After our appearance on the Journey Home in December we received an e-mail from a non-Catholic Christian who encouraged us to believe in the healing power of prayer. The person explained that God was still performing miracles and had personally witnessed them.
By discussing the Catholic theology of suffering during our testimony perhaps we gave the impression that as Catholic Christians we no longer believed in the miraculous power of God to heal, convert, deliver etc. Just to set the record straight, there has never been a time in the history of Catholicism that miracles were limited to just the apostolic era. As a matter of fact, one of the ways in which a saint becomes canonized is through the careful documentation of at least two supernatural events that can be traced to the intercession of that saint.
The Church has a two thousand year history of documented miracles. A visit to any of the major Catholic shrines will reveal the eye patches, canes, crutches, walkers, braces and wheelchairs that are cast aside after the pilgrim received their healing. You would almost think you were at a Benny Hinn Tent Revival! (Well, not exactly)
In the early 1600's one of St. Francis de Sale's
major arguments against the reformers was that their new church had no miracles occurring. He proved his arguments with the historic evidence of miracles that occurred since the birth of the Church and had not stopped. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that our charismatic friends share with us have always been in the Catholic Church. The more recent charismatic renewal of the 1970's in Protestantism has been influenced by the Catholic charismatic movement.
The Catholic Church is full of miracles. A partial list includes:
- physical healings (requiring careful medical documentation)
- Eucharistic miracles
- levitation(several saints began floating during prayer)
- bi-location(a person being in two places at once)
- bodies of saints that never decay (incorruptibles)
- More than 100 thousand people watched the sun dance in the sky over Fatima in Portugal during one of the Marian apparitions of the early 20th century.
So, yes! Catholics do believe in miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in Scripture. These are all alive and active in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict's and John Paul 2's household preacher is Father Cantalamessa
, a charismatic priest who travels the world preaching about the power of God manifested through the charismatic renewal.
The beauty of the Catholic Church is that we have the fullness of Truth. Our Church has always held that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and supernatural workings of God continue to this present day for the edifying of the Body. But at the same time we embrace a theology of suffering(Col 1:24) that allows for the trials of our life (when we are not miraculously healed) to be offered to Christ and used for His purposes. The Catechism states: The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church."
As Catholics we pray for miracles and supernatural intervention but we trust that God will ultimately give us the grace to endure the trials that we experience if the physical miracle doesn't occur. We know that He can use our suffering united to His for the sake of His body, the Church, as St. Paul so eloquently wrote above.
Finally, Catholics experience the most amazing miracle every day in every single parish throughout the world. God becomes real and present to us in the Mass through the sacrifice of the altar. We experience God's miraculous power to change our hearts through the grace that is poured out in this Most Blessed Sacrament when the God of the Universe humbles himself to become present under the appearances of bread and wine. A miracle that Einstein himself was fascinated by.
To hear how our exposure to the theology of suffering was one of the ways God lead us back to the Church, here is our testimony.