Making A Stink About Incorruptibles
Answering Father "R" regarding Incorruptibles:
Accounts of incorruptibles (non-decaying dead folks) have been a part of the Church since the early days. The discovery of a saint's body that had not undergone natural decay(corruption) became a sign of person who had lived a particularly righteous and holy life. One of the oldest incorruptibles is over 1500 years old and still doesn't stink!
Several other religions have claimed incorruptibility of some of their revered leaders but it has mostly been on the basis of mummification and many of those were actually embalmed. (Which rules out the ability to declare someone incorruptible in Catholicism) The majority of incorruptibles have been found in people of the Catholic faith .
There is a process called saponification which has been known to occur when the precise combination of alkalinity, moisture, calcium etc is present and a human's tissues can become soap-like! Skeptics claim that Catholic incorruptibles are the result of this process, but not all incorrupt saints are chemically saponified. No one can explain the sweet odor that is often associated with an incorruptible either, or the "holy oil" that has been known to ooze from these folks. Given the presence of bacteria, both aerobic and anaerobic within a human at the time of death, the finding of a corpse without decay after any time in the ground does verge on the miraculous. Even in an airtight sarcophagus, the anaerobic (not requiring oxygen) bacteria would still work their stinky magic! Remember , it was only four days after Martha's brother had died when she yells at Jesus because he wants to remove the stone from his tomb. "Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days."
In our diocese of Allentown, a Carmelite nun who was the founder of a cloister was recently found in a preserved state though she had died in 1939. (The last year of the great pre-war Martin guitars) A palm branch in her hand was still green. This does not grant "instant sainthood" but will be a strong consideration in the case for her canonization. There are many saints who did decompose so it is not a requirement for sainthood.
The Church is extremely careful in the scrutiny of these incorruptibles and the most advanced science available is used in evaluation of the state of incorruption. It requires forensic pathologists, unbiased observers, careful documentation and notarization of the proceedings. Wishful thinking on the part of the faithful hoping to have a new saint in their backyard just doesn't cut it.
As an evangelical, what did I think of incorruptibles and other supernatural aspects of Catholicism such as apparitions?
I always believed, even before my reversion, that God intervened in supernatural ways in this world (I still do) . Similarly, I also held that the enemy had power as an "angel of light" to create apparitions of Mary and other miracles of Catholicism to deceive people and draw them away from God! It's ironic that I could believe in the miracles seen outside the Catholic Church, yet refused to accept or believe in the miracles inside the Church and most especially the miracle of the Mass that occurs on a daily basis throughout the world. God's grace to change our hearts is amazing!
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