Tag Archives: miracles

She Stands Ready to Shine – Like the Greater Catholic Church

The roof at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is gone. The spire has burned to the ground. Even a small segment of its vault ceiling collapsed in the catastrophic fire that engulfed the landmark Parisian cathedral on April 15.

But amid the extensive fire, water, and smoke damage, the cathedral, built in the 12th and 13th centuries by scores of masons and craftsmen long forgotten to history, is still standing, much like the greater Catholic Church.

“You can argue that for all the scandals, all the difficulties, the crisis of vocations that the Church is facing in the West, the Church is still there, and as Catholics we need to continue to add our stones to this edifice,” said Jean-Hugues Monier, a French native who grew up in Paris.

Monier, 53, who is a member of Legatus’ New York City Chapter, noted how millions of Catholics the world over held vigil and prayed that the iconic cathedral would be saved as Parisian firefighters battled the flames for hours.

Through the night and into the next day, the faithful gathered along the Seine River to pray and sing hymns. Catholics took to social media to share their own photos of Notre Dame Cathedral and express their sadness and solidarity with the French people who worshipped in one of Christendom’s most beloved churches.

“It seems everybody has a story that is linked to Notre Dame,” said Monier, a partner with the Corporate Finance & Strategy practice at McKinsey & Company in New York. When he lived in Paris, he often attended Mass and other religious ceremonies at the cathedral.

“Especially for young Parisians, the silhouette of Notre Dame is an integral part of the city,” Monier said.

PARISIAN-NATIVE LEGATE INVOLVED IN REBUILDING

Monier, who has been honored by the French government as a knight of the National Order of Merit for his active contributions to FrancoAmerican friendship and economic collaboration, will have a role in the rebuilding of the beloved cathedral. He is on the U.S. board of the The Friends of Notre Dame of Paris, a nonprofit which is gathering pledges for the restoration.

The Friends of Notre Dame of Paris had already been raising funds for years to help pay for renovation work. The cathedral, which is owned by the French government, had fallen into a state of disrepair long before the fire.

“When a cathedral is old like that one, you need to have repairs,” Monier said.

Rebuilding Notre Dame to its former glory is expected to require several years and upwards of $1 billion to complete.

“This will be a complex rebuilding,” Monier said. “It will be a couple of years before anyone is even able to physically enter the cathedral because of the damage.”

TEAMING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS WORLDWIDE 

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, several prominent business leaders around the world and others were reported as having pledged hundreds of millions of dollars and euros to rebuild the cathedral. Monier said sustaining that level of commitment will be important.

“This is like running a marathon,” he said. “You not only need pledges in the beginning, but you need to keep that going.”

Monier said he hopes to establish an endowment that will pay for necessary ongoing repairs and maintenance to the 850-year-old structure, which was already undergoing extensive renovations when the fire broke out. Investigators are treating the fire as accidental.

“Every time you do reconstructions and renovations to these older buildings, you run the risk of fire,” Monier said. “I hope we can stop the next one from happening.”

MIRACLES, PRAYERS ABOUNDED AMID THE CRISIS

Miraculously, the cathedral’s two pipe organs and its three 13th-century rose windows sustained little or no damage. Many religious works of art and relics, including the Crown of Thorns, were moved to safety early on in the blaze. One firefighter was reported as suffering serious injuries, but there were no fatalities.

As he watched live news reports of the fire, Monier, who is a Knight of Malta, spoke with friends and associates in France and prayed for the cathedral.

“It’s interesting in this day and age, when we are bombarded by the 24- hour news media cycle, that this hit a little bit of a pause button, where people were reflecting on the beauty that was being destroyed,” Monier said.

The fire broke out on Monday of Holy Week, which granted another layer of spiritual significance for Catholics, especially when the first pictures from the cathedral’s burned-out interior showed sunlight reflecting off a golden cross at the altar.

“Everybody was fearing it was going to be complete devastation inside,” Monier said. “But in reality, and I still find this absolutely shocking, the structure of Our Lady of Notre Dame was kept intact.

“For me, I connected that to our faith,” Monier said. “That after fire, after death, there is a resurrection.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Christ’s marvelous intervention seen through Eucharistic miracles

A sampling of Eucharistic miracles are surveyed, in honor of the month of the Sacred Heart, and of the Corpus Christi celebration … and as a reminder of Christ’s continual, actual presence in the world, and among his people.

A priest’s confection of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring enough for the faithful Catholic, but for those whose faith has waned or who are downright incredulous, the Lord has more in store. In fact, one of the most celebrated Eucharistic miracles took place in the 700s due to a priest’s doubts regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

At the words of consecration, the doubtful Basilian priest saw, not with the eyes of faith, but with his bodily eyes, the bread change into flesh and the wine into blood. The visible flesh and blood have remained intact over the centuries and are currently kept in a specially designed, elevated altar in St. Francis Church in Lanciano, Italy.

In 1970 Dr. Edward Linoli, professor of anatomy and histology (the study of microscopic animal or plant tissue), was commissioned to investigate the Lanciano phenomenon, which has been the focus of countless pilgrimages over the centuries. The following year, he released a report confirming that the remains are indeed fresh human heart tissue and blood, not tainted by any preservatives. Dr. Linoli’s findings were later confirmed by the World Health Organization.

Meeting the miracle in person

Michael O’Neill, commonly known as “The Miracle Hunter,” led a recent pilgrimage to St. Francis Church in Lanciano. He said that the blood type found there is AB, by far the least common, but the same type found on the Shroud of Turin, which is more likely in Middle Easterners. Samples of flesh and blood miracles have often been found to contain striated heart muscle indicative of torture, and show seamless integration between the visible bread and visible flesh, ruling out the possibility of a hoax.

“There have been common themes throughout the dozens of Eucharistic miracles recognized by the Church, “O’Neill said. A popular speaker at Legatus gatherings, O’Neill continued to explain: “Some of the most common of these themes are bread and wine that turn to visible flesh or blood.” This has been seen all over Europe, as well as in places like Venezuela and Mexico.

O’Neill has a chapter on Eucharistic miracles in his recent book, Exploring the Miraculous. While many of the effects of these miracles have been preserved, as in the case of Lanciano, not every miracle leaves behind tangible remains. For example, O’Neill relates the story of the 20th century stigmatic German, Therese Neumann, who lived almost 40 years on no other food but the Eucharist.

Other types of miracles include preservation from natural disasters and instantaneous conversions, as described in The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, written by Antonia Salzano Acutis, mother of Venerable Carlo Acutis, who cataloged stories of Eucharistic miracles before his death at age 15 in 2006.

The book, which is similar to Joan Carroll Cruz’s bestselling classic, Eucharistic Miracles, was translated into English with the help of The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association and is the compact version of a poster exhibit that has been all over the United States.

One of the miracles exhibited dramatically changed the life of Andre Frossard. He was raised an atheist and his father was one of the founders of the French Communist Party. The younger Frossard even considered himself beyond atheism, to the point that he had never given God adequate consideration to dismiss Him.

Frossard entered a Paris chapel in 1935 at the age of 20 filled with a multiplicity of worldly concerns, and left the chapel filled with the love of God. He was there simply to meet a friend, but in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, he was overwhelmed with divine love. He was subsequently baptized and went on to fight the Nazis in World War II. In 1969 he wrote a bestselling book entitled God Exists; I Have Met Him and in 1990, five years before his death, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher by Pope John Paul II.

Pope’s apparent association with a miracle

Eucharistic miracles were reported from Saint Mary’s Parish in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992, 1994, and 1996. The specific circumstances varied for each report, but they all involved hosts turning to visible flesh and blood. The last of these reports involves Jorge Bergoglio, then an auxiliary bishop, instructing the host to be photographed, secured in a tabernacle, and, years after no decomposition, to be analyzed. 

One of Bergoglio’s representatives, Dr. Ricardo Castanon Gomez, brought a sample to a California lab without telling the scientists its origin. While this procedure very unfortunately eliminated the great reverence that should have been present, it did ensure no confirmation bias would take place. The scientists, unaffected by any preconceived notions, determined the sample contained human AB blood.

Then Dr. Frederick Zugibe, a renowned New York cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that when the sample was given to him, it was living human flesh and blood. This determination also came without prior knowledge of the sample’s origin. Further, he believed the sample specifically to be cardiac muscle from the left ventricle in a rich white blood cell condition indicative of severe stress—as if the person whose heart it was had been beaten on the chest.

In The Eucharistic Miracles of the World Dr. Gomez summarizes the Buenos Aires events this way: “Rightly a theologian pointed out to me how the fact that it was really the myocardium [heart muscle] was not by chance, but was symbolic. The Lord in this miracle wanted to show us His myocardium, which is the muscle that gives life to the whole heart, just as the Eucharist does with the Church.”

Miracles, wonders and saints

O’Neill said that while over 100 Eucharistic miracles have been recognized by the Church, none have come from the United States. However, he does not think that this should alter anyone’s belief in the Real Presence or the accessibility of Americans to the Almighty. He likes to remind people that, before any material manifestations of miracles, the “real” miracle is the Real Presence—the Lord substantially dwelling with us under the appearance of bread. “The Miraculous Miracle” is laden with additional miracles to augment the original and most important one.

O’Neill, who will speak at five Legatus events in 2019, is also working on two separate EWTN series that will air next year. One is about Americans whose canonization causes have been opened, called “They Might Be Saints,” while the other, “Miracle Hunter,” is about wonders of all kinds. He also has four more books in the works, including one from TAN Books/ St. Benedict Press, which is led by Legate Conor Gallagher. The company also prints, not only Joan Carroll Cruz’s Eucharistic Miracles, but other popular works of hers such as The Incorruptibles and Miraculous Images of Our Lord.

TAN Books/St. Benedict Press is a comfortable fit for “The Miracle Hunter,” who feels like he has been working for the past 20 years in the same vein as Venerable Carlo Acutis, one of his patrons: “I am inspired by Carlo’s perception of the importance of spiritual things at such a young age. He combined that awareness with his technological skills to make the wonders of God’s grace present to many people. I hope to carry on his work and ask for his intercession in this endeavor, which reaches its fulfillment in Eternal Life.”

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

WHAT TO SEE: Galvanizing faith against all odds

Breakthrough
Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz, Topher Grace, Dennis Haysbert, Josh Lucas
Run time: 116 min
Rated PG

Faced with insurmountable odds in the midst of a crisis, many people lose hope and give in to despair. Not Joyce Smith, whose adolescent son, John, suffered a near-drowning accident. Joyce’s account of the real-life events appears in Breakthrough, a new Christian film which opened in theaters during Easter week.

John (played by Marcel Ruiz), a Guatemalan native, is the adopted son of ex-missionaries Joyce and Brian Smith (Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas). Knowing he is adopted, he struggles with a sense of abandonment, which strains his relationship with his loving-but-some what controlling adoptive mother.

As John and two friends are playing on a frozen lake in suburban St. Louis, they fall through the ice and into near-freezing water. John suffers the worst of it; he is underwater for over 15 minutes and winds up in an emergency ward unresponsive, without a pulse despite 45 minutes of CPR and repeated defibrillation. The emergency-room medical team is prepared to call time of death when Joyce, in a moving scene reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Pieta, wails and prays loudly over her son’s lifeless body.

Suddenly, miraculously, John’s heart begins to beat again.

John is far from out of the woods and is still not expected to recover, but Joyce’s unwavering faith convinces the specialist in charge, Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert, familiar from Allstate commercials), to continue John’s care in hopes of recovery.

While Brian struggles to maintain hope for his son, the family’s hip young pastor (Topher Grace) provides valuable support to Joyce, building a friendship that to that point had been rocky at best.

Buoyed by a talented cast, Breakthrough provides testament to the power of faith and the possibility of miracles — not only of physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. That makes this film especially poignant during this Easter season as we recall the death and resurrection of God’s own Son and our own hopes of one day rising to new life. 

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer

WHAT TO SEE: Miracles

Miracles
Ignatius Press
Run time: 35 minutes

This documentary attempts to explain what miracles are and what they are not, and the attitude we should have toward them. Using wonderful images of the natural world and insightful commentary by leading Catholics, such as Father Marcus Holden, director of the Maryvale Institute, Fr. Andrew Pinsent from Oxford, attorney Jamie Bogle and his wife, journalist Joanna Bogle, this educational video accomplishes much in a short time. It highlights miracles found in Scripture, the miracles of Christ, and miracles attributed to saints. It also presents the incorruptibles, such as St. Bernadette, and concludes with Eucharistic miracles, the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, and the many scientifically verified miracles that have occurred at the Shrine of Lourdes. This is a beautiful film that demonstrates how God shares his power with us.

TIM DRAKE is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Exploring the Miraculous

Michael O’Neill
Our Sunday Visitor, 2016
224 pages, paperback $19.95

Christians — and many non-Christians — are fascinated by the miraculous. O’Neill — known as “The Miracle Hunter” — takes readers on a tour of miracles large and small, answering some burning questions: Are miracles important? How does the Church validate miracles? What do miraculous cures have to do with canonization? Do saints perform miracles?

The devout Catholic and Stanford-trained mechanical engineer took an interest in miracles from a young age due to his mother’s interest in Our Lady of Guadalupe. His attention to detail shows in this thoroughly researched book, which enlightens and fascinates, but most of all points readers to Christ.

OrderAmazonOur Sunday Visitor

A God of miracles

Patrick Novecosky writes that God’s biggest miracles are happening right now . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

I keep a running list of story ideas for this magazine on my computer. Several times a month I’ll hear — from a Legate, our executive director or a regional director — about how God is working in the lives of Legatus members.

When it came time to plan this issue — our annual Catholic health care issue — I looked at my list and realized I had four or five stories of miraculous healings. We feature two of them in this magazine (Miracle Man, Liberating Freedom). My initial thought was to combine them into one big story, but each of the stories is so powerful and so soaked with the Holy Spirit that we couldn’t possibly do them justice without telling their stories individually.

You may have noticed that such miracles are plentiful. Just as there are more martyrs in our day than ever before, there is an abundance of authenticated miracles. Just last month, a Vatican medical panel unanimously approved a reported miracle attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s intercession. In 2010, James Fulton Engstrom was delivered stillborn. The baby showed no signs of life as medical professionals tried to revive him, but his parents asked for Sheen’s intercession and the baby lived. After looking at the evidence, the panel concluded that there was no natural explanation for the child being alive.

I don’t know about you, but I still find it odd when people are shocked by such inexplicable healings and people coming back from the dead. Despite all the miracles Jesus performed while he walked the earth, he told his followers that the best was yet to come: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do — and will do greater ones than these — because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

We who profess Christ in a post-Christian culture often feel like we’re living in the desert, especially as we journey through Lent. But the Lord is a God of wonders and miracles beyond all explanation. Why? Because of His radical love for each and every one of us.

Despite our sin and unworthiness, Jesus not only died on the cross for us, but he journeys with us through life. He takes each step right beside us, calling us to a deeper relationship with him. And once in a while the veil between heaven and earth parts and miracles happen — every single day.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

God’s gift of healing, given to all of us

Bishop Jacobs says the spiritual gift of healing is not limited to medical professionals . . .

Bishop Sam Jacobs

Bishop Sam Jacobs

I am happy to start off this new Faith Matters column for Legatus magazine. I’ll focus on the gift of healing, not the natural gift or the gift that comes from years of practice, but the spiritual gift from God.

Though this gift of healing is not limited to those in the medical profession, it’s definitely one that those who are practicing medicine can truly exercise as part of their service to their patients.

In his ministry — not as a professional doctor, but as a minister to people — Jesus frequently exercised this gift in his humanity. He told his disciples to do what he did. They in turn, in their humanity, through the power of the Holy Spirit, laid hands on the sick and prayed in the name of Jesus for their healing. This gift of healing has continued in the life of the Church over the centuries.

It’s this gift that I want to reflect on. As I mentioned, there is a natural, human gift of healing and a spiritual gift of healing. They are not in opposition. Both are given by God for the benefit of his people. There are times when the natural gift is sufficient to care for the immediate need of the patient. But there are other times that God desires us to exercise the spiritual gift of healing both for the good of the patient and His greater glory.

What is needed is the exercise of another gift: discernment. This enables us to know what is needed in the current situation. Those in the medical profession have many opportunities to exercise this spiritual gift of healing because of their personal contact with those who are sick. It can be done with the patient’s consent or just quietly as the doctor examines the person.

What would happen if, as a Catholic physician, you would pray before seeing a patient and pray silently for wisdom and discernment while examining the person? Is it possible for you to have a greater insight into the situation? What would happen if, after natural remedies do not seem to make a difference, you would ask the patient if they would allow you to pray over them asking God’s healing love to minister to them as well?

This is the additional gift Catholic health care can offer for the patient’s benefit. Obviously, we must be always respectful to the patient, but always ready to acknowledge that God desires to minister to the patient in his great love and healing. Doctors can bring this witness to the medical world, which may help to influence the medical culture. But again, I want to emphasize that we must always be respectful and not impose something upon them. There is nothing wrong with praying for them without them knowing that you’re doing it.

This spiritual gift of healing is not limited to the medical profession. As individuals, we often find members of our family having serious medical problems which the doctors are having a hard time alleviating. While not discontinuing medical treatment, we have the opportunity to “soak” the person in God’s healing love.

There are many testimonies of dramatic healings taking place through people, in faith, praying over another through the laying on of hands, invoking the healing power of God to make a difference in the person’s condition. (Click for a related story of miraculous healing.) God calls us to be visible witnesses and instruments of his healing power.

This gift is not limited to only a few people. All of us, by virtue of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, have been granted this and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. What is lacking many times is the ability to step out in faith and exercise this gift for the other.

An additional thought: We may not see the healing, but many times other healings are taking place, according to the will of God for the person. We may pray for a person’s physical healing of cancer, but God may desire, through our prayer, the healing of a spiritual cancer within the person — namely sin, which is eternally deadly. We are not the healer, only the instrument. God is the healer of body and soul. He calls us to share in his healing ministry through prayer, faith and the laying on of hands for the sick.

BISHOP SAM JACOBS is the bishop emeritus of the Houma-Thibodaux diocese. He has served as Legatus’ international chaplain since 2009.

Amazing phenomenon

Mysterious signs are not the basis of our faith, but rather should help affirm it . . . 

A consecrated host in Buenos Aires falls to the ground during Communion and is placed in water so that it can dissolve. Several days later, it has not dissolved and red stains have formed on it. The stains are tested and identified as human heart tissue.

A saintly priest mysteriouly acquires the wounds of Christ known as the stigmata and bears them throughout his lifetime. Witnesses claim he can bilocate and read souls. When his body is exhumed 40 years after his death, it is found to be mostly incorrupt.

Type a few key words from any of these accounts into your favorite internet search engine and you’ll get the full story about each one. But are these things true? And, if so, what do they have to do with the Catholic faith?

Miracles and hoaxes

As any Catholic knows, miraculous occurrences have been part of Christianity since the days when Christ healed the sick, turned water into wine and multiplied a small cache of loaves and fishes to feed thousands.

Miracles have occurred throughout Church history — from apparitions of the Blessed Mother to saints who bore the stigmata and whose bodies were found to be incorrupt after death. Recent examples of these phenomena involve St. Pio of Pietrelcina — better known as Padre Pio — who died in 1968 and was canonized in 2002.

Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin

Not every miraculous occurrence, however, is authentic and from God. Jimmy Akin, senior apologist with Catholic Answers, said it’s important to distinguish between paranormal phenomena of divine origin and those that might come from another source, such as Satan.

“Certain tests can be used,” he said. “Sometimes this is difficult to apply, but if a paranormal phenomenon endorses ideas contrary to the Catholic faith, then it’s not coming from God. If it seems to have a tendency to corrupt the morals of individuals rather than build them up, it’s also a sign that this is not from God.

“Things can also be produced by the imagination, they can be misperceptions of things thought to be supernatural when they are not,” Akin explained. “And then there are outright hoaxes.”

For example, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a psychologist and author of several books on extraordinary phenomena, told Legatus Magazine that he has examined five reported cases of people who thought they might have the stigmata. In one case, he said, the wounds seemed to have been selfinflicted, and he determined it was a fraud. The other four looked more like blood blisters than the open wounds associated with authentic stigmata.

“The Church is very matter-of-fact when it comes to these things,” said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, an exorcist and president of Human Life International. “It goes back to 1 Jn 4:1, which says, ‘Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’

“The Church follows that advice and asks the individual faithful to be very circumspect about spiritual things so they don’t fall into either superstition or the occult; and then the Church herself very seriously tests all alleged supernatural phenomena in order to protect the faithful.”

Even when the Church authenticates supernatural occurrences, it does not require that Catholics believe in them.

Father John Trigilio, co-author of The Catholicism Answer Book, said approved phenomena are merely there to help one’s faith. “The caution on the part of the Church when they investigate these things — besides authenticating them — is that they don’t want that to become a person’s principle of faith, that they believe because of these things.”

Extraordinary graces like the gift of miracles “are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2003).

Authentication

Furthermore, even when a supernatural phenomenon is determined by the Church to be the real thing, it can take years to authenticate.

Maureen Digan

Maureen Digan

Maureen Digan was healed of Milroy disease (lymphedema) while praying at the tomb of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in 1981. But her cure was not accepted as a miracle until 1992.

“They didn’t even start investigating until five years after it occurred,” Digan said, who hails from Lee, Mass. Digan was examined by five different physicians, whose testimony was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The cure was accepted as a miracle and led to St. Faustina’s beatification in 1993.

Digan said that when she was healed, she felt an instant change in her leg. (She already had lost one leg to lymphedema, which causes swelling from excess fluid in the tissues.) At Faustina’s tomb, she said, “All of a sudden, I could feel the leg changing.”

However, Digan didn’t want to examine her leg right away, and waited until she was back in her room. When she did, the leg looked normal and the swelling and pain were gone. The next day, Digan showed it to her husband, Bob, who smiled and said, “We came here for a healing. You’ve been healed.”

Someone who thinks he’s experienced a miraculous occurrence should first “calm down,” Fr. Groeschel advised. Secondly, he should seek out a serious, prudent person for advice. Often, he said, unusual phenomena can be brought on by a person who is under pressure.

In his book A Still, Small Voice, Fr. Groeschel cautions that religious people often have a tendency to look for signs, but that most authentic visions occurred to simple people, usually children, who were not seeking them.

The best kind of religious experience, he writes, is found in reading of the gospel and in the example of those who care for the poor. “It brings together the ordinary events of life and transfuses them with the light of divine grace given through the gospel, the Church and the sacraments.”

Father Trigilio observed that Catholics looking for a genuine miraculous experience need look no further than Mass.

“Even if it is true that Mary is appearing somewhere, the greatest miracle is the Mass — the substantial truth of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ,” he said. “It pleases the Lord more that we go to Mass every chance we get. That’s the biggest miracle of all, done by Christ himself.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.