THE DOCTORS AND THE INCORRUPTIBLES
Joan Carroll Cruz
Taken from the back cover of the book, published by Tan Books and Publications, Inc.
Rockford, Illinois 61105
This remarkable phenomenon of the incorruption of certain saints’ bodies is the subject of this enthralling and well-documented study. The author, Joan Carroll Cruz, spent five years researching the lives of over 100 saints and beata in preparation for this book.
One of the least known and most easily disbelieved religious facts is treated here in a scholarly and competent manner. As a result of this work, many will finally understand that bodily incorruption is a reality in the world of religion.
Destined to enlighten and convince.
The author has included only five saints who are Doctors of the Church in her book. These will be included with a few others who grace this inspirational book. One in particular is the woman on the front cover.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous will be the first listed. She is also listed in the church calendar always listed on this site under the name Bernadette of Lourdes.
The below names are a list of all the Incorruptibles listed in her book should one care to research or exam them. At the same time, if interested, one can purchase the book from TAN Publishing company:
Incorruptibles, Joan Carroll Cruz, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, IL. 1977. http://www.tanbooks.com.
Cecilia, Agatha, Etheldreda, Cuthbert, Werburgh, Guthlac, Withburga, Wunibald, Alphege of Canterbury, Romuald,
Coloman, Edward the Confessor, Waltheof, Ubald of Gubbio, Idesbald, Isidore the Farmer, Benezet, Hugh of Lincoln, Bertrand of Garrigua,
Edmund Rich of Canterbury, Rose of Viterbo, Sperandia, Zita, Albert the Great, Margaret of Cortona, James de Blanconibus,
Nicholas of Tolentino, Peter Ghigenzi, Angelo of Borgo San Sepolcro, Clare of Montefalco, Agnes Montepulciano, Mattia Nazzarei of Matelica,
Margaret of Metola, John of Chiaramonte, Peregrine Laziosi, Sibyllina Biscossi, Catherine of Siena, Andrew Franchi, Frances of Rome,
Bernardine of Siena, Herculanus of Piegaro, Rita of Cascia, Antoninus, Antonio Vici, Didacus of Alcala, Catherine of Bologna, Margaret of Savoy,
Eustochia of Padua, Anthony Bonfadini, Eustochia of Calafato, Bernard Scammacca, Arcangela Girlani, Osanna of Mantu, Catherine of Genoa,
Margaret of Lorraine, Anthony Maria Zaccaria, Angela Merici, Lucy Narni, John of God, Francis Xavier, Stanislaus Kostka, Mary Bagnesi, Louis Bertrand,
Teresa of Avila, Charles Borromeo, Catalina de Cristo, Benedict the Moor, Catherine dei Ricci, John of the Cross, Alphonsus de Orozco, Pascal Baylon,
Philip Neri, Germaine Cousin, Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, Camillus de Lellis, John of Jesus Mary, Rose of Lima, Maria Vela, Francis de Sales, Josaphat,
Mother Maria of Jesus, Jeanne de Lestonnac, Jane Frances De Chantal, John Southworth, Andrew Bobola, Vincent de Paul, Pacifico of San Severino,
Veronica Giuliani, Lucy Filippina, Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, Julia Billiart, Anna Maria Taigi, Vincent Pallotti, Rose Philippine Duchesne,
Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney, Madeleine Sophie Barat, Pierre Julien Eymard, Catherine Laboure, Bernadette Soubirous, Paula Frassinetti, Charbel Makhlouf, Maria Assunta Pallotta.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
1844 – 1879
The celebrated visionary of Lourdes was born to a very poor family on January 7, 1844. As a child she suffered severely from asthma and was such a poor student she was delayed from making her First Holy Communion until the year 1858, when she was fourteen years of age. On February 11 of that year, the first of her visions took place as she was gathering firewood along the river Gave. This drama, known to Catholics around the world, occurred eighteen times in all.
On March 25, 1858, the Blessed Virgin appeared for the last time and identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” With these words the Mother of God confirmed the pious belief which Pope Pius IX, four years earlier, had raised to the dignity of a dogma of the infallible Church.
The Sisters of Nevers, who operated a school at Lourdes, were later entrusted with Bernadette’s care, and at the age of twenty-two, she was admitted to their order. She spent the rest of her days at the motherhouse in Nevers, a short distance from Lourdes.
The Saint was always very sickly but attended patiently to her duties as infirmarian and sacristan. After suffering heroically for years from tuberculosis of the bone in the right knee, and many complications, she died a holy death on April 16th, 1879. Burial was in the Chapel of St. Joseph in the convent grounds behind the motherhouse in Nevers.
The body was first exhumed thirty years after her death. On September 22, 1909, in the presence of representatives appointed by the postulators of the cause, two doctors, and the sisters of the community, the coffin was removed by workmen from the place where it had been entombed thirty years before. On opening the lid, they discerned no odor and the virginal body lay exposed, completely victorious over the laws of nature.
Although the clothing was damp, and sawdust and charcoal surrounded the body, the arms and face were completely unaffected and had maintained their natural skin tone. The teeth were barely visible through the slightly parted lips and the eyes appeared somewhat sunken. Her perfect hands held a rosary which had become rusty, and the crucifix which lay upon her breast was coated with verdigris.
While the sisters were removing the damp robes, they discovered that while the body was entire and without the least trace of corruption, it was nevertheless emaciated. The left knee was found to be much smaller than the right, which had been affected by tuberculosis.
The sisters, with the best of intentions, thoroughly washed the body and reclothed it in a new religious habit before placing it in a new casket. After the official documents pertaining to the exhumation were placed beside the body and the double casket officially sealed, the remains were again consigned to the tomb. * see footnote
The second exhumation took place at the end of the Process on April 3, 1919. The body of the Venerable was found in the same state of preservation as ten years earlier except that the face was slightly discolored, due to the washing it had undergone during the first exhumation. A worker in wax who had frequently applied such a coating to the faces of the newly dead was entrusted with the task of coating the face who had been dead forty years.
The sacred relic was placed in a coffin of gold and glass and can be viewed in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the motherhouse in Nevers.
* The Sublime Shepherdess, The Life of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. Frances Parkinson Keyes. Julian Messner, Inc. New York. 1947. pp. 162-164.
Saint Albert the Great
1206 - 1280
Albert was born in Lauingen on the Danube, and against the wishes of his noble family became a Dominican friar while a student at the University of Padua. He excelled particularly in the natural sciences, in which his knowledge was described as encyclopedic. He correlated the findings of the science with philosophy and laid the foundation for the proper use of reason in matters of faith, which was further developed by his illustrious pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas. He taught at many European colleges, particularly those of Ratisbon, Freiburg, Cologne, and Paris. He was for a time provincial of his order in Germany and in 1260 accepted, under obedience, the bishopric of Ratisbon, from which he resigned after two years. His holiness and knowledge were so highly regarded that he was dubbed “The Great” by his contemporaries and also “Universal Doctor.” He was described as “a man no less than godlike in all knowledge so that he may fitly be called the wonder and miracle of our age.’
The last two years of his life were undoubtedly very trying and humiliating for his strength of mind failed him, and he was frequently afflicted with loss of memory. He died peaceful at Cologne without illness, sitting in his chair amid his confreres. His body, clothed in pontifical robes, was consigned to a wooden coffin, which was placed in a temporary vault in the conventual church near the high altar. There is some evidence that the body was given more than the usual preparation for burial, since it is recorded that the church of Ratison, which Albert had served as bishop requested the removal of the remains of the Saint to their city, but when this was refused them, there was sent instead a relic, a piece of intestines, “which had been buried behind the high altar.”
After approximately three years when the permanent tomb was completed in the choir, the transfer of the remains took place and the body was found at this time in a state of perfect preservation and exhaling a delightful fragrance. The remains were carefully replaced in the old coffin, and this was deposited in the new vault, were it remained for two centuries.
After the University of Cologne grew to impressive proportions and the number of Albert’s devotees increased in equal measure, the tomb of the Saint in the Dominican Church of Cologne no longer seemed suitable for his holy relics, so an elaborate mausoleum was constructed. During the transfer of the relic to this worthy tomb in the year 1483, the body was again examined in the presence of many ecclesiastics, the prior of the convent of Cologne, the rector of the university, many professors, doctors and students. The records of the Church of St Andrew, which now possesses the relics of the Saint, indicated that the body at this disinterment was reduced to a skeleton, and so it might be considered, for the descriptions of the findings as found from other sources are carefully worded. They relate that the head was almost intact, the eyes still were found in their sockets the chin was found to be covered with flesh and part of the beard, one ear was seen and the feet were still attached to the legs, indicating of course, that the major part of the relic was not conserved. The witnesses, however, were astonished to discover a delightful perfume about the body, which had been consigned to the grave for over two hundred years. The relics were placed in a glass case at this time and remained in it for many years. After this translation, miracles of healing were accorded to many of the sick who visited the tomb, and many visions were recorded.
Over three hundred years later, in 1804, the relics of the Saint were removed from the damaged Dominican Church and taken to St. Andrew’s Church, but this was done without ceremony since Cologne was then occupied by Napoleonic troops.
The remains of the Saint which consist only of bones are wrapped in silk and rest in two cases which bear the seals of the Archbishops of Cologne. These are kept in a stone sarcophagus in the crypt of St. Andrew’s Church.
The heroic quality of Albert’s virtues was recognized by Pope Gregory XV during his beautification in 1622. Throughout the centuries St. Albert the Great was regarded as a Doctor of the Church, and this title was officially conferred on him in 1931 by Pope Pius XI, who, by doing so, equivalently declared him to be a saint of the universal Church.
Saint Francis Xavier
1506 – 1552
One of the Church’s most illustrious missionaries is St. Francis Xavier, who was born of noble parents and was by nature refined, aristocratic and ambitious. He was for a time professor of philosophy at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola and became one of that saint’s seven followers. His missionary career began in 1540, when he set out on his first journey to the East Indies. Within ten years, he had made successful visits to Ceylon, India, Malaya, and Japan. He performed many miracles, was granted the gift of tongues, foretold the future, healed countless persons, established churches in remote areas and is reported to have raised several person from the dead.
His dream of evangelizing China was never realized. This great apostle fell ill of a fever within sight of Canton and after suffering for two weeks of a strange and painful illness, which was marked by periods of delirium, died recollected on December 3, 1552 at the age of forty-six.
The Saint’s young Chinese companion and interpreter, Antonio, in writing to the Jesuit Manuel Teixeira at Goa, India, described the lonely burial and told of their efforts to hasten the decomposition of the body by the application of lime so that when the opportunity arose to transfer the Saint’s remains, the bones could more easily be transported. He described the proceedings in this manner:
…in death the blessed Father looked so happy and so fair that one might have thought him still alive… I went at once to the ship the Santa Cruz, still riding at anchor off Sancian) to obtain the vestments and all else necessary for the burial…Some of those on the ship returned with me… and we made a wooden coffin in which we pace the body clothed in sacerdotal vestments. We then took it in a boat to another part of the island opposite to where the ship and its people lay… It was very cold, so most of them stayed aboard and there were only four of us at the burial, a Portuguese, two slaves and a Chinaman…. Having dug a deep grave we lowered the coffin into it and were about to cover it with earth when one of the company suggested to me that it might be a good idea to pack the coffin with lime above and below the body, as it would consume the flesh and leave only the bare bones, in case anyone in time to come should wish to take them to India. This seemed to us an excellent suggestion, so we withdrew the coffin, obtained four sacks of lime (from the ship) and poured two underneath the body and two above it. Then we nailed on the lid again and filled in the grave… I put some stones around it as markers, so that if I or any member of the Society happened to come to the lonely spot in the future and desired to see where the body of the blessed Francis rested, we would be able to find it. Thus did we bury him, full of bitter sorrow, on the afternoon, of Sunday, December 4, the day following his death
Ten weeks after the burial a ship bound for Malacca, where the Saint was greatly revered, gave permission for the casket to be placed on board, so on February 17, 1553, the coffin was raised and the body found to be perfectly preserved under the layer of lime. The body, still packed in this destructive agent, was left in the same casket and shipped to Malacca, where it was taken to the Church of Our Lady. A grave which had been prepared near the high altar proved to be too short and could not be lengthened, so the body, still dressed in priestly vestments, was taken from the casket and pressed into the grave in such a way that the head was forced over the chest, causing the neck to break. The body, in this position lay under and in full contact with the earth for nearly five months until a friend of the Saint, Jaun de Beira visiting the city on business, had the remains secretly exhumed. The body was found in exactly the same condition as before, except that the nose was injured and bruises were on the face, owing to the pressure of the mud and the position of the body in the inadequate grave. It was decided that such a treasure should be taken to Goa, then considered the Rome of the East, where the Saint had so successfully evangelized. Upon arriving at that port some months last, the body was met by throngs of people, who for four days visited the remains which were left exposed in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus where the relic is still enshrined.
During this time, when the preservation of the body was widely acclaimed as miraculous, a number of skeptics suggested that the body had been carefully embalmed; so, to settle the issue, the Viceroy had the body examined by the chief medical authority in Goa, who testified as follows:
I, Doctor Cosmas Saraiva physician to the Senhor Viceory have been to examine the body of Father Master Francis, brought to this city of Goa. I felt and pressed all the members of the body with my fingers, but paid special attention to the abdominal region and made certain that the intestines were in their natural position. There had been no embalming of any kind nor had any artificial preservative agents been used. I observed a wound in the left near the heart and asked one of the Society who was with me to put his fingers into it. When he withdrew them they were covered with blood which I smelt and found to be absolutely untainted. The limbs and other parts of the body were entire and clothed in their flesh in such a way that, according to the laws of medicine, they could not possibly have been preserved by any natural or artificial means, seeing that Father Francis had been dead and buried for about a year and a half. I affirm on oath that what I have written above is the truth. Signed : Doctor Cosmas de Saraiva.
In 1614 the body was again found “beautiful and whole.” The right eye was open and was fresh as in life. The legs and fingers were also fresh but the body for the most part was dry with the skin still entire. During the same year the right forearm of the Saint was amputated and taken to Rome, where it was enshrined in the Jesuit church of Il Gesu, which also contains the relics of the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius Loyola. In 1949 this mummified arm was taken on a pilgrim age around the world and through Japan in observance of the four hundredth anniversary of the Saint’s arrival to the United States, where it was met and venerated by crowds in every city it visited on its three-month tour. The arm was returned to Il Gesu, where it remains a treasured possession.
One hundred forty-two years after the Saint’s death, his still perfectly preserved body was carefully examined by Bishop Espinola and a French Jesuit, Pere Joseph Simon Bayard, and officials of the shrine, who exhumed the body in secret to avoid the crowds who had flocked to the church on previous occasions. Their report contains the following description of the Saint:
The Saint hair is black and slightly curling. The forehead is broad and high, with two rather large veins, soft and of a purple tint, running down the middle, as is often seen in talented persons who concentrate a great deal. The eyes are black, lively and sweet, with so penetrating a glance that he would seem to be alive and breathing. The lips are of a bright reddish colour and the beard is thick. In the cheeks there is a very delicate vermillion tint. The tongue is quite flexible, red and moist, and the chin is beautifully proportioned. In a word, the body has all the appearance of being that of a living man. The blood is fluid, the lips flexible, the flesh solid, the colour lively, the feet straight and the nails well formed. The loss of two toes left a darkish trace on the right leg. But for this there fan be found no other body so clean and sound as the body of the Apostle of the Indies. It is so great a marvel that on seeing it, while I was present, Mynheer Vandryers became at once a convert to the Catholic Faith.
The sacred body of the Saint has endured countess examinations and many mutilations throughout the centuries. At the time of the first exhumation of the body at Sancian, a piece of flesh, a finger’s length, was taken from the knee and shown to the captain of the ship as proof of the excellent condition of the body. It was on this basis of this evidence that the captain permitted the body to be placed on board for removal to Malacca. A number of toes are missing, one of them having been bitten off in 1544 by a Portuguese lady named Donna Isabel de Carom, who refused to return the relic. One toe was sent to the Castle of Xavier, Spain, in 1902, and after the exposition in 1890, another, which fell off, was placed in a reliquary which is kept in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus in Goa; the other toes are unaccounted for.
In 1619,when Japan was suffering from persecution and an epidemic, the Jesuits in that country asked for a relic of the Saint, so the upper part of the right arm was amputated and given to them, after permission had been received from Rome. A few years later the upper part of the left hand was divided into two parts, along with the shoulder blade which became detached from the right shoulder at the time of the amputation of that arm, was given to the College of Malacca.
In 1636, in order to satisfy the many demands for relics from around the world, the internal organs were used as relics and official records speak of them as coming “ex praecordies” “ex intestinis,” “ex carne,” “ex visceribus.” Without the support of the interior organs, the bones became loose and were braced with wires. Because of the condition of the relic, the authorities in Rome ordered in 1798 that the body be enclosed in such a way that it could be seen through a glass case but never directly touched. This order was executed, and it has ever since been protected in a glass-sided reliquary.
The relic at the present time is dry and shrunken in size, but there is no corruption and some hairs of the beard are still seen on the dried cheek flesh.
At the time of the 1952 exposition, His Excellency, D. Costa Nunes, then the Patriarch of the East Indies and Archbishop of Goa, for the first time referred to what remains of the body of the Saint as the “relic of the body of St Francis Xavier.”
The resent condition of the body in no way detracts from the inexplicable preservation which was miraculously maintained for one hundred fifty years, as confirmed by numerous medical reports and countless eyewitness accounts.
In what was described as its “last” exhibition, the body of the Saint was viewed for a six-week period, from November, 1974 until January 5, 1975. During the first three weeks 200 000 visitors are said to have visited the relic; 15,000 paid their respects during the last morning of the exhibition alone, and an estimate 50,000 people lined the path of the outdoor procession before the glass coffin was again placed in its artistically crafted silver reliquary in the 17th century Basilica of Bom Jesus.
In its December 30, 1074 issue, Newsweek magazine described the body of the Saints as being “surprisingly well-preserved,” and quoted one of the priests as claiming that four decades ago, “the body was fresh as though the saint was only sleeping.”
Although it was described by officials of the shrine as perhaps the last exhibition of the relics, it is hoped by the Saint’s devotees and the people of Goa that the body will again be viewed within a few years.
St. Francis Xavier was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 and was proclaimed by Pope St. Pius X as the “Patron of Missions,” a title he shares with St. Therese of Lisieux. He is considered the greatest individual missionary to the heathens since St. Paul.
Saint John of the Cross
1542 – 1591
Known before his religious life as Juan de Yepes, this son of a weaver credited the Blessed Mother with saving his life from drowning on two occasions during his childhood. He received his early education from the Jesuits but in 1563 he joined the Carmelites at Medina and was ordained five years later after completing an intensive educational program. Feeling himself called to observe a stricter rule, he was considering the Carthusian Order when he met St. Teresa of Avila, who persuaded him to help her in restoring the Carmelites to the strict observance of the original rule of the Order, which included daily and nightly recitation of the Divine Office, perpetual abstinence from meat, and numerous fasts and penances. During the conflicts which ensued among members of the Order, he was kidnapped and imprisoned for a nine-month period and was shamefully persecuted and publicly disgraced. After the separation of the Discalced Carmelities from the Calced Carmelites, which received the approval of the Roman Curia in 1580, he filled a number of important positions in the Order.
For a number of years the saint served as the confessor of the convent at Avila in which St. Teresa was prioress. In Teresa’s estimation, “He was one of the purest souls in the Church of God.” It was here at Avila that the sisters witnessed many of his levitations during ecstatic prayer.
His most valuable contributions to the Church are his mystical writings, which include The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, and The Spiritual Canticle. Very appropriately Bossuet has testified that St. John’s works “possess the same authority in mystical theology as the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas possess in dogmatic theology.”
At the age of forty-nine the Saint died at Ubeda after a painful illness. His funeral was attended by the faithful, who crowded into the church to touch religious objects to his body. He was buried in a vault beneath the flooring of the church where, on the Monday night following the burial, the friars observed a great light which burned for several minutes.
The relic was found intact when the tomb was first opened nine months after the Saint’s death. Dona Ana de Penasola, who wanted the body of the Saint removed to the house she had established for him in Segovia, obtained a legal order for the removal of the bones eighteen months after his death. At that time one of the king’s sergeants, Francis de Medina Zavallos, was sent to Ubeda to negotiate the translation. In obedience to the orders, the prior admitted him to the church at night, and upon opening the tomb, they perceived a fragrant perfume and found the body perfect fresh and supple. The prior refused to have the relic removed, for the official orders called for the removal of the bones. One of the fingers of the “Saint was then cut off for Zavallos to present to Dona Ana as proof of the preservation of the body, and when this was amputated, blood flowed profusely as would be normal in a living person.
After waiting for another nine months, Zavallos was again sent to Ubeda. The grave was opened and the body found still perfectly preserved under a layer of lime, which had been previously applied to it. Zavallos then put the body into a bag and took it away, but the perfume which surrounded the body pervaded the entire area and aroused the curiosity of the people whom he passed along the way, and he was frequently asked about the contents of the bag. At Madrid the Carmelites placed the relic in a coffin so that it could be transported to Segovia in a more fitting manner. Upon its arrival in that city, it was received with all reverence and respect and was exposed for eight days in the chapel, where it was visited by great crowds of people.
The body was exhumed and carefully examined in 1859 and again in 1909. In 1926 an impressive shrine composed of beautifully colored marble and bronze was constructed by national subscription and executed by the best Spanish artists. During the removal of the relic to this magnificent monument the body was again exposed for the veneration of the faithful.
The last exhumation of the relic occurred in 1955 on the occasion of the visit of the Reverend Provincial General of the Order. The body at that time was found to be slightly discolored but perfectly moist and flexible.
The Saint was canonized in 1726, and two hundred years later in 1926, he assumed his rightful position among the Doctors of the Church, being officially designated such by Pope Pius IX.
Blessed Eustochia Calafato
1434 – 1485
Born Esmeralda Calafato, this Beata was benevolently favored with a virtuous and pious mother and as a small child is known to have imitated her mother’s holy example and to have given every indication of being further blessed with a religious vocation. As the beautiful, rich and noble born daughter of Count Calafato, Esmeralda was sought in marriage by several distinguished gentlemen, whose proposals were graciously declined. After the death of her father, who had opposed her entrance into the religious life, she joined the Poor Clares at S. Maria de Basico and was given the name Eustochia. After eleven years spent in this convent, she was inspired to found a new convent where the original rule of St. Clare was to observed in greater strictness and in absolute poverty. With the permission of Pope Calistus III, she took with her two of the nuns, a young niece, and her own sister and established the Convent of Accomandata amidst persecution, intense suffering, and difficulties. Because of the poor condition of the buildings, the sisters were forced to move five years later to Montevergine (Maiden’s Hill) in northeast Sicily, which, in 1964 observed the fifth centenary of its founding.
In the biography written by Sister Pollicino, one of the Beata’s original companions in the new community, there are many testimonies to the heroic nature of the virtues practiced by Eustochia and numerous miracles are recorded of her concerning the multiplication of food. It is said that on many occasions when the treasury of the convent was insufficient to buy provisions, Eustochia made the Sign of the Cross over two or three little pieces of bread and there was miraculously enough to satisfy the appetites of the ten sisters who comprised the community.
After fifty-one years spent in the performance of God’s Will, Eustochia died a saintly death on January 20, 1495, after having borne in her flesh for many years the stigmata wounds of our Lord’s Passion.
Perhaps the most dramatic miracle performed by the Beata, who had so often protected the city from damaging earthquakes, occurred in 1615, when the city was shaken day and night by almost constant vibrations. The senate and people of the city petitioned the sisters to pray to Bl. Eustochia for protection. The sisters removed the perfectly preserved body from the oratory where it had been conserved for almost a hundred fifty years and placed it in an upright position in her old choir stall. After they had charged Eustochia to pray for the protection of the city, the lips of the obedient Beata opened and her voice was heard chanting the first verse of the Psalm of the Night Office. The sisters, completely terrified, nevertheless joined in the recitation and bowed their heads during the Gloria in unison with the Blessed. The earthquake is reported to have ceased at that moment.* See footnote
Still preserved at the Monastero Montevergine is the perfectly preserved body of the Beata. Although darkened after the lapse of five centuries, the body is nonetheless perfect in every respect, with the two fingers of the right hand poised in an attitude of perpetual blessing. A golden crown adorns the head and the relic is dressed in beautiful white robes delicately and artistically embroidered with gold. Undoubtedly the most magnificent adornments on this blessed relic are the marks of the stigmata, which are clearly visible on the darkened hands of this holy foundress.
* This miracle is related in papers composed by Monastero Montevergine in 1964 at the time of the observance of the fifth centenary of the founding of the Monastery.
Saint Alphege of Canterbury
954 - 1012
St. Alphege attained great sanctity in monasteries as Deerhurst near Tewkesbury and Bath, and was chosen Bishop of Winchester when only thirty years of age. After serving in this capacity for twenty-two years, he was elected Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1011 the Danes invaded Canterbury, plundered the town, killed many religious, robbed churches and took the Archbishop captive in anticipation of a huge ransom. St. Alphege was held prisoner for several months and steadfastly refused to allow his flock to raise the ransom for his release saying “The treasures of the Church must not be given to the pagans for my freedom.” He was severely beaten by his drunken captors until one of them ended his life by a blow with an axe. His body, released to his congregation, was buried in St. Paul’s in London but after ten years it was translated by King Canute to Canterbury, where his relics are still enshrined in the cathedral. During this translation, which occurred ten years after his death, his body was found to be free from every stain of corruption. See footnote*
Because of his heroic conduct during captivity and the circumstances surrounding his death, he is listed as a martyr in the Roman Martyrology
* The History of St. Cuthbert. Charles, Archbishop of Glasgow. Catholic Publication Society Co. New York, 1887. p. 144.
630 - 679
King Anna of the East Angles and Queen Hereswide of England have the unique distinction of being the parents of five daughters, all of whom bear the title “Saint.” Etheldreda, whose life is under consideration here, was the foundress of Ely Monastery, which she served as abbess for seven years. Her sister, St. Sexburga, entered this monastery after the death of her husband, King Erconbert, and later succeeded her sister as abbess. St. Withburga was a recluse at Dereham in Norfolk, where she founded a religious house, while St. Ethelburga and St. Sethrid each in turn served as abbess of the monastery at Brie. History also records two brothers of these saintly women, Adlwulf and Adulphus. *1
Other saints in this illustrious family were their aunt, St. Hilda, the foundress and abbess of Whitby monastery, and their Mother, Hereswide, who, though not referred to as “Saint” Hereswide, nevertheless entered the religious life after the death of King Anna and died a holy death in the abbey of St. Clotilde, near Paris.
In spite of her protests, a diplomatic marriage was contracted between Princess Etheldreda and Prince Tonbercht, the ruler of the territory bordering her father’s. The bridegroom, however, respected the vow of virginity his bride had made in her youth, and after an alliance of only three years she was left a widow. She then retired to the Isle of Ely, which had been given her as a marriage settlement by her husband, and there devoted herself for the next five years to continual prayer.
When the Saint was thirty years of age, she was coerced into another political marriage, this time with King Egfrid, who was then only sixteen years of age. During their twelve years of marriage she preserved her virginity in spite of the wishes of her husband and the advice of her confessor, St. Wilfrid. Egfrid eventually permitted her to enter the monastery ruled by his aunt, the Abbess Ebba, at Coldingham, where the “Saint was given the veil by St.Wilfrid in 671. Within a year the King regretted the permission he had reluctantly given his wife, and Etheldreda, with the help of two companions, was forced to flee from the monastery in order to escape the King, who had journeyed in the monastery to reclaim her. In the year 672 she reached her property at Ely, and the following year she secured enough money from her family to begin building, as was the custom at that time, a double monastery for monks and nuns, which she successfully ruled for almost seven years.
History reports that she prophesied her own death from the plague and also the number of those from the community who would fall victim to the disease. In compliance with her wishes, she was buried with all simplicity in a wood coffin, but sixteen years later her sister, Sexburga, who had succeeded her as abbess, thought it best to take up the bones of the Saint and remove them to the church. It might be well to quote here the events surrounding the exhumation as recorded by St Bede the Venerable, who carefully questioned those who witnessed the ceremony before reporting the event in his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, which was written about the year 730. He reports the proceedings in this manner:
… The body of the holy virgin and spouse of Christ, when her grave was opened, being brought into sight, was found as free from corruption as if she had just died and been buried on that very day; as the aforesaid Bishop of Wilfrid, and many others that know it, can testify. But the physician, Cynefrid, who was present at her death, and when she was taken up out of the grave, was wont of more certain knowledge to relate, that in her sickness she had a very great swelling under her jaw. “And I ordered,” said he, “to lay open that swelling under her jaw. “And I was ordered,” said he, “to lay open that swelling, to let out the noxious matter in it, which I did, and she seemed to be somewhat more easy for two days, so that many thought she might recover from her distemper; but the third day the former pains returning, she was soon snatched out of this world, and exchanged all pain and death for everlasting life and health. And when so many years, after her bones were to be taken out of the grave, a pavilion being spread over it, all the congregation of brothers were on the one side, and of the sisters on the other standing about it singing, and the abbess, with a few, being gone to take up and wash the bones, on a sudden we heard the abbess within loudly cry out…Not long after they called me in, opening the door of the pavilion, where I found the body of the holy virgin taken out of the grave and laid on a bed, as if it had been asleep, then taking off the veil from the face, they also showed the incision which I had made, healed up, so that, to my great astonishment, instead of the open gaping wound with which she had been buried, there then appeared only an extraordinary slender scar.”
Besides, all the linen cloths in which the body had been buried appeared entire and as fresh as if they had been that very day wrapped about her chaste limbs… They washed the virgin’s body, and having clothed it in new garments, brought it into the church, and laid it in the coffin that had brought, where it is held in great veneration to this day. The coffin was found in a wonderful manner, as fit for the virgin’s body s if it has been made purposely for her, and the place for her head particularly cut, exactly fit for her head, and shaped to a nicety. *2
Etheldreda’s body was enshrined in the abbey church, but one hundred years later the edifice was completely destroyed during an invasion by the Danes, who plundered the monastery and killed many of the sisters. The Saint’s remains, however, were left undisturbed and remained so for over eight hundred years, until the infamous Reformation, when on the orders of Henry VIII, her relics were scattered and the shrine so completely destroyed that only a plinth (base) remains. This remnant is still pointed out to visitors to the famous Ely Cathedral, which had developed in architectural perfection about the abbey church. *3
In spite of the Saint’s relics having disappeared during the time of the Reformation, her left hand was discovered about the year 1811 in what was evidently a priest’s hiding-hole in penal times. The relic passes from one owner to another until it became the property of the Dominican Sisters of Stone, who had loaned it for an indefinite period to the Parish Church of St. Etheldreda on Egremont Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. The relic rests on a seventeenth-century silver plate on which is engraved “Manus Sanctae Etheldreda 679” that is covered by a crystal cylinder, topped by a silver crown.
It is reported that when the relic was first discovered, it was so white it was thought to be carved of ivory, but on exposure to the air it gradually darken until it is now dark brown and mummified. *4
In 1954 the relic was officially examined in the presence of Cardinal Griffin’s delegate, an expert from the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a surgeon, all of whom were very impressed on finding a tendon under the shriveled flesh of the thirteen-hundred-year-old hand.
St Bede the Venerable composed in Etheldreda’s honor a poem praising her virtues, and she remaims the most popular of the Anglo-Saxon women saints.
*1 Saint Etheldreda. Elisabeth Wilcocs. Catholic Truth Society. London. 1961. p.7
*2 The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. St. Bede the Venerable. J.M. Dent& Sons, Ltd. London. 1910 & 1958. Bk 4, Chapter XIX
*3 The relics of Etheldreda’s sister, Sexburga and Withburga, and her niece Ermenilda, were eshrined in the abbey church during the year 1106,and these were also destroyed at the time of the Reformation.
*4 Wilcocks Op. cit. pp. 18-20. The present custodian of the relic related in recent correspondence with the author, that he once met some elderly Dominican Sisters who related that when they saw the hand during their youth, the skin of the hand was very white.
Saint Teresa of Avila
1515 - 1582
This great reformer of the Carmelite Order was born to a noble family on March 28, 1515, in Avila, Spain. She was a very pious as a child, having attempted at the age of seven to journey with her brother to convert the Moors and suffer martyrdom. During her adolescence her fervor languished due to her fascination with romantic literature of her day, but after a serious illness her devotion was rekindled through the influence of a pious uncle; she became interested in the religious life and joined the Order of Carmel in Avila, where she took her vows in 1534.
At the time of her entrance into this convent, the Order permitted a great deal of socializing and other privileges which were contrary to the original rule. Teresa enjoyed her life there under these relaxed rules until she experienced, during her thirty-eighth year, her “conversion,” while reading the Confessions of St. Augustine. *1 Finding this atmosphere in opposition to the spirit of prayer for which she felt Our Lord had intended the Order, she began reforming its laxities in 1562 at the cost of countless persecutions and difficulties. Her good friend and advisor, St. John of the Cross, aided her in this endeavor and extended the reformation to the friars of the Order.
Under rigorous interpretation of the rule, she attained the heights of mysticism, enjoyed countless visions, and experienced the phenomenon of levitation. She was also frequently visited by the devil, who appeared in horrible forms, but his taunts and physical abuse were promptly terminated by generous sprinklings with holy water.
There seems to be no phenomenon peculiar to the mystical state which she did not experience, yet she remained a shrewd business-woman, administrator, writer, spiritual counselor and foundress.
She was a reluctant writer, engaging in this task under obedience, but left three spiritual masterpieces: her Autobiography, The Way of Perfection, and, what is considered her greatest work,The Interior Castle, the title of which was given her by Christ Himself.
Never a healthy woman, the Saint died of her many afflictions on October 4, 1482, while on a visit to her convent at Alba de Tormes. Her constant companion, Mother Anne of St Barthlomew, who held the dying Saint in her arms, left us this account of her burial.
The day after her death she was buried with full solemnity. Her Body was put in a coffin, but such a heap of stones, bricks, and chalk were put on top of it that the coffin gave way under the weight and all this rubble fell in. It was by the order of the lady who endowed the house, Teresa de Layz, that the rubble was put there. Nobody could prevent her; it seemed to her that by acting thus she was making all the more certain that no one would take Teresa’s body away. *2
The delightful fragrance which frequently enveloped the Saint during her lifetime, and which was so strongly noted at the time of her death that the door and windows of her cell had to be opened, continued to emanate from the grave, and so many wonders were occurring there that the curiosity of the nuns concerning the condition of the body was greatly aroused. Permission to exhume the relic was granted by the provincial of the Order, Fr. Jerome Gracian, during one of his visits to the monastery. Francisco de Ribera, the Saint’s confessor and first biographer, described the proceedings in this manner.
The coffin was open on July 4, 1583, nine months after the interment; they found the coffin lid smashed, half rotten and full of mildew, the smell of damp was very pungent…The clothes had also fallen to pieces… The holy body was covered with the earth which had penetrated into the coffin and so was all damp too, but as fresh and whole as if it had only been buried the day before… They undressed her almost entirely for she had been buried in her habit – they washed the earth away, and there spread through the whole house a wonderful penetrating fragrance which lasted some days…They put her into a new habit, wrapped her in a sheet and put her back into the same coffin. But before doing this, the Provincial removed her left hand. *3
The provincial, Gracian, gives us an interesting report concerning this relic:
I took the hand away wrapped in a coif and in an outer wrapping of paper: oil came from it…I left it at Avila in a sealed casket…When I severed the hand, I also sever a little finger which I carry about on my person. When I was captured, the Turks took it from me, but I bought it back for some twenty reales and some gold rings…*4
A contest soon began between two of her foundations over which one held the greater claim to her body – the convent of San Jose in her native Avila, where she held the position of prioress at the time of her death, and the convent at Alba, where she had requested to be buried. The problem was presented to the chapter of Discalced Friars, who decreed that the body of the Saint should be exhumed and taken to Avila in secret, in order to prevent confrontations with the nuns, the townspeople, and the Duke of Alba. This removal was clandestinely undertaken on November 24 and 25, 1585. As a consolation to the nuns who were being robbed of their treasure, the left arm, from which the hand had already been removed, was amputated and left in their keeping.
The body was entrusted to the sisters at St. Joseph’s at Avila, where it was promptly visited by the bishop, Don Pedro Fernandez de Temino, and two doctors, P. Diego de Yepes and Julian de Avila.
The doctors examined the body and decided that it was impossible that its condition could have a natural explanation, but that it was truly miraculous…for after three years, without having been opened or embalmed, it was in such a perfect state of preservation that nothing was wanting to it in any way, and a wonderful odour issued from it.* 5
When the Duke of Alba learned of the secret removal, he immediately petitioned Rome for its return, and the body of the holy mother was eventually brought back to Alba de Tormes on the order of the Pope.
Of the 1588 exhumation of the body of the Saint, Ribera, who was an eyewitness, left us this interesting description:
The body is erect, though bent a little forward, as with old people. It can be made to stand upright, if someone props it with a hand between the shoulders, and this the position in which they hold it when it is to be dressed or undressed, as though it were alive. The colour of the body is the colour of dates, the face darker, because the veil which was full of dust became stuck to it, and it was maltreated more than the rest; nevertheless, it is intact, and even the nose is undamaged. The head has retained all its hair, as on the day of her death. The eyes have lost their vital moisture are dried –up, but the eye-lids are perfectly preserved. The mole on her face retain their little hairs. The mouth is tightly shut and cannot be opened. The flesh is that of a corpulent person, especially on the shoulders… The shoulder from which the arm detached exudes a moisture which clings to the touch and exhales the same scent as the body. *6
During later exhumations, parts of the body and bits of the flesh were extracted in the name of piety and distributed through Europe. One foot is in the Church of Saint Maria della Scala in Rome and a cheek, which was conserved in Madrid, was lost during the Civil War of 1936-1939. The left hand, which was kept by the Madres Carmelitas on Ronda, was stole by the Liberals during the same political upheaval, but during their hurried escape after their defeat, the relic was left abandoned in a valise and eventually found its way into the possession of Generalissimo Franco. At Alba de Tormes, there are exposed for the veneration of the faithful, in their respective silver and crystal reliquaries, the left arm and the heart, which is of particular interest *7
The Saint recorded in her Autobiography the vision of her transverberation, one of her most remarkable experiences:
I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. He was not large, but small of stature and most beautiful – his face burning as if he were one of the highest angels who seemed to be all of fire. I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also; and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God..
The wounded heart was meticulously examined in 1872 by three physicians of the University of
Salamanca who noted the perforation made by the dart. They unanimously agreed that the preservation of the heart could not be credited to any natural or chemical means. *8
The last exhumation of the body of the Saint occurred in 1914. The contents of the coffin were found in the same condition as before except that a tube of lead, in which were placed the official documents relating to the Saint was found reduced to powder, whereas the body of the Saint was in the same condition as in precious exhumations. The sisters at Alba de Tormes were privileged to view the features of their spiritual mother and also perceived the same flowery fragrance which has been noticed so often about her body.
The precious relic is conserved in an urn of silver which is enclosed in a black marble sarcophagus that is delicately embellished with bronze.
St. Teresa of Avila was canonized in 1622 and bore for many centuries the title Doctor of the Church, an honor conferred on her by public acclamation. On September 27, 1970, Pope Paul VI officially annexed her name to the list of thirty distinguished Doctors; she is the first woman to join such an illustrious group.
*1 Journey toCarith Peter-Thomas Rohrback, O.C.D. Doubleday & Co., Inc. New York, 1966, p. 144.
*2 Teresa of Avila. Marcelle Auclair. Pantheon Books, Inc. New York. 1953. p.430.
*3 Ibid. pp. 430-431
*4 Ibid. p. 431.
*5 Ibid. p. 434.
*6 The Eagle and the Dove. V. Sackville-West. Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc. Garden City, New York, 1944. p.90.
*7 The information contained in this paragraph is taken from statements made by the abbess of the Carmelite Monastery of Alba de Tormes.
*8 Saint Teresa of Avila. William Thomas Walsh. Bruce Publishing Co. Milwaukee. 1943. p. 136.
Saint Francis De Sales
1567 - 1622
Born of a distinguished family of Thorens, located twelve miles from Annecy, Francis received an excellent education at Paris and Padua but declined his father’s worldly ambitions in favor of a priestly vocation. His brilliant preaching, his artful direction of souls, and his countless conversions brought him to the attention of Church officials, and in 1602 he was appointed Bishop of Geneva. Because of his successes in this post, he was offered the bishopric of Paris but declined the position through humility.
Hs saintly friends included St. Vincent de Paul and St Philip Neri. St John Bosco, the miracle-wonder of the nineteenth century, was so attracted to Francis that the religious order he founded, the Salesians, was named for this saintly bishop. Another saint and his good friend, St. Jane de Chantal, assisted him in founding the Order of the Visitation, which now boasts one hundred eighty five monasteries throughout the world.
St. Francis suffered atrocious pains on his deathbed, which were only intensified by the ignorance of the attending physicians. The day before his death they applied hot irons to his head to revive him from a coma. Although applied with the best of intentions, the irons were nevertheless so ineptly applied as to burn through the flesh to the bone, making marks which are still visible on the skull. 1*
St. Francis died during his fifty-sixth year, and the twentieth of his episcopate. His entrance into Heaven was made known supernaturally to many of his friends and relatives, especially to Madame de Chantal, who was informed of the death by an interior voice. 2*
During his autopsy the body was embalmed 3* and the heart extracted. This was placed in a silver coffer and was given to the Church of the Visitation at Lyons. A clear oil has exuded from this relic at intervals throughout the years.4*
After much opposition by the local authorities, Louis XIII granted permission for the removal of the body from Lyons (the city in which he had died) to Annecy, where he had requested to be buried. Accompanied on this journey by a great concourse of people and attended miracles, his body was brought to the first monastery of the Visitation and placed under the altar of the church. The place of entombment was quickly covered with gold and silver ex-votes by his grateful clients. 5*
In compliance with the requirement of the Sacred Congregation of Rite prior to beatification, the body of the holy bishop was exhumed. On August 4,1632, ten years after his death, it was found perfectly conserved. 6* At a later date, however, only dust and bones were found
Following a number of translations, one of which was attended by the king and queen, nine bishops, and five hundred thirty-two priests, 7* the remains were placed in the Basilica of the Visitation at Annecy in 1911, where they still repose. The bones of the Saints are connected by silver threads and rest in a composite figure that is clad in exquisitely embroidered Episcopal garments. The bronze and crystal urn which contain the relic is situated on one side of the main altar, while the bones St. Jane de Chantal, which are similarly placed in a religiously vested figure, repose on the opposite side in an almost identical urn.
St Francis de Sales was beatified in1661, was canonized in 1665, and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877. 8* In view of his excellent writings, of which Introduction To A Devoted Life and Treatise On The Love of God are the most popular, Pope Pius XI, in 1922, designated him the patron of journalists and writers.
1* The condition of the skull was reported in correspondence with author by the Sister Archivist of the Visitation Convent of St. Marie, Annecy.
2* The Life of St. Francis de Sales. Robert Ornby, M.A. D.& J. Sadlier & Co. New York. P. 144.
3* Ibid. p. 145.
4 *The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, Thurston. P. 247.
5* “Translation des Reliques de Saint Francois de Sales et de Sainte Jeanne-Francoise de Chantal.” Guide-Manuel du Pelerin a Annecy. Published by the Visitation Order. Annecy. 1911. p. 45.
6* Ibid. pp. 45-46.
7* Ornby. p. 146.
8* Chroniclers frequently disagree on the dates of the occurrences in the life of his saint however, all the dates mentioned in this entry are taken directly from data supplied to the author by the Visitation Convent of Annecy.
Saint Charbel Makhlouf
1828 – 1898
Perhaps the most amazing phenomenon in the modern world is the existence of the perfectly incorrupt and life-like body of the holy Maronite monk. St. Charbel Makhlouf, who was born on May 8, 1828, in the village of Biqa-Kafra in the high mountains of Northern Lebanon. Given the name of Joseph at his baptism, he was the last of the five children born to very poor but religious parents. From early childhood he showed a strong attraction to prayer and solitude, and when he attained his twenty-third year, he left home in spite of the displeasure of his family and settled happily in the Monastery of St Maroun at Annaya. After being received into the novitiate, he was given the name of Charbel, the name of an early martyr. Having received a thorough theological education at seminaries conducted by his order, he was ordained a priest on July 23, 1859 and was assigned to the Monastery of St. Maroun, where he sent sixteen years in the practice of monastic virtues. In 1875 he received the permission of his superiors to retire to the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, which was a little distance from the monastery and which was used by the priests during days of quiet retreat. It was in this secluded sanctuary that he spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life in the practice of severe mortification. It is recorded by his companion that he wore a hair shirt, practiced corporal discipline, slept on the hard ground, and ate only one ,meal a day, that being the remains of the meals of his companions.
Nothing outstanding is recorded of him except his remarkable devotion to the Holy Eucharist and his preference for saying daily Mass at 11:00a.m., so he could spend almost all the morning in preparation and the rest of the day in thanksgiving.
In 1898 he suffered a seizure while saying Mass, and a priest assisting at the Holy Sacrifice was forced to pry the Holy Eucharist from his grasp. The holy monk died eight days later on Christmas Eve at the age of seventy. Interment was in the monastery cemetery where so many saintly minks before him had been buried. According to monastic custom, the body, which was not embalmed, was dressed in the full habit of the Order and was consigned to the grace without a coffin.
In all probability he would have been forgotten had not a certain phenomenon occurred at his grave in the form of an extraordinary bright light which surrounded his tomb for forty-five nights following the interment. Because of this and the enthusiasm of the many witnesses of this prodigy, the officials of the monastery requested permission from the ecclesiastical authorities to exhume the body – a ceremony which took place after the saint’s death.
When the common grave was opened in the presence of the superiors of the Order, the monks of the monastery, and many villagers, the body was found in perfect condition, even though, as result of frequents rains which had inundated the cemetery several times since the burial, the body was found floating on mud in a flooded grave.
After being cleansed and reclothed in fresh garments, the body was reverently laid in a wooden coffin and placed in a corner of the private chapel of the monastery.
A strange phenomenon accompanied this exhumation, one that has continued to occur to the present day. From the pores of the body there exuded a liquid described as perspiration and blood, which had the distinct odor of blood. As a result of this transpiration, the blood-stained clothing on the relic was changed twice a week. Small pieces of cloth soaked in this mysterious fluid are distributed as relics and these frequently relieve pain and effect cures.
On July, 1927, after the body of Father Charbel was minutely examined by two physicians of the French Medical Institute at Beirut, it was clothed in sacerdotal garments and was placed in a new coffin covered with zinc. Various documents drawn up by the physicians, the Judge of the Ecclesiastical Commission, the Defender of the Faith, a notary and superiors of the Order, were placed in a zinc tube, which was firmly closed and placed beside the body. Sealed with the Episcopal crest of the Commission, the coffin was placed in a new tomb especially prepared in the wall of an oratory. The coffin was placed on two stones to prevent contact with masonry, the tomb was left undisturbed for twenty-three years.
On February 25 of the Year 1950, pilgrims to the shrine noticed a liquid seeping out from a corner of the tomb and flowing onto the floor of the oratory. The father superior of the monastery, on examining the liquid and fearing damage to the contents of the tomb, had it opened in the presence of the assembled community. The tomb was in position, except that a viscous liquid was seen dripping through a crack in the foot of the casket. This liquid flowed in the direction of the west wall, eventually findings its way into the oratory.
Permission to examine the contents of the sealed casket was obtained, and in the presence of many ecclesiastical authorities, officials of the Order and attending physicians, the seal was broken on April 22, 1950. The body was found completely free of any trace of corruption and was perfectly flexible and lifelike. The sweat of liquid and blood continued to exude from the body, and the garments were found stain with blood., the white content of the fluid having collected on the body in an almost solidified condition. Part of the chasuble had rotten and the zinc tube containing the official document was covered with corrosion.
While the examination of the body was taking place, the monastery and church were thronged with sick and crippled pilgrims who have continued theirs visits in ever increasing numbers. Estimates have been made of the numbers of souls visiting the shrine on various days, and these numbers not less than five thousands each day to approximately ten or fifteen thousands on Sundays and feast days, many people traveling from distinct countries in anticipation of a cure or a favor.
Numerous, well-authenticated miraculous miracles has been performed at the shrine. After the exhumation of 1950, the monastery began keeping records of the miracles and with a two year period has collected over twelve hundred reports.
Two of the cures acknowledged as being miraculous and accepted by Pope Paul VI as the required miracles for the beatification occurred during 1950. The first involved Sr. Marie Abel Kawary, S.S.C.C., who suffered for fourteen years from a gastric ulcer which neither surgery nor medication could cure or relieve. Unable to eat and compelled to stay in bed, she was in such grave condition that she was anointed three times. After fervent prayers at the tomb of St. Charbel, she was completely and spontaneously cured. The doctor who examined the nun after the miraculous cure recorded it as “a supernatural happening which is beyond man’s power to explain.
The second miracle accepted by the Sacred Congregation occurred to Mr. Alessandro Obeid, who was blinded when the retina of his eye was torn when it was struck by the branch of a tree. His sight was miraculously restored at the tomb, and he was privileged to see his heavenly benefactor in a vision. The physician who had treated Mr. Obeid during his blindness and who examined the effects of the miracle attributed the cure to an “Almighty Will which operated only by divine grace. There is no other explanation and it is certain that we have seriously sought an explanation without finding one.”
Probably the most startling and frequented mentioned miracle involved a fifty-year-old seamstress, Miss Mountaha Daher of Bekassin, Lebanon. Since childhood she had been the object of ridicule because of a disfiguring hunchback, which several doctors could not reduce. Her cure was obtained after a visit to the tomb, during which she prayed not for herself, but for certain needy relatives. Her physician testified that he had examined her
many times before the cure and declared that besides the deformity of the huge hump she had other deformities, including a “chicken-beast” and misshapen shoulders. The figure of the woman after the cure was a normal proportion.
The body of St. Charbel – who was solemnly beatified on December 5, 1965, and canonized on October 9, 1977 – is not exposed for veneration, but each year it is examined, and during these exhumations the fluid which constantly exudes from his body is found to have collected in the casket to a depth of about three inches.
All statements of eyewitnesses and reports drawn by examining physicians refer to the body as being lifelike, soft, flexible, of natural color, without the least sign of putrefaction, and having the general appearance of a man only recently deceased..
Christ gives us the relics of saints as health-giving springs through which flow blessings and healing. This should not be doubted. For if at God’s word water gushed from hard rock in the wilderness – yes, and from an ass’s jawbone when Samson was thirsty – why should it seem incredible that healing medicine should distill from the relics of saints? St John Damascene
1216 – 1276
Sperandia’s fervent parents instilled in her tender heart a fervent love of God and even as a young child she was attracted by their excellent example to prayer and the practice of virtue. Later she was inspired to lead a life of extra, penance, and finding the comforts and geniality of her home a hindrance, she left all for the sake of God and retired to the solitude of a cave on a nearby mountain, enduring the hardships thereof for the sake of sinners. After a time she felt compelled to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; the next ten years were spent visiting the holy places there and the shrines throughout Italy and in Rome. During her travels, Sperandia taught the villages through which she passed and exhorted her audiences to the practice of penance. On completing her travels, she applied for admission to the Benedictine convent at Cingoli. The abbess immediately recognized her saintliness and accepted her as a member. After distinguishing herself by the strict observance of charity, penance, and the conscientious practice of the ascetical life she was elected abbess and served in that capacity for many years. Fortified with the prayers of her devoted community, she passed from this world in a most edifying manner, surrounded by the odor of sanctity, which pervaded the whole convent. Shortly after her death, the grateful populace, who had benefited by her prayer and penances, accepted her as the patron saint of the city.
The body of the saint was first examined two years after her death. At that time it was found so perfect, fresh, and beautiful that it was put into a new coffin and enshrined beneath the major altar of the convent church. In 1482 the still remarkably preserved body was examined in the presence of the bishop, and in 1525 it was transferred to the special chapel which had been erected to enshrine her remains. Other examinations took place in 1635, 1768, 1834, ad 1870.*
The body of the Saint was last examined in 1952 when it was found to be still perfectly intact, flexible, and “exhaling a suave fragrance” *2 Although the skin is dry, it has maintained a natural color, with only a slight tendency to darken. The excellent condition and suppleness of the body has existed for over seven centuries and for that reason is reverently esteemed by the devoted pilgrims to the shrine as a “Miracolo Permanentel.”
The incorrupt body of St. Sperandia (d. 1276) is in the Benedictine convent church of Cingoli, Italy. Exhumed eight different times, the last in 1952, it is still incorrupt and exudes a sweet fragrance.
* Un Fiore di Santita Benedettina S. Sperandia, Vergine. D. Gugilemol, Can. Co. Malazampa. Cingoli. Pp. 46-47
*2 Ibid. p. 57
Saint Catherine of Siena
1347 - 1380
Twenty-five children were born Jacomo and Lapa Benincasa, of whom Catherine was the twenty-third and her twin sister, Jane, who died in infancy, was the twenty-fourth. Being very pious and possessing wisdom beyond her years, Catherine made a vow of virginity at a tender age and was favored with a number of visions. During her sixth year, while on an errand with her brother Stephen, she saw a vision of Our Lord near the church of the Friar Preachers in the Valle Piatta. The vision was clothed in pontifical ornaments, a tiara was upon His head, and He was seated upon a throne around which stood St. Peter and St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist. After Stephen succeeded in rousing her from the ecstasy, she cried and said, "O, did you but see what I saw, you would never have disturbed me in such a sweet vision." It was from this time that she seemed to be no longer a child, and her thoughts, her conduct and her virtues were those of one superior to her age. It was shortly after this experience that she determined to join the Order of St. Dominic. Over the vigorous opposition of her mother, she eventually succeeded, at the age of seventeen, in becoming a tertiary in the Third Order of that illustrious company. She remained in the house of her parents dressed in the habit of the Sister of Penance and spent three years in seclusion and contemplation. Later, however, she devoted herself to the active apostolate, caring for the sick, visiting and converting prisoners, distributing alms, and attracting to herself disciples and friends who were later to bear her name.
To be continued.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
1572 - 1641
To be continued