Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Making A Stink About Incorruptibles

St. Bernadette of Lourdes

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!
Go to this link for More on Incorruptibles


Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

Amazing is His grace that made my scaled-over, judgmental eyes to see and opened the deaf ears to hear, that softened the sclerosis of my heart to all things Catholic that I'd once so disdained.

I wish at times it could have been sooner...but I can only kneel with overflowing joy at Mass each day. As I walk into St Robert's sanctuary or Dowd Chapel at Boys & Girls Town, where Fr. Flanagan's spirit lives on, helping troubled youth find peace, safety and a "family" life they've never known, I'm overwhelmed at such grace.

I had the same thoughts and held the same beliefs as you, TJ, in my Evangelical daze. The grace to change a heart...what a miracle! The miracle to change bread and wine into His Body Blood Soul and Divinity, what grace for our needy souls traversing on our pilgrimage to our prayed for, hoped for, sainthood!


July 07, 2007 10:20 PM  
Blogger White Stone Name Seeker said...

I spent a lot of time thinking about leaving the Church. I looked at becoming a Muslim (and didn't) and I looked at some protestant communities and gave up.
The Church irritated me to bits-but even then I saw She had something that showed God to the world. The incorruptables are a very strong sign of God's presence and activity. And they do not exist in other churches or faiths as you say-not like St Bernadette, St John Vianey etc who have been shown to be untouched.
I stayed-reluctantly-but now I'm home completely.

July 08, 2007 10:02 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

That's interesting!
Perhaps that is the reason why God allows it to occur, to bolster the faithful as well as a sign to non- believers that "something much bigger than Jonah' is here in this Church.
Eucharistic miracles are another sign he gives his faithful to "hang in there"
Thanks for the post.

July 08, 2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger + Alan said...

Hey Tiber - interesting stuff. You don't hear a lot of talk about this kind of thing even in Catholic circles. I've thought about this even recently, in perhaps a little different way than you've described here. I'm big on transformation being the whole point of our salvation.

It is - God's mission to us is to gather us back into the kind of Life He originally gave us. That Life was breathed into us by His Holy Spirit - it was the God kind of Life - not just weak and merely human life that crumbles and dies and turns into dust.

So, this process of transformation that we are constantly going through (hopefully, as we cooperate with Grace) is changing us - for real. We find talk about this kind of change more in monastic theology than in most places. The Orthodox idea called "theosis" or "deification" is also helpful here. As I see it, these "incorruptibles" are people who have so opened themselves to God, and have been so transformed into His Image, even in their physical bodies (we aren't Gnostics after all) that they, like Him, reflect eternity, the Essence of God in their flesh. Like Jesus and like the Blessed Mother, and others. So, sure, it can be seen as God doing a miracle for some reason, but I'm thinking it may be more the (super)natural result of being swallowed up in the Life of God. It's exciting not only because we see a miracle in someone else's body, but because this is the goal for us all. Peace to you.

July 08, 2007 11:37 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Whoa Alan!
Very cool way of looking at this!
Transformation yes, we are not just "poop covered with snow" but are in the process of being transformed. If you don't mind, I may post your comment as a separate blog post.

July 08, 2007 2:07 PM  
Blogger + Alan said...

No problem Tiber-man. Use whatever is helpful. This is definitely a way of looking at it that may help, for some, to make it not so much "weird" as - "well, of course, if we're being made back into the full likeness of God, even our flesh will be transformed and not undergo corruption."

This transformation concept is very helpful in talking about purgatory too, I've found. Protestants can tend to get hung up about purgatory as some kind of "payment for sins" thing and not the ongoing of our transformation. Anyway, Peace to you.

July 08, 2007 7:58 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

I was under the impression that St. Maria was in fact, buried like the rest of us.
Whether she is incorrupt is unknown.
She is, however, buried under a beautiful wax image of herself in repose.
I think her wax image might have led you to believe that she is incorrupt, however, I might be wrong and welcome correction.

July 09, 2007 2:16 PM  
Blogger MMajor Fan said...

Alan has a good description. Another way to look at it is that the incorruptibles have a variation of the spiritual penetration that the Old Testament patriarchs who lived up to 900 years old received. In their case their bodies were so infused by proximity to the Holy Spirit that they deferred death way beyond the 120 years. In the incorruptibles case the Holy Spirit preserved their bodies after death and created the sweet fragrance, same Holy Spirit work but with different emphasis.

July 09, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey Ma:
Are you going against the source of all things Saintly, Bob and Penny Lord(of EWTN)? LOL
You may be right, I will have to look it up. Thanks and God bless you

July 09, 2007 4:32 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

I actually just watched the BAPL special on St. Maria Goretti.

They didn't mention anything about her being incorruptible, unless I fell asleep at the end.

July 10, 2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Ma!
I will correct the info on the post.
God bless you!

July 10, 2007 3:33 PM  

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