelling of limbs and often renders people unable to walk.
Anna’s brother and sister already died of this condition and in 1952 Anna was so sick that she was in bed, barely able to breathe. Her doctor and even her priest were advising her against a trip to Lourdes because it was not certain whether she could survive the journey.
In a later interview for Vatican Radio Anna remembered the desicion: “I told them all: ‘I want to go. If I must die, I want to die seeing Our Lady'”.
She could barely breathe and the Lourdes volunteers did not want to risk taking her from the residence for the sick down to the grotto, she said.
“I prayed with a loud voice so she would hear me, ‘Blessed Virgin, you must help me,'” she said. “I saw a shadow, a shadow in the sky that whispered in my ear, ‘Do not listen to them, keep going, keep going.’
“Everyone was praying for me, men and women. They had me kiss the statue of Our Lady that they had there on a small altar,” she said.
Water of the baths were cold when she entered, “but after a few minutes I felt a great warmth, precisely around my heart. I felt calm. I got up and the volunteers wanted to put me back on the stretcher.
“I told them, ‘Go help the others because I can do it on my own,'” she said.
“I got out and went into the square and started serving lunch to the sick,” Santaniello said. “At 4 in the afternoon they have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament and I joined in, singing.”
When you have a case of someone bed-bound and barely breathing being carried into a grotto with holy water and that same afternoon walking and singing in a procession, completely healed from a genetically caused illness (having already lost two siblings to it) it’s hard to call it anything but miracle.
This is one of the strongest cases proving that there are events which are completely out of domain of all known biological processes. The big point here is – this case is not alone. Behind every beatification there is at least one such case, and for canonization (sainthood) it takes two such cases. Catholic Church recognizes over 10,000 saints. That is a whole lot of unexplained out there.
Anna Santaniello before healing and 50 years later