C&C Miracles

Written because during C&C Saints the issue of the certified miracles that are required to show that a Saint was in position to nag Himself in person, so to speak; that would require figuring out what a miracle is, and then what it takes, and even a basic summary is worth its own post.  So here’s a post, only slightly re-written.

Literally, it’s from the the Latin for “wonderful”. As we are using it, it’s close– wonder-workers, things done by supernatural power, specifically those things done by the power of God. There are several Greek terms at the link for specific meanings if anybody wants to go and break it out.

A miracle is a thing done by the power of God. An event in the natural world that is not of the natural world, so to speak.

A slight misunderstanding can enter because our culture is so very different from that of…well, pretty much any other time. It’s very easy for us to mistake someone doing a thing using someone else’s power for someone doing a thing under their own power– most of the examples we can think of outside of a religious context are government matters, be it an on-duty police officer acting as an agent of the law or a soldier acting as an agent of the country. Things like, say, the little boy at my daughter’s Sunday school who use to have leukemia, until the morning he came down and caught his mother crying because they’d run out of options.  He informed her that an angel had come in a dream and told him that he didn’t have it anymore… we don’t really have a strong analog for that kind of acting-as-the-authoritative-representative type of behavior. It was God’s doing, but it’s tempting– from what I’ve observed in our modern world-view, trying to contrast it to things I read about the past– to attribute the power to whoever you interact with; think of it like being grateful to the mailman when your grandmother sends you a lovely birthday gift.

On the flip side, there’s the temptation to go the over-attributing route– “every breath I take is a miracle.” It works as a way to get at a deeper meaning, in some cases, but it’s not the sort of “miracle” we’re talking about.

Some things I think were miracles are kind of silly– for example, my car’s brakes failed, quite suddenly. That sounds more like bad luck than anything good, much less a miracle, until I add that the brake light came on two blocks from the only mechanic I could possibly use, and that the next day I was starting a 300+ mile trip that was mostly mountain passes with stone wall on one side, and deadly drops on the other, and that the mechanic assured me it was impossible that I’d only felt anything odd with the brakes immediately before the light came on and I brought it in, because it was a slow leak. He turned a lovely shade of white when I told him where I was going to be driving the next day, though, and informed me that if I really hadn’t had the light come on until just then, I still would’ve known all about it on that trip….. While that may be a miracle, it’s rather hard to investigate and prove, which is a requirement for a miracle to be used for a cause of sainthood.

As C. S. Lewis said, a virgin birth is only identifiably miraculous if you know that virgins do not generally give birth.

So, there are miracles.  (Catholic Answers has a lovely tract on this, Do Miracles Still Occur?)  When the Church has sufficiently proven a miracle, it’s called being certified. I know that there’s probably someone simmering right now, because miracles can’t be proven. That may or may not be true, depending on what one means by “proving” and what assumptions are built in– for example, a while back I rolled my eyes as I scrolled past something or other on Facebook that was supposed to be dedicated to figuring out who Jesus’ human father was. If someone starts with the assumption that miracles can’t happen, that they’re impossible, then correct– you can’t prove a miracle. That’s not an argument, it’s a premise, a starting assumption. The complementary mistake is to assume that everything happens is through God’s intervention unless there’s an acceptable alternative. The Church uses, understandably enough, the standard of there being no natural explanation. An individual could also use a standard of there being no evidence of a natural explanation.

I’ll use the example of the kid who had leukemia, which handily enough is in the same class as most of the miracles used for saints’ causes these days, and tag them with how they’d view “proving” a miracle.

A Proving Impossible stance would be that the years of medical history the boy had were either incorrect– perhaps he didn’t have leukemia, or they missed all the signs of a more standard remission pattern, or there’s a currently unknown but totally natural cause of over-night leukemia remission in some cases that are so obscure we simply don’t have a large enough sample to identify the cause. This would be the stance of those who take a method of inquiry into reality as a total description of reality– usually self-identified as “scientific” or “rational” or, sometimes “skeptical.” As is probably clear even with my writing ability, I do not think highly of this, viewing it as an assertion that a road cannot exist because it’s not on the map.

A Proving Presumed stance would be that all remissions are miracles unless it was in predictable, direct response to a treatment.

A Proving Possible would hold that those remissions where a treatment just suddenly starts working, or works better than expected, might be a miracle.

A Proving Proof is what the Church uses, and it involves bugging the heck out of all the experts, especially very skeptical ones, to try to find any other explanation. It’s a matter of testing to try to find something that is definitely a miracle, not find stuff that could be a miracle, so that anyone who does an honest inquiry– asks the question and is willing to take yes for an answer– can believe.

Alright, so it’s definitely a miracle. Does that mean that I, as an observant, practicing Catholic, must believe in a specific miracle?

Big hint: apparitions are found “worthy of belief.”

Some miracles, we must believe in– like the Eucharistic Miracle. Transubstantiation– if you don’t believe that this is His body, then you’ve got a rather big problem.

We also must believe that miracles are possible, and identifiable as miracles, per the first Vatican Council– no wiggle room with being able to go “oh, miracles happen, but there’s no way we could really know for sure.” Look, if you check out that case of the girl who was born without pupils, who was– obviously– blind, but is objectively not blind after interaction with Padre Pio, and she still has no pupils, then you are really, really reaching, and should do some soul searching. (Gemma Di Giorgi, although obviously she’s a lady, now, not a girl. Yes, still alive.)

That said, these miracles are to aid for us to believe.  (Paging Catholic Answers again, on Private Revelation!) Unless a miracle has been explicitly taught by the justly applied power of the Church as requiring belief, you don’t have to believe it. I can find nothing that says a Decree of a Miracle– the thing needed for a miracle to “count” for sainthood– is binding, and it’s important to note that the saint being in heaven is what is stated infallibly in the case of sainthood, and they are required so someone can be canonized, it’s not automatic. Keeping with the whole “two sides” theme, if you find yourself hitting someone over the head to get them to accept even an approved miracle, it’s time for some soul searching on yourself.

Just like with the saints, the purpose is to bring us to God– not to become some little god in themselves.

More to explorer


  1. “Big hint; apparitions are found “worthy of belief.”

    Regarding sainthood, the scrutinies and investigations used to take much longer than the more recent declarations. Is that true in your opinion, or is it just the individual who is being investigated? Archbishop Fulton Sheen process and the struggle for his corpse to remain in NY v. Illinois, is a whole can of worms in itself.

  2. ‘Just like with the saints, the purpose is to bring us to God– not to become some little god in themselves.’

    …… another purpose is perhaps to give us that mouth dropping AWE as a reassuring jolt while we ‘run the race’ : that there is truly, a “Patrem omnipoténtem, factórem cæli et terræ, visibílium ómnium et invisibílium. especially the invisible.

    Merry Christmas, Don McC, and all

  3. I have no idea if the investigations really are faster, but I’d imagine that electronic communication drastically streamlined the inquiry process! When my mom had to get my baptismal certificate for my confirmation, when we were actually in the same parish, it barely made it in time for the confirmation. (It’s entirely possible that it came up with the Bishop, I was rather young to remember.)

    When I got a copy of my papers for the kids’ baptism, on the other hand, it was only delayed by the mail, and that only because the parish office there didn’t want to scan and email a copy like the Godparents’ parish did with their paperwork.
    Finding experts who are willing to look at the information, and respond to it, electronically– it’s got to be faster than sending papers!

  4. Of course in the absence (or the severe emasculation) of the office of the Devil’s Advocate the whole sainthood process is much faster than before, and indeed is something of a joke now.
    Perhaps one day soon, someone will redo the whole canonizations done in the last 25 years or so.

  5. cpola.

    Yes yes!
    Let’s undo as all the past 20 years.
    Forget the Miracles given, the graces bestowed, the prayers answered and the countless conversions All! Hey. Let’s treat the entire church since V2 as a huge mistake void of any good….then cpola, then enjoy your small elite elect. You got it right. Small barns small harvest. Eradicate the weeds as they grow along with the wheat… so what if the wheat gets pulled up while ripping out the weeds…..call it cpola way.

  6. cpola –
    can you point me at a source on the reduction of the Devil’s Advocate’s section? I’ve got an article on how Saints are made official, and as you might have noticed, I like updating them. 😀
    As far as redoing the canonizations– they can’t. It’s infallible.
    It might be that it’s one of those things where they’re preserved from error, though, and it’s not less objective than “general acclaim.”

  7. “The people who call John Paul II a catholic Saint will be given many lashes. The people who should know better, and still call John Paul II a Catholic Saint will be given the most number of lashes. The people who ignorantly call John Paul II a Catholic Saint will be given fewer lashes.”

    In a paragraph following, in cpola’s most quoted site; popeleo13, then states that we must; “all be vigilant and alert as the enemies of the salvation of Christ seek always to plant the Weeds in the midst of the Wheat.”

    This implication by cpola’s popeleo13 cherished site, blatantly accuses Saint Pope John II THE GREAT as being a sower of weeds.

    Well then cpola.
    If he was that evil in planting weeds then his fruit must be bad. I disagree with this.
    His fruit is good. Divine Mercy is a blossom which is developing into the conversion of many souls. I’ve witness this in person with four different families in fifteen years of service. Satan does not want souls to come to Christ….or is that a bad fruit. Conversions are what…bad?

    Go pull more wheat. Good luck.
    May you be fit to kiss the feet of the Saint you disgrace.

  8. Only one of those says anything about the change you mentioned, and it says that the whole process was changed around– with some of the duties of the devil’s advocate being spread to the rest of the group. (Which seems quite reasonable, given that individuals can miss things.)
    I would not trust that links’ authorial judgement, by the way; it says:
    Church canonized 480 saints from 1978 to 2005
    but mysteriously leaves out that 119 of those were at a single go, being the Martyrs of China. Another 24 were the Martyrs of Mexico. (year 2000)
    Another 8 Martyrs of Spain in ’90.
    116 Martyrs of Vietnam. (why, exactly, were 57 martyred bishops and priests ignored up to 1988? It’s not like they were NEW, some were over a century dead.)
    16 Martyrs of Japan. (’87– there was an entire genera of anime about this before the Church acknowledged them.)
    101 Korean Martyrs in ’84.
    As the second link says, martyrs’ miracles in 1907 could be like the one where my brakes went out, rather than the kid whose cancer disappeared. (second and first class, respectively)
    Yeah, when you’re recognizing that various areas have been martyring Catholics in job lots, you will rack up the numbers pretty dang fast.
    Unfortunately, the Vatican’s website is terrible for looking this stuff up– I could only find the list of those recognized by JPII– but this website does a decent job of showing them in a usable way.
    I haven’t found one that shows the popes before that, though.
    Going off of who is bothering to have kids in the various parishes I’ve been in, recognizing the martyrs of various Asian countries has born good fruit. Seattle has a decent Asian population because of location, sure– but when I look around at Mass, I can’t help but notice that we’re one of the very, very few European looking families who are young enough to have kids, let alone who have them, while a whole lot of the (mostly Vietnamese) families are both the right age and actually have kids. They’re going against “their” non-Catholic culture there, too– there are a lot of girls, even if they’ve got older sisters and no brothers. This is not common in similar, non-Christian circles.

  9. Great article, Foxfier!

    I think most miracles are messages to one person only. There is a very nice book by Ann Lawrence called BETWEEN THE FOREST AND THE HILLS in which the bishop ends up very frustrated because many events that he knows to be merely providential are counted as genuine miracles by his flock — miracles attributed to him, to his chagrin. When his faith begins to waiver and he cries out to God, he witnesses a Very Explicit Miracle — yet no one else notices. The message was for the bishop alone.

    The recent haste to declare, for example, John Paul II a saint is *unseemly*, but that does not bring into question its *validity*. It’s more on par with an ugly, modern church building: it satisfies the minimal requirements, but we should expect better.

    So yes, John Paul II is a saint, along with 81 other popes. His claim to be “THE GREAT” comes only from people like Philip, and I’m sorry, but that’s an extreme case of grade inflation. Can you HONESTLY imagine either Gregory the Great or Leo the Great kissing the Koran? Of course not! That, by the way, was a serious scandal in the proper sense of the word — maybe not for you or for me, but for Christians in the Middle East who have to pay a real price for rejecting the Koran in favor of the Gospel. John Paul II is a saint, but he made too many serious errors of judgment to be one of the handful called “the Great”.

  10. I’m afraid I can’t agree that it was properly scandal, because kissing a book isn’t an inherent evil– a really, incredibly bad idea, on par with the current Pope letting word get out that he doesn’t wear a bulletproof vest, I’d say– and there are reasonable possibilities for why he’d do a morally neutral thing for good, such as signaling “we are not your enemy.” (Jimmy Akin has it broken down rather nicely here: http://jimmyakin.com/2006/04/jp2_and_the_qur.html )
    Can you HONESTLY imagine either Gregory the Great or Leo the Great kissing the Koran?
    *Sad smile* Because of the state of the Church in America, I have only heard of those guys from my own reading. And not deeply.
    I can no more form a reasonable image of what they would or wouldn’t do than fly to the moon.
    One thing he did do was encourage young people, and faith-sharing that spawned EWTN and eventually sites like this very blog.
    And that is the only reason I’ve even brushed the robe’s hem for this stuff, why I heard of Bishop Sheen, why a dozen other things. Him standing up to the Evil Empire made my husband willing to listen, and brought him back to the Church that those following the old ways just sort of…dropped him out of.
    Just because it’s been a thousand years since a saint started being called “The Great” doesn’t invalidate the existing swell of general acclaim. Give it a few centuries, we’ll see if it sticks or not.

  11. As for those who make a big deal out of the Saintly Pope kissing the Koran; Matthew 15:8-9: “These people honor me with there lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

    Don’t kiss the Koran!

    Oooohhh noooooo.

    Prayers for this current pontiff are being said, over and over and over……
    I’ll keep at it. Hope you will too.

  12. Foxifier : “Just because it’s been a thousand years since a saint started being called “The Great” doesn’t invalidate the existing swell of general acclaim. Give it a few centuries, we’ll see if it sticks or not.”
    There will be no few more centuries!
    People are out there – DEMANDING IN PUBLIC – to have sex with people of the same gender, just as they did at Sodomy.
    Read the signs of the times.

  13. To allude to a great man, what part of you shall not know the time was unclear? The apostles knew it could happen Any Day Now– but you think some guy on a message board is going to get the REAL scoop?
    And that’s before the issue at sodomy is, sadly, pretty normal– how did you manage to escape the scandal of one of our servicemen being discharged because he stopped the rape of a boy, which is ‘normal’ in many middle eastern cultures, cultures world wide? Sexual perversion is only so obvious here because we are the beneficiaries of centuries of Christian philosophy.
    The guys we’re fighting will slaughter those accused of being homosexuals, but still rape boys. A similar dynamic shows up in jails, where penetrating another man is not the same as being a ‘catcher.’

  14. cpola… soothsayer.

    We have no positive way to know that; “There will be no few more centuries.”

    Will a nation be chastised for it’s National sins? Yes. Will it be within this century? Guessing Yes!

    Will the chastisement fall on a once Christian Nation that honored God by honoring the Son and Holy Spirit together? Three in one? Probably!

    The guess that we will not have centuries left is just a guess. A better assessment is that it will be America that becomes the example.
    Just as the chosen people were made an example of. The Church will take a beating but as long as it’s Christ’s Holy Church and as long as it takes for souls to be ready for His harvest, then the world as we know it will cease to exist.

    I hope your call to all faithful Catholic’s will help in gaining souls to Christ, and fill his barns. I hope it doesn’t discourage souls from joining the Church because it’s leadership is flawed and has been stained since V2, possibly changing the minds of thirsty souls, changing the direction of finding the living Waters in the Holy Catholic Church, but now doubting the well since your opinion is less than favorable of the Popes since V2.

    I take great relief in knowing that St. Pope John Paul the Great was without a doubt a prayerful and honest man. A man. Flawed and sinful but forgiven and merciful. A practitioner of Holy Catholic Church. A seminarian studying in clandestine times.
    Threatened by two of the worse regime’s ever to come to existence on this earth. Nazism and Communism. He survived both.
    He helped to collapse the latter, and was in a work camp of the former. He lived it.
    He is great because God worked through him as a humble oppressed pole that had Great Faith. Great faith. Can that be disputed?
    Sure……some will, but they do not know the man.

    Peace to you cpola.

  15. People are out there – DEMANDING IN PUBLIC – to have sex with people of the same gender, just as they did at Sodom and Gomorrah.
    The operative phrase: DEMANDING IN PUBLIC, Again: DEMANDING IN PUBLIC !
    Give me a precedent in the history of humanity and then we can talk.

  16. Give me a precedent in the history of humanity and then we can talk.

    Cpola, MY knowledge of history can come up with some, and I’m publicly educated!
    For heaven’s sake, the Romans and Greeks!

    You know, the ones that were around at that time? And in the area? And so public about it that there are surviving philosophical debates on if a woman is able to be companion the way a boy-toy would be, as well as procreation?

  17. Here’s Plato on the subject:
    All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking—these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise. The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul—the most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the union of the male and female, and partakes of both. But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,—she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths, and the goddess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in her. Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth. These are the persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have been led to deny the lawfulness of such attachments because they see the impropriety and evil of them; for surely nothing that is decorously and lawfully done can justly be censured. Now here and in Lacedaemon the rules about love are perplexing, but in most cities they are simple and easily intelligible; in Elis and Boeotia, and in countries having no gifts of eloquence, they are very straightforward; the law is simply in favour of these connexions, and no one, whether young or old, has anything to say to their discredit; the reason being, as I suppose, that they are men of few words in those parts, and therefore the lovers do not like the trouble of pleading their suit. In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held, because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit (compare Arist. Politics), and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power. And, therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the evil condition of those who make them to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed; on the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which is given to them in some countries is attributable to the laziness of those who hold this opinion of them. In our own country a far better principle prevails, but, as I was saying, the explanation of it is rather perplexing. For, observe that open loves are held to be more honourable than secret ones, and that the love of the noblest and highest, even if their persons are less beautiful than others, is especially honourable. Consider, too, how great is the encouragement which all the world gives to the lover; neither is he supposed to be doing anything dishonourable; but if he succeeds he is praised, and if he fail he is blamed.

  18. Howard, my understanding is popes are entitled ‘ great’ , not because they did not make errors like Assissi , Pray for John the Baptist to Protect that abomination of desolation Islam things that you i and many others who are by definition their lessers, think are errors,’
    but Great because of their outstanding achievements and their lives of ‘ heroic’ virtue. Leo, Gregory, not Peter ……… I’ll leave it to higher pay grades to decide if JPII is a great or not- my dad suffered terribly under Jp’s weakness in making the Ancient Mass readily, easily available.

  19. Foxifier, that was Plato philosophizing.
    But I am talking about the precedent of a society of men demanding the right to have sex with people of the same gender in the context of other members of the society frowning at such acts as evil.
    Not only do these people demand to have sex with persons of the same gender but they seek to lawfully and legally sanction those who reject or are opposed to such evil acts.
    Now give me a precedent.
    Otherwise what is happening now in our present world is the sign of the End-Time prophesied 2000 years ago by Our Lord Jesus.
    And remember that this phenomenon is now on a global scale not just in one or two small parts of the globe.
    In otherwords homosexuality (Sodomy) is to ancient Greece what cannibalism is to Papua New Guinea. But thanks be to God that cannibalism is not yet a phenomenon being DEMANDED IN PUBLIC by large swathes of humanity.

  20. 76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal

    If locust was substituted for homosexuality, I’d say the days are shortening. The feeling that this plague is unstoppable. One thing.
    God hasn’t given up on man…..yet.

  21. “But I am talking about the precedent of a society of men demanding the right to have sex with people of the same gender in the context of other members of the society frowning at such acts as evil.”

    Among aristocratic Greeks it was expected in most city states that a nobleman would have another nobleman, a teenager, as a lover. The Sacred Band military unit of Thebes was made up of such pairs. Lower class Greeks did not engage in such conduct and apparently made jokes about it. Men who engaged in such conduct would go on and get married and raise families. The Greeks had no concept of homosexuals as a separate class. Sodomy between two adult males was looked down upon by the Greeks. Male prostitutes were a feature of some ancient pagan temples and bordellos, as there is nothing new under the sun regarding sexual perversion.

    Pederasty in ancient Greece overall seems similar to that in prison today. Where women are absent, and among aristocratic families in Greece women were highly sheltered and men did not marry until their thirties, some men will look to each other. Some Greeks viewed the whole business as distasteful while others, including Plato attempted to elevate the business as superior to male women love. There was a fair amount of snobbishness in this, that pederasty could be looked upon as one more means by which aristocrats could separate themselves from the common herd. The Romans took all this as yet another sign that the Greeks were hopelessly decadent, although some of their aristocrats engaged in the vice.

    Of course to the Jews this was all an abomination and we see some of their typical outrage in what Saint Paul has to say on the subject.

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