A Catholic Guide to Miracles

She was born blind, without any pupils in her eyes. But at seven years old, through the intercession of her Confessor, Padre Pio, she was then able to see — even without pupils. Her name is Gemma di Giorgio.

On October 13, 1917, as tens of thousands gathered near Fatima in Portugal, a phenomenal occurrence of the sun happened, coinciding with an apparition of Our Lady to three children.

He was once a persecutor of believers, but one day, had an encounter with Jesus that changed the course of his life. He then became the apostle to the Gentiles.

These three stories have one thing in common: they all are miracles. Miracles take on different forms — from signs and wonders in nature, to physical healings, to inner transformations. They supersede the natural realm, and thus are deemed supernatural.

The word “miracle” comes from the Latin word “miraculum,” from “mirari” which means “to wonder.” Miracles are “wonders performed by supernatural power as signs of some special mission or gift and explicitly ascribed to God” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

So what makes something a miracle?

Biblical Scholar John Paul Meier maintains that there are three basic parts that comprise a miracle, namely: 1) It must be an unusual event that can be observed by others; 2) It cannot be explained on a natural level; 3) It appears to be the result of an act of God.

Miracles may come directly through God’s immediate action, or through creatures as means or instruments. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is an example of the former, while St Peter being delivered from prison through the aid of an angel is an example of the latter.

Today, miracles — especially physical healings — help in determining whether someone can be considered for sainthood. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is responsible for this, requiring a verification process where the potential miracle has to be instant, complete and without scientific explanation, as well as attributed to the candidate’s intercession.

They then turn over their findings to the Consulta Medica, a board of doctors who scrutinize the reports. Upon declaration that there is no scientific explanation for the cure, a panel of cardinals and priests will come together to verify whether the healing took place because of the candidate’s intercession. Once proven, the incident is declared a miracle.

More than anything else, miracles are signs of God’s presence. They are not just meant for the individual’s welfare; rather, on a larger scale and greater purpose, they are meant to lead people to salvation.

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