The incorruptibles -Saints bodies that are incorrupt

The incorruptible bodies of the Saints

The incorruptibility of the Saints is a miraculous phenomenon whereby the human body is not subjected to the natural process of decomposition after death, and is suspended from decay either temporarily or permanently through the Divine Will of God. This condition is not dependent upon the manner of burial, the temperature and place of burial or entombment, or any other external influence including embalmment or other preservation methods. There are currently several hundred documented cases of incorruptible persons in the Catholic church, many of which (but certainly not all) are canonized Saints or Blesseds.

A recent case of incorruption in a modern day Saint is perhaps the best example for the reader of these lines, as the circumstances surrounding it were documented using modern methods and tests.

St. Charbel Makhlouf (sometimes spelled Sharbel) was born in 1828 in Biqa-Kafra in the high mountains of Northern Lebanon and was given the name of Joseph by his humble farming parents, and was the youngest of five children. From his early childhood he displayed from a strong attraction to prayer and solitude. Despite the displeasure of his family he left home at the age of 23 to join the Leb¬anese Catholic Maronite Order. He was sent to the Monastery of St. Maroun where he pronounced his Vows in 1853 after two years of novitiate. The name he was given, Charbel, was that of a martyr of the Christian faith who died in AD.121.

Having received a thorough theological education in a seminary of the order, he was ordained a priest on July 23, 1859 and was reassigned to the Monastery of St. Maroun, Lebanon, where he spent the next 16 years as a monk in the practice of monastic virtues. In 1875 he received permission from his superiors to live a solitary life a short distance from the monastery in a hermitage named after Ss. Peter and Paul, which was used by priests during days of quiet personal retreat. In this secluded sanctuary he spent the remaining 23 years of his life in sacrifice and bodily mortifications.

The hermitage cabin was very basic shelter, and his existence there was full of hardships. Additionally, it is recorded by his companions that he wore both a hair shirt and a chain belt. His bed was composed of oak leaves covered with a palliasse; his pillow was merely a piece of wood rolled up in the end of a soutane. His prie-dieu was a cluster of sticks covered in the same way by a piece of a soutane.
St. Charbel was most noted for his extraordinary devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

His daily Mass was celebrated at about 11:00 each morning so that the morning hours could be spent in preparation for the Mass and the rest of the day was spent in thanksgiving. He is known to have performed several miracles during his life. He once saved his brothers from a poisonous snake by ordering it to vanish; he recited his Divine Office by the light of a lamp which a brother purposely filled with water instead of oil; he cured a madman by reciting a prayer while imposing his hands upon him; and once, on the orders of his superiors, he saved their farming lands from a scourge of grasshoppers by sprinkling the fields with holy water.

In 1898, on December 16, while at the Elevation of the Host during Mass, he suffered an apoplectic stroke from which he never recovered. Eight days later, on Christmas Eve, at the age of 70, the saint died, having been a priest for 39 years. According to monastic tradition, the body was not embalmed, but was dressed in a simple cassock and was placed in the monastery chapel for 24 hours. The body was then conveyed to the monks' burial chamber in the presence of his confreres and village folk who had braved the snow and cold to witness the interment.

The burial chamber consisted of a large subterranean room located partially beneath the high altar of the chapel and extending eastward to an area beneath the monastery garden. Those who descended into this chamber found the ground covered with rainwater that converted the floor into a veritable swamp. In view of this situation the body was not laid on the ground as was customary, but was placed on two planks which did not prevent the water and mud from encroaching upon and subsequently submerging it. The entrance to the vault was closed with a great stone.

The villagers who lived in houses facing the monastery saw a great light over the tomb the night following the burial, a phenomenon that recurred for 45 nights. This apparition of light, together with the enthusiasm of the Faithful, encouraged the ecclesiastical authorities to open the tomb and transfer the remains to a grave more accessible to the villagers who wished to pray beside it.

The tomb was subsequently opened on April 15, 1899 in the presence of the community and 10 witnesses who had been present at the burial four months earlier. They were unanimous in testifying that the water had undermined the burial ground, turning the tomb into a quagmire, and that the monk's body was actually floating on the mud.

When the body was cleaned it was found perfectly incorrupt, the muscles supple, with the hair of his head and beard intact. At this time it was also noticed that a serum mixed with blood seeped from the pores. They placed the body in a wooden coffin that was glassed on top, and carried it into a small monastic oratory. From then on, because of the great amount of blood seeping from the body, the clothing of the saint was changed twice weekly. News of the phenomenon prompted ever in-creasing numbers of visitors who for 27 years were permitted to view and touch the body.
Among the men of medicine who examined the body was Dr. Elias Elonaissi who declared on November 16, 1921:

"I observed that the pores emitted a matter like sweat; a strange and inexplicable thing according to the laws of nature, for this body that has been dead for so many years. I have renewed the same examination many times, at different periods; the phenomenon has always been the same."

Another physician, Dr. George Choukrallah, examined the body a total of 24 times during 17 years and declared:

"I have always been astonished at its state of preservation and especially this reddish liquid exuded by it. .. My personal opinion based on study and experience, is that this body is preserved by a supernatural power."

The phenomenon is more astounding when one considers that in 1918, following a simple autopsy, the body was exposed on the terrace during the heat of summer for three months without initiating decomposition nor drying the source of the fluid.

When the authorities of the order petitioned Rome for the beatification, a solemn reburial was conducted. After being dressed in sacerdotal vestments and the monastic hood the body was placed in a new coffin of wood covered with zinc. Various documents were composed by physicians, a notary and superiors of the order, and were placed in a zinc tube which was placed beside the body before the coffin was sealed with the Episcopal crest. Burial was in a new tomb specially prepared in the wall of an oratory.

During February of the Holy Year 1950, pilgrims in the chapel noticed that a watery fluid streamed from a corner of the tomb and coursed its way onto the floor of the chapel. The fluid was traced to a corner of the casket where the liquid was seen dripping through a small crack. Twenty-three years after being placed in this tomb, the body was again examined in the presence of numerous authorities and 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 stained with blood, the white content of the fluid having collected on the body in an almost solidified condition. Part of the chasuble had rotted and the zinc tube containing the official documents was covered with corrosion. The remains were later en-tombed in the same location.

The holy monk was beatified December 6, 1965 and was canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 9,1977, a day on which several miraculous cures took place at the new saint's shrine. Since the 1950 examination and especially since the beatification and canonization the number of pilgrims to the shrine has been so great as to be inestimable.

For 67 years the remains of the saint remained perfectly preserved and exuded a blood fluid described by all accounts as being supernaturally sustained and preserved of any corruption, but the body was found at the time of the beatification in 1965 to have complied with the laws of nature. Only bones were found and these of an inexplicable reddish color and during this time the flow of the fluid had ceased.

Still in existence is the poor stone house of the saint's birth, his hermit's cell which has been turned into a shrine, the altar on which he offered his last Mass, and many small articles such as his chalice, crucifix, crude table utensils and bowls.

Miracles through the intercession of Saint Charbel
Many well-authenticated miracles have been performed at the shrine. After the exhumation of 1950, the monastery began keeping records of the miracles and with in a two-year period had 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. Maria 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 given the Last Rites of the Church three different 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 frequently 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-breast" and misshapen shoulders. The figure of the woman after the cure was of normal proportions.

A Miraculous Star in the East, Charbel Makhlouf”, Paul Daher, Lebanese Maronite Monastery of Annaya-Djebeil, Lebanon, 1952.
-“The Incorruptibles” by Joan Carroll Cruz, 1977, Tan books and publishers.

Saints who raised the dead -People brought back to life through the Saints

Raised From The Dead -Miracle stories of those brought back to life

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus commands His apostles: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:8). Therefore, given Jesus’ command, it is really no wonder then that many of the Saints were given the grace by God to perform extraordinary miracles, even raising the dead back to life. This article will focus on the raising of the dead. Beginning with the Apostles then we read in Acts 9:40 how Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Tabitha is Dorcas in Greek), and in Acts 20:12 we read how St Paul raised Eutychus from the dead.

After the Apostles, the Saints continued to follow Jesus’ command to “heal the sick and raise the dead.” The excellent book “Saints Who Raised The Dead” (Tan Books, Father Alfred J. Hebert S.M., 2004) documents over 400 true stories of resurrection miracles in the lives of the Saints. Some of the many Saints listed in this book are: St. Francis of Paola, Venerable John Baptist Tholomei, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John Capistrano, St. Francis of Paola, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Philip Neri, St. Paul of the Cross, St. John Bosco, Blessed James Salomoni, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, Blessed Constantius of Fabrino, Blessed Sadoc and Companions, Blessed Mark of Modena, Blessed Ceslas, Blessed Augustine of Bugela, Colomb a of Rieti, St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin de Porres, St. Francis Solanus, Marianne de Jesus of Quito, Blessed Sebastian of Apparizio, St. Bernard of Abbeville, St. Stanislaus of Cracow, St. James of Tarentaise, St. Cyril of Constantinople, St. Peregrine, St. Philip Benizi, Bl. Peter Armengol, Blessed Eustachio, St. Gerard Majella, St. Charbel Makhlouf, St. Padre Pio, St. Margaret of Cortona, St. Felix of Cantalice, St. Rose of Viterbo, St. Pacific of San Severino, St. Hyacinth, St. Louis Bertrand, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Francis Regis, St. Andrew Bobola; St. Francis Jerome, Brother Antony Pereyra, and St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, to name just a few. But here we shall focus on just one of the many Saints who raised people from the dead- St Vincent Ferrer.

St Vincent Ferrer and the stories of those he raised from the dead
One of greatest miracle workers-thaumaturges in the history of the Catholic church was the Dominican priest St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419). He moved in the limelight before both ordinary people and the great of the world. He once converted 10,000 Jews at one time by marching right into their synagogue and preaching to them; the Jews turned their synagogue into a Catholic Church.

So great a missionary was St. Vincent Ferrer that he can only be compared to the 12 Apostles. His accomplishments were incredible and rare in the whole history of the Church; his life story contains one amazing story after another, many of these are documented in the book “St Vincent Ferrer –The Angel of the Judgment” by Father Andrew Pradel, O.P.

When St. Vincent Ferrer was 46 years old, suffering from a grievous illness, Our Lord appeared to him, accompanied by St. Francis and St. Dominic; Our Lord said to Vincent, among other things, "Arise, then, and go to preach against vice; for this have I specially chosen thee. Exhort sinners to repentance, for My judgment is at hand." Our Lord told St. Vincent that his preaching before the coming of Antichrist would be for mankind a merciful occasion of repentance and conversion.
During this vision St. Vincent was immediately cured.

Two years later, in 1398, he was given permission to begin his apostolate of preaching. St. Vincent travelled all over western Europe preaching penance, attracting enormous crowds, and followed by thousands of disciples. He converted St. Bernardine of Siena and Blessed Margaret of Savoy. Vincent had the gift of languages; preaching in his Valencion idiom he was understood wherever he went; and in conversation he spoke French, Italian, German or English as fluently as his native tongue.

St. Vincent Ferrer identified himself as "The Angel of the Judgment" and preached as if the end of the world were near. Some would say that since it did not end, Vincent, at least in that respect, failed as a prophet. It would seem there is a simple answer: All such prophecies or predictions by individuals are contingent upon reform and penance. Through Vincent's thunderous words and the results of his preaching, the end of the world was simply delayed again. Many who are informed in the ways of God, of prophecy and reparation, believe this has probably happened more than once in the history of the world. To cite two examples from Holy Scripture: Jerusalem was spared again and again before its final destruction by the Romans and also the city of Ninevah was spared through the conversion of the people due to the preaching of Jonah the prophet.

Some would consider it a conservative estimate that St. Vincent Ferrer converted 25,000 Jews and 8,000 Moors; his total number of conversions was around 200,000 souls- among them Moors, Jews, heretics, and apostate Catholics. At Toulouse he spoke on the Passion for six hours without a break before a crowd of 30,000 at the packed Place St. Etienne. When he cried out, "Arise you dead, and come to Judgment!" the whole crowd fell on their faces begging for mercy.

Learning about the many other wonders of St. Vincent makes it easier to accept the accounts of his death-to-life miracles. The Acta Sanctorum records 873 miracles performed by the saint, but there were actually many more. In 1412 Vincent himself told a crowd, "God has wrought in His mercy, through me a miserable sinner, three thousand miracles." After that Vincent lived seven more years, which was a period of even greater miracles.

The Bollandist hagiographers tell of 70 persons who were delivered from diabolical possession by St. Vincent Ferrer. He had such power over devils that it was often enough for him to touch a possessed person for him to be freed; at other times, a possessed person would be freed from the devil merely upon going to the same place as where Vincent was or even simply when Vincent's name was pronounced.

St. Antonius (Antoninus), Archbishop of Florence, another learned Dominican about 30 years old when Vincent died, stated that St. Vincent had raised 28 persons from the dead. But others claimed that St. Antonius' estimate fell far short of the actual number raised. Perhaps there is some confusion in distinguishing those Vincent personally raised during his life and those raised through his intercession after his death. The author Fr. Andrew Pradel states that St. Vincent Ferrer "resuscitated more than 30 persons during his lifetime."

Near Palma of Majorca St. Vincent Ferrer stilled a storm in order to preach from a wharf. At Beziers he stopped a flood. At the gates of Vannes he cured a great number of the sick. At Guerande he delivered a man possessed by the devil and more dead than alive. In France he had the British victors at Caen praying together with the defeated French for a sick man, who was then cured--and all of them, enemies or not, shouted for joy. At Leride he cured a cripple in the presence of the king.

St. Vincent Ferrer is often pictured with wings. Multitudes of people have witnessed him, in the middle of preaching, suddenly assume wings and fly off to help some suffering person; he would return in the same manner and continue preaching. On some occasions, when St. Vincent was exhausted, he would commission somebody else to go perform miracles instead; the helper would then do so.

Vincent once said to a novice, Alphonso Borgia, "You will become pope and will canonize me." And years later that novice, then Pope Callixtus III, did exactly that. Vincent also told St. Bernardine of Siena that he (Bernardine) would be canonized before himself--and so it happened. Once a mute woman signed to him, and then she spoke, asking for speech and bread. He promised her bread, but took back her speech, saying that she would make ill use of it. He made beautiful an ugly woman who had been beaten by her husband for her looks.

We learn from St Vincent Ferrer that one must never mock the gifts God has given to His saints. As has happened in similar cases, on one occasion a boy pretended to be dead, while his friends snickered. St. Vincent leaned over and shook-a corpse! Vincent said: "He pretended to be dead to amuse you, but evil has come upon him; he is dead!" A cross was erected to commemorate the event. Happenings like that can save many souls by instilling in them a healthy fear of the Lord.

At Pampeluna an innocent man had just been condemned to death. St. Vincent knew of his innocence and pleaded for him, but in vain. As the grim procession led the poor man to the scaffold, they met another procession, that of a man already dead. The corpse was being borne on a stretcher to the burial place. Vincent seemed to have a sudden inspiration. He stopped suddenly and addressed the corpse:

"You no longer have anything to gain by lying. Is this man guilty? Answer me!"

The dead man sat up, then spoke the words: "He is not!"
As the man began to settle down again on his stretcher, Vincent offered to reward him for his service. He gave him the opportunity of remaining alive on earth. But the man re-sponded, "No, Father, for I am assured of salvation." With that he died again as if going to sleep, and they carried his body off to the cemetery.

In another miracle credited to Vincent, the Venerable Father Micon is reported as claiming that a number of witnesses, gathered at Lerida before the Church of St. Jean, saw Vincent encounter a corpse there. With the Sign of the Cross Vincent returned the corpse alive to its feet. The Fathers of the convent at Calabria gave guarantees of this miracle.

In another report a priest judged a child to be dead. The child's whole body was mangled and broken. A vow was made, and the child was restored to life. It is not known for certain whether this is the same child as that in the following miracle.
Fifty years after Vincent's death, young Jean de Zuniga, son of Don Alvar de Zuniga, Duke of Placensia and Arevola, and of his Duchess, Leonor de Pimentel, died at the age of 12. The Duchess' confessor, Jean Lopez de Salamanque, O.P., counseled the noble lady to invoke his fellow Dominican, the newly canonized Vincent Ferrer.

The mother made a vow to build a church and convent in St. Vincent's honor. As soon as she had formulated her vow, the boy came back to life. This boy became the Grand Master of Alcantara, the Archbishop of Seville, and a Cardinal. The Duchess became very devoted to Vincent and fervently desired that his life, virtues, and miracles be written about. When a grand ceremony was held at the newly finished cathedral, the Duke and Duchess presented their son, and the raised boy then understood all about his resuscitation.

On the feast day of St. Vincent Ferrer at that same cathedral, the scheduled preacher became ill and did not appear. But a wonderful, charming, unknown preacher ap¬peared from nowhere-and mysteriously disappeared after giving his sermon. Many believed it was Vincent repaying the honors given him.

There are two different accounts of either the same or very similar miracles. In one account Vincent summoned a dead man on the way to burial to attest that Vincent was the "Angel of the Judgment." In another account, it was a woman who was summoned. (Since Vincent performed a great number of miracles of many kinds, it is possible, even if unlikely, that he performed this action on more than one occasion.)
On an occasion when St. Vincent was preaching to thousands at Salamanca, he suddenly stopped and said: "I am the Angel of the Apocalypse and am preaching Judgment!" Then he directed: "Some of you go near St. Paul's Gate, and you will find a dead person borne on men's shoulders on the way to the grave. Bring the corpse hither, and you shall hear the proof of what I tell you."

The men went on their errand, the multitude waited, and soon the bier was brought with a dead woman upon it. They raised the litter and set it up so all could see. St. Vincent bade her return to life, and the dead woman sat up.
"Who am I?" Vincent asked her.
She answered: "You, Father Vincent, are the Angel of the Apocalypse, as you have already told this vast assembly."

In the case of the woman, after her testimony she died again. In another almost identical account, this time it was a man, Vincent asked him which was his preference, to live or to die again. The man asked to live, and St. Vincent responded, "Then be it so!" The man is reported as having lived for many more years.

Another miracle seems to involve either a Jew or Jewess. (Recall that Vincent converted 25-30,000 Jews. It is reported that at a church in Vera Cruz a host of little white crosses once fell upon the Jews in the congregation.)
There was a rich Jew of Andalusia, named Abraham, who began to leave a church in anger while Vincent was preach-ing. The Jew did not like what he was hearing. As some peo¬ple at the door opposed his passing through, St. Vincent cried out: "Let him go! Come away all of you at once, and leave the passage free!" The people did as he ordered, and at the instant the Jew left, part of the porch structure fell on him and crushed him to death. Then the saint rose from his chair and went to the body. He knelt there in prayer. Abraham came to life, and his first words were: "The religion of the Jews is not the true faith. The True Faith is that of the Christians."

In memory of this event the Jew was baptized Elias (in honor of the prophet who had raised the boy from the dead). The new convert established a pious foundation in the church of the "accident" and the miracle. Bishop Peter Ranzano's account was used for this version of the miracle.

The father of a certain child had given Vincent lodging while he was on a missionary journey. His wife, a virtuous woman, suffered from bad attacks of nerves, and at times was close to madness. Upon his return from hearing one of Vincent's sermons, the father came upon a terrible tragedy. His wife had gone mad, cut their small son's throat, then chopped up the boy's body and roasted a portion of it, which she then attempted to serve her husband.

When he realized what had happened, the man fled in horror and disgust to St. Vincent Ferrer. Vincent told him that-as in the case of the crushed Jew-the tragedy would be for the glory of God. St. Vincent went with the father back to the home and prayed as he gathered the bloody pieces together. He said to the father: "If you have faith, God, who created this little soul from nothing, can bring him back to life."

Vincent knelt and prayed. He made the Sign of the Cross over the reassembled body. The pieces became united together, the body came to life again, and Vincent handed over to the father a living child. This event is depicted in a painting by Francesco del Cossa in the New Picture Gallery in the Vatican.Bishop Ranzano claimed this as one of the miracles submitted in the canonization process for S1. Vincent Ferrer.

Some may be surprised to know that he above miracle is not without some real, though lesser, counterparts. St. Francis of Paola restored a lamb from its mere bones and fleece, and in the palace of the King of Naples he revived an already-cooked fish; also, St. Philip Benizi restored a child partially devoured by a wolf. A similar wonder was worked for a young man who was with his parents in a group of pilgrims on their way to the famous shrine of Santiago (St. James) de Compostella in Spain. They stopped at La Calzada, where the young man was falsely accused and hanged. The poor bereaved parents continued their pilgrimage, and on their return journey were astonished to find their son still alive eight days later. Perhaps it was a reward for their tears and for faithfully continuing on to the shrine in hope, rather than succumbing to rebellion and grief.

But the story goes beyond this wonder. When the lad's mother rushed to tell the magistrate (he was at dinner), the magistrate said, "Woman, you must be mad! I would as soon believe these pullets which I am about to eat are alive as that a man who has been gibbeted for eight days is not dead." At his words the pullets on the dish rose up alive. There was a great procession with the live birds to the shrine of St. James at Compostella. The Bollandists relate this miracle, as do many other authors. And there have been other miracles similar to it in the lives of the Saints.

One should note that none of these miracles were performed for mere sensationalism, which the saints despise. They were worked for various good purposes, especially the conversion of sinners and the strengthening of faith. As St. Vincent told the bereaved father, miracles are worked for the glory of God. This was also stated by Christ at the grave of Lazarus, and to His Apostles. The saints' powers are of course limited by God, to whom all power belongs. Otherwise, with unrestricted powers, the saints could be "as gods."

The hagiographer Henri Gheon relates that Pere Fages, a patient researcher, found and visited the house of the last related miracle of Saint Vincent. He described the room, the placement of the oven, and the lower room, where a part of the child was served at table. The place had not changed since the fifteenth century. A chapel stands there now and two inscriptions, one inside and one out, attest to the truth of the miracle.

St. Vincent Ferrer died at Vannes, Brittany, France in 1419, and the canonical process at Vannes brought to light an incredible number of wonders, including a surprising number of resurrections from the dead. In the French work- “Histoire de St. Vincent Ferrier” by Pere Fages, O.P., there are a number of accounts of the dead raised through St. Vincent. Additionally, St. Antonius, O.P., a contemporary of Vincent, said he raised 28 from the dead, however others claimed this count fell far short of the real number. Irregardless the fact remains that St Vincent Ferrer brought back to life at least two dozen people, all for the greater glory of God and the conversion of sinners.

-St Vincent Ferrer, pray for us!

Primary Sources:
-“Saints Who Raised The Dead”, by Father Alfred J. Hebert S.M., Tan Books, 2004- (Originally published by Tan Books in 1986 under the title “Raised From The Dead”)
-“St Vincent Ferrer –The Angel of the Judgment” by Father Andrew Pradel, O.P., Tan Books.

S.A.G. St Anthony Guide -Miraculous letter deliveries

Miraculous mail deliveries in the lives of the Saints

S.A.G. (St. Anthony Guide) -The miracle letter deliveries of St Anthony of Padua

It has become a popular practice for people to write "S.A.G." on their envelopes prior to posting them in the mail. The letters stand for "St Anthony Guide" because of the miraculous story below.

During his lifetime, God was pleased to work countless miracles in the life of the Franciscan Priest St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) and his reputation for sanctity was universally acclaimed. So in a sense it is not surprising then that immediately after the death of St. Anthony the miracles worked at his tomb were so prodigious that the Bishop of Padua petitioned the Vatican for his canonization. A judicial inquiry was instituted without delay, and by an exception regarded as unparalleled in history, on May 30, 1232 Pope Gregory IX, solemnly pronounced the decree of canonization, only eleven months after Anthony's death. His mother and two sisters who survived him had the extraordinary and extremely rare privilege of witnessing the canonization ceremony and joining in the festivities that followed the announcement. Those familiar with the canonisation process know that such a speedy canonization is unheard of in the Catholic Church, as the normal process requires much study into the life of the proposed Saint, and as such they are normally canonised decades and quite often centuries after their deaths. Such was the remarkable holiness of St Anthony.

The origin of the initials "S.A.G." and why they are often marked on envelopes is this:

A Spanish merchant named Antonio Dante left Spain for South America in 1729 to establish a business in Lima, Peru. His wife, who remained in Spain, wrote a number of letters to him without receiving a reply. After many months full of worry and with the utmost faith and simplicity, she brought a letter with her to the Church of St. Francis at Oviedo. [St Francis and St Anthony were close friends and companions during their lifetime.]

In the church there was a large statue of St. Anthony, and she placed a letter to her husband into his outstretched hand and prayed the following prayer with confidence, asking for his heavenly intercession:
"St. Anthony, I pray to thee; let this letter reach him and obtain for me a speedy reply."

The next day she returned to the church and saw that her letter was still there. Weeping in frustration that her letter had not been delivered, she attracted the attention of the Brother sacristan who listened to her story. Afterward, he told her that he had tried to remove the letter but could not, and he asked the lady if she would try to remove it. She tried, and she did so with ease.

The letter she retieved from the hand of the statue of St Anthony was not the one that she placed there the day before; it was a letter from her husband. As she removed the letter from his hand, three hundred golden coins fell from the sleeve of the statue.

Astonished, a number of the friars were called and ran to the scene and waited while the miraculous letter was opened. The letter was dated July 23, 1729 and read:

"My dearest wife. For some time I have been expecting a letter from you, and I have been greatly troubled and concerned at not hearing from you. But at last your letter has come, and given me joy. It was a Father of the Order of St. Francis who brought it to me. You complain that I have left your letters unanswered. I assure you that when I did not receive any from you I believed you must be dead, and so you may imagine my happiness at the arrival of your letter. I answer you now by the same religious Father, and send you three hundred golden crowns [coins], which should suffice for your support until my approaching return.

In the hope of soon being with you, I pray God for you, and I commend myself to my dear patron St. Anthony, and ardently desire that you may continue to send me tidings of yourself.
Your most affectionate,
Antonio Dante"

The original letter, written in Spanish, is affectionately kept and preserved at the Franciscan Monastery in Oviedo. In memory of this event, the practice of writing S.A.G. (St. Anthony Guide) on letters has became popular, thereby placing the letters under the protection of St Anthony whom they trust will get the letter safely to its proper destination.

The Angelic Letter Deliveries in the Life of St. Gemma Galgani
Another more recent case of miraculous mail deliveries occured in the extraordinary life of the 20th century stigmatic and mystic Saint Gemma Galgani (1878-1903).

In the "Life of St Gemma Galgani" written by her spiritual director, Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo, a few years after her death we read how the extraordinary mystic was on such familiar terms with her Guardian Angel that she sometimes entrusted her letters to him for safe delivery:

"One day, with the most charming simplicity, she prayed to her spiritual director's angel to take the letter she had written to him. Being familiar with the angel, she had no doubt as to the result. Already living dependent on the charity of the Giannini family [whom she was living with], she did not like to make additional requests in asking for stamps. She did not always proceed in this extraordinary manner, thus her recourse to the angel was not continual, yet not a single one of all the letters that she thus committed to him was lost."

In light of these extraordinary Angelic deliveries, her director, Ven Father Germanus C.P., wanted to conduct a "test" and so he instructed Gemma to give the letters she wanted to send him by the Angel to Cecilia Giannini, who was told to lock them in a place unknown to Gemma. Gemma lived in Lucca, Italy while her spiritual director lived several hundred miles away in Rome.

And so on June 11, 1901 Gemma wrote a letter to her spiritual director seeking guidance on some spiritual matters, as she often did. She then gave a letter to Cecilia, (as previously requested by her spiritual director), who in turn gave it to Father Lorenzo Agrimonti, who was a priest living at that time with the Giannini family. Father Lorenzo immediately locked it in a chest in his own room and put the key in his pocket.

During the afternoon of the next day, Gemma saw in a vision the Angel passing by with her letter on his way to Rome to deliver it to Ven. Father Germanus, and so Cecilia immediately notified Father Lorenzo. They found that the letter had, in fact, disappeared from its secret location, and to their greater amazement they later discovered that the letter was received, as usual, by her spiritual director, unstamped of course.

To prove the matter yet another time, the same experiment was undertaken--a letter of Gemma's to her director was once again handed over to Father Lorenzo. He secretly hid the envelope between two pictures, one of St. Gabriel Possenti and the other of St. Paul of the Cross. This took place on May 22, 1901. The next day Gemma announced that her Angel had taken away the letter and the delivery of which was once again confirmed by her spiritual director, to the utter amazement of everyone involved. It is no wonder then that Ven. Father Germanus in his book on the life of St Gemma calls them "angelic letters".

And about Gemma and her guardian Angel, her spiritual director Ven. Father Gemanus writes- "Gemma, seeing the great charity her angel lavished upon her, loved her angel immensely, and his name was always on her tongue as well as in her heart.
‘Dear Angel’ she would say ‘I love you so!’
‘And why’ the Angel asked.
‘Because you teach me how to be good, and to keep humble, and to please Jesus'."

More details of the Angelic letter deliveries in the life of St Gemma Galgani can be found here.

Miraculous cures in the lives of the Saints

Miraculous healings and cures in the lives of the Saints The lives of the Saints are full of extraordinary cures—- because after all, in St John's Gospel our Lord promised “Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" The task then for this website is to select a few of miraculous healings that are representative of the countless that have occurred in the lives of the Saints over the centuries. I have decided to select three miracles that occurred recently in modern times, the first one especially being well documented by the medical experts. I think these three miracles together give a good representation of the countless miraculous cures that God has wrought in the lives of the Saints. The Miraculous Cure of Giovanni Savino Giovanni Savino, a construction worker and a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, was a devoted spiritual son of Padre Pio. In February, 1949 the thirty-five-year-old construction worker was working on the construction of an addition to the friary where St Padre Pio lived. The workers were leveling the ground and were getting ready to blast a huge boulder that was impeding the construction. It was Savino's custom to attend Padre Pio's Mass each morning, then proceed to the sacristy to receive his blessing. On February 12, 1949, Giovanni was startled when, without any explanation, Pio, having blessed him, embraced him and said, "Courage, Giovanni, I'm praying to the Lord that you might not be killed. " "Padre Pio, what's going to happen to me?" Savino asked. The priest was silent. The next day Padre Pio said the same thing, without any further comment, as he did also on the third. When he repeated his disturbing remarks for the fourth time on February 15, Savino muttered to one of the friars, "I'm afraid something wrong is going to happen today," and told other members of his crew, "Let's not work today," telling the other men about Padre Pio's remarks. The crew decided to proceed, undeterred, in blasting away from the garden in preparation for the friary addition.. At 2 P.M. Savino and another worker placed a charge of dynamite under a boulder. Savino set the charge and lit the fuse. It failed to detonate. After a few minutes, he went over to check the charge. Just as he bent over, the dynamite blew up in his face. Dr. Sanguinetti, along with Padre Raffaele and Father Dominic, were at the side of the injured man within minutes. They carried Savino to Sanguinetti's car, in which the physician drove him to the Ospedali Riuniti (Hospital) of Foggia, where he was admitted for surgery. "Numerous foreign bodies" were removed from the cornea of the left eye. The right eye, however, was found to be completely destroyed. Moreover, his face had been severely damaged by the blast. Sanguinetti drove back to San Giovanni where he told Rosa, who was then heavily pregnant, "Your husband's eyes are both destroyed," and warned her not to try to visit him. He then went to Padre Pio, who asked how Giovanni was, "He's been blinded. He's lost his eyesight." "Don't you know that this isn't certain yet?" replied Padre Pio. "Well, if you say that and you and Our Lady of Grace assist him, anything is possible, but, as of now, Giovanni has lost his eyesight." "It's not certain yet," Pio repeated. It was three days before Savino regained consciousness, with his entire head and face bandaged. He was told that it might be possible to save the left eye, but that the right eye was "completely gone." In the meantime, Padre Pio was asking everyone he knew to pray for Giovanni for three days. He exposed the Blessed Sacrament in behalf of the blinded man. He was heard to pray, "Lord, I offer You one of my eyes for Giovanni, because he's the father of a family." At 12:30 or 1 in the morning of February 25, Giovanni Savino was awake, praying the Rosary, when he smelled the "aroma of paradise." To the heavy smoker, it smelled like tobacco. He felt three slaps on his forehead and understood that it was Padre Pio near him. He actually felt the tightness of the bedclothes caused by someone standing against the bed. "Give me my sight, Padre Pio, or let me die," he said. "I cannot live like this." Later that morning the ophthalmologist came to examine Giovanni Savino's left eye. When the doctor took the bandages off Giovanni immediately said "I can see you!" "Turn, so you can see me with your left eye," said the doctor. "No, I see you with my right eye. I don’t see anything out of my left eye." The doctor insisted that he was seeing out of the left eye, as the right one was totally destroyed. After further examination, it was clear that Savino spoke the truth. He was blind in the eye from which the shrapnel had been removed, but he was seeing perfectly from the eye that had been shattered to a bloody jelly. Completely astounded, the ophthalmologist, who up to that time had been an atheist, exclaimed, "Now I too believe, because this has happened right before me." In the meantime, Giovanni and his wife Rosa's was expecting a baby at any time. Rosa asked Padre Pio, who told her that the child would be a boy, if she had permission to name the child after him. "All right, name him Pio," he said. "But we already have a girl named Pia. May we name him Francesco?" "All right, name him Francesco." St Pio replied. [Francesco is Padre Pio’s first name]. Francesco later grew up to become a Capuchin priest, the same Religious Order as St Pio.. [Giovanni and his son Francesco are pictured to the left]Giovanni, who was still being treated for the extensive injuries to his face, was released from the hospital in early June. When he thanked Padre Pio, he was told, "If you only knew what this cost me!" So, what exactly did it cost him? A clue may come from the recollections of Pietro Cugino, himself blind, who recalled that one day, in the garden, while talking to his confreres, Padre Pio suddenly exclaimed, "I'm blind. I can't see a thing." After twenty minutes, his eyesight returned. Cugino was unsure about the exact date of this occurrence, but some believe it certainly could have been that this brief and inexplicable episode of blindness came about as a result of the offering Padre Pio had made on behalf of Giovanni Savino. Either way, in this case, St Pio did not deny his intercession on behalf of Francesco as he did with other supposed cures or supernatural happenings that surrounded him. As time went on Giovanni was sent to an eye specialist in Rome for treatments to the left eye, in spite of St Padre Pio's prediction that these visits would do no good. . "No," Padre Pio said, "we have already obtained the grace which we have asked for. Even if you go to Rome you will not get any better than you are right now." And in fact, he remained always blind in the left eye, but until the day of his death at sixty in the spring of 1974, he could see perfectly well out of the right eye. His wife recalled, "To look at his eye, it always looked a mess. Yet he could see perfectly out of it." The restoration of the sight of Giovanni Savino is well documented by the Medical experts for it has impressive attestation. Father Dominic described it in a circular letter in July 1949 month after Savino's return from his hospitalization in Foggia. The records of the “Ospedali Riuniti” record that Savino was admitted to surgery there and that the diagnosis was that one eye had "numerous foreign bodies in the cornea" and that the other eye was "blown out." The records do not mention the resolution of his injuries. The key words in the “Ospedali Riuniti” is “emoptalmo” which means completely evulsed or literally “completely torn out”. But then how in fact did he see out of this eye, when it was completely or almost completely “blown out”? Additionally, the account that he gave is essentially the same as that given in official depositions made by Giovanni on July 17, 1971, and by his widow on July 1, 1989. It is clear that the eye through which Savino was able to see was the one which had been damaged most extensively. All the reports are in agreement that the right eye (the one later cured) was destroyed and almost completely missing. In his circular letter of July 1949, Father Dominic quotes Padre Raffaele, who examined Savino immediately after the explosion, as saying, ''The right eye is gone entirely. The socket is simply empty." Savino himself said that he was told by the doctors that the eye was "completely gone." Giovanni’s wife Rosa insisted that "a small amount of bloody flesh" remained in the socket when Savino was taken to the hospital. She denies that her husband received a "new" eye. "It was always with his own eye that he saw. It was a mess, but he could see out of it." Finally the official medical report from the Hospital states “emoptalmo”, that is, completely evulsed or “torn out” In the end, one can only conclude that rather than seeing with a new or regenerated eye, Giovanni Savino saw without eyes for 22 years, until his death in 1971. The miraculous cure of a paraplegic named Francesco Santarello Another of the many miracles attributed to the intercession of St Pio was one that was reported during the summer of 1919, word of which reached the general public and the newspapers, despite the best efforts of Padre Benedetto and Padre Paolino who always sought to keep such matters hidden. One of them, witnessed by Padre Paolino, concerned one of San Giovanni Rotondo's most unfortunate persons, an old man named Francesco Santarello. He was so pathetically clubfooted that he was unable to walk. Instead, he dragged himself about on his knees, supported by a pair of miniature crutches. The unfortunate little man labored up the hill to the friary to beg bread and soup, as he had done for years. Poor Santarello was a fixture in the community and everyone knew him. Some of the more uncharitable children of the town loved to tease the unhappy beggar, going so far at times as to knock the crutches from under his shoulders and then laugh uncontrollably as he tumbled onto the pavement. One day Santarello was positioned, as usual, near the door of the cloister, soliciting alms. A huge crowd had gathered, waiting for Padre Pio to emerge and enter the church. As Pio passed by, Santarello cried out, "Padre Pio, give me a blessing!" Without stopping, Pio looked at him and said, ''Throwaway your crutches!" Stunned, Santarello did not move. This time Padre Pio stopped and shouted, "I said, 'Throwaway your crutches!' " Then, without another word, Pio entered the church to say Mass. In front of dozens of people, Santarello threw his crutches away, and for the first time in his life, began to walk on his deformed feet to the utter astonishment of his fellow townspeople, who but a few minutes before had seen him lurching about, as always, on his knees. Santarello lived for some time after that. He never used his crutches again and was able to function quite well with the aid of a cane. Miscio and other city clergy contended that it was not truly a miracle because there was no substantial change in Santarello's physical condition. His feet remained just as badly clubbed as ever, with the toes pointed in the same direction as the heels, and there was no apparent remission of his mental retardation. Yet, for the little beggar and his acquaintances, that he could now walk rather than crawl was miracle enough. A conversion and a cure One day, also in 1919, a priest from Florence came to Our Lady of Grace with a Jewish friend named Lello Pegna. Padre Carlo Naldi explained that his friend, who had recently become totally blind, had come to ask Padre Pio to intercede with God for a cure. Padre Paolino, who was an eyewitness, simply left a few notes about the incident. There was no doubt that Pegna was blind and was of the Jewish faith. Someone had even to help him eat, putting his plate in front of him, cutting his bread and meat, and placing the glass of wine in his hand. Padre Pio welcomed Pegna but told him: "The Lord will not grant you the grace of physical sight unless you first receive sight for your soul. After you are baptized, then the Lord will give you your sight." Several months later Pegna returned, this time without his dark glasses. He then explained that he had, despite opposition from his family, become a Christian and had been baptized, as was requested by St Pio. At first he was discouraged when his blindness persisted. It was perhaps another test of faith. But gradually, over a period of months, his sight returned, and the doctor who had previously informed him that he was hopelessly blind now was astounded that his patient’s eyes were perfectly healed. Padre Paolino felt it was his duty to keep in touch with the man and he reported that nearly thirty years later, his vision was still perfect. The above are but three of the many cures of one Saint of the Church, and because they are all of relatively recent history, they represent quite well the extraordinary graces that God has manifested in the lives of His devoted servants throughout the centuries. Bibliography: -"Padre Pio The True Story" by C. Bernard Ruffin, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1991. -St. Padre Pio Devotions,

Miracle of the Eucharist -Total fast from food in the lives of the Saints

The Eucharist Alone –Complete fast from food in the lives of the Saints

"You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls." -Jesus to Blessed Alexandrina

Blessed Alexandrina da Costa and her complete abstinence from food --A living miracle of the Eucharist
"For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." (John 6:55-56)
Bl. Alexandrina da Costa (1904-1955) was a mystic and victim soul who lived in Balasar, Portugal. On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, her sister Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground.

Her injuries were numerous, and the doctors diagnosed her condition as "irreversible": it was predicted the partial paralysis that she suffered would only get worse.

Until age nineteen Alexandrina was still able to "drag herself" to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement and edification of her fellow parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening however, she was eventually forced to remain in bed, and from April 14, 1925 until her death – that is approximately 30 years - she would remain bedridden and completely paralyzed.

While bedridden she began to receive extraordinary mystical graces, and she was eventually called to be a victim soul, that is, to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners. Thus on Thursday nights into Friday afternoon, the Passion of Jesus was mystically re-lived each week in and through her, for the conversion of souls.

On March 27, 1942 in a blaze of agony and adoring love, Alexandrina cried out to Jesus in the tabernacle of the nearby church, "Oh my Eucharistic Love, I cannot live without you! Oh Jesus, transform me into your Eucharist! Mother, my dearest Mother, I wish to be of Jesus, I wish to be entirely yours!"
And deep within her soul she heard Jesus’ profound reply:

"You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your blood will be my Divine Blood, your life will be my Life. You receive it from me when I unite my Heart to your heart. Do not fear, my daughter. You will not be crucified any more as in the past .... And now a new trial awaits you, which will be the most painful of all. But in the end I will carry you to Heaven and the Holy Mother will accompany you."

Thus on March 27, 1942 Alexandrina began an absolute fast which was to last more than thirteen years until her death, her sole nourishment being Holy Communion which she received with deep devotion every morning. Initially she would vomit any food that she attempted to eat, and since she herself did not understand the grace at first, she like others thought her end was near, because obviously one cannot normally live without food for very long, and this cause her to cry out:

“Oh Jesus, my love, do not abandon the one who loves you so much! Oh days which never end! Oh Heaven which never approaches!" Turning to her relatives she groaned, "When you hear the bells sound for my death, go down on your knees, pray and thank Jesus and Our Lady for coming to take me."

Initially, her desire for food and drink was very strong On 24 May, feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, after almost two months of absolute fasting "with a burning thirst and a longing for food", Alexandrina cried out in anguish, "I sigh, I die, I long to satisfy my soul with the food of Paradise!"

As the months passed, news of Alexandrina's fast spread far and wide. Crowds of pilgrims began to visit her, asking for her prayers. Their endless visits wore her out and increased her suffering, but united with Jesus on her bed of pain she promised to remember everyone in her prayers. Of this period she wrote later:
“Day by day, moment by moment, my life became more and more painful. On the one hand, obedience obliges me to live hidden and to receive people in such a way as to be soon forgotten. Oh my God, if I had my will that is how I would live. But what deceit! The more I want to be hidden, the more they make me known. Visitors arrive from everywhere - what torment for me!”

One afternoon, a number of distinguished looking men entered her sickroom to investigate reports of Alexandrina's total fast. She relates the event as follows:
“At half past two in the afternoon, five men entered the room. At once I had a presentiment that one of them was a doctor. They began to question me. For some reason, I found my attention drawn to one of them and after they had gone, I knew instinctively that he was a doctor. I answered their questions calmly and firmly, for truth has only one reply. When they asked me incredulously if it was true that I ate and drank nothing, not knowing whether they were believers or not, I answered:
‘I receive Holy Communion every day.’ They remained silent and non-committal for a while and shortly after¬wards they respectfully withdrew.”

Not everyone, however, treated Alexandrina with the same courtesy. Doubts and suspicions about her fast circulated; some openly accused her sister Deolinda and her mother of perpetrating a monstrous fraud. These accusations, and the lack of charity by people who knew not the facts caused much sorrow for Alexandrina and her family. Finally, her friends appealed to the medical authorities to intervene and establish the authenticity of the prodigy once and for all.

Her complete fast is put to the test- The medical certification and confirmation
Alexandrina vividly describes all that followed. She wrote on 27 May 1943: "In order to satisfy the desires and the will of the Archbishop, I subjected myself once more to a medical examination. When they told me about this, a new suffering took possession of my spirit, but seeing in everything the holy Will of God, I accepted, as always through obedience. When they told me the day on which the doctors would come, I prayed with great fervour to Our Lady to give me the necessary composure to bear every¬thing with courage and resignation for Jesus and for souls.

Alexandrina's own words -Excerpts from her diary
"On the appointed day, the doctor in attendance came to our house with Dr Enrico Gomes di Araujo and Dr Carlo Lima. Fortunately I was calm and serene; God had heard my prayer. One of the doctors asked me if I suffered much and for whom I offered my sufferings. He also asked whether I suffered willingly and if I would be happy if God released me from my sorrows. I replied that, in truth, I suffered much and that I offered everything for the love of God and for the conversion of sinners.

"Then they asked me what was my greatest aspiration and I answered, 'It is Heaven.'
They then enquired if I wanted to be a saint like St Teresa or St Clare and to arrive in Heaven leaving behind a name famous throughout the world. 'I am not in the least interested in that', I replied. They then asked, 'If it were necessary to lose your soul to save sinners, what would you do?' I answered, 'I trust that I would also be saved, but if I had to lose my soul I would say no, because God would never ask such a thing.'

"'Why do you not eat?' they then asked. And I replied, 'I do not eat because I cannot. I feel full. I do not need it. However, I have a longing for food.'
"The doctors then began the examination which I bore with good disposition. At the end, seeing that I was in no condition to make a journey, they decided to call two nuns to verify the truth of my fast. After they left, I remained waiting for their decision. On June 4, my confessor came to give me Communion, accompanied by my doctor, who afterwards explained that I was being given the opportunity to enter a hospital in Oporto to have the fast medically certified. I would be isolated for a month and under constant observation. I immediately said 'No' - but at once I was sorry, thinking of the obedience lowed the Arch¬bishop and the difficult situation of my spiritual director, my doctor and my relatives and friends. So I accepted the proposal, subject to three conditions - I would be able to receive Holy Communion every day, I would be accompanied by my sister, and I would not be subjected to any more medical examinations because I was only entering the hospital for observation.

"By June 10, all was ready for my journey to the hospital of Foce del Duro in Oporto. My grief was great, but I had such faith in Jesus that I felt he would, if necessary, send his angels to help me. When my doctor arrived, he hesitated for some while, as if loath to tell me I had to leave. Finally 1 managed to say, 'Let's go, doctor. He who does not leave does not return!'

"I embraced my family and friends and only Jesus knew the sorrow it cost me to separate myself from them. I looked only into his Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and implored them to give me courage and strength to bear this new affliction. As they levered my stretcher downstairs I murmured to my weeping family, 'Courage! All for Jesus and for souls!' I was unable to say more. There was such a tightening of my heart that I felt it would be impossible to keep back the tears. Over a hundred people were surrounding the ambulance.
I saw tears in the eyes of almost all. The sorrow I felt then was indescribable. My heart was beating with such violence that it seemed about to burst my ribs. Inwardly I prayed, 'Accept these throbbings, my dear Jesus, for your love and for the salvation of souls.'

"The journey was difficult; it seemed to me that my heart would not hold out [the road was very bumpy and difficult –ed] Every now and then, I looked at my sister and saw how desolate she was. By the grace of God, I was able to keep the smile on my lips. But the constant shaking of the ambulance was sheer torture and I prayed repeatedly, 'All for your love, my dear Jesus, and may the darkening of my spirit serve to give light to other spirits.'

"When we arrived at Matozinhos, the doctor raised the curtains so that I could look at the sea. An enormous silence filled my spirit, and observing the continuous movement of the waves, I asked Jesus to let my love beat like them without interruption."

"After a long while we reached the hospital, but before they withdrew me from the ambulance, my face was covered with a cloth so that no one would recognise me. Going up the stairs was a martyrdom as they carried me up head down. When they reached a small room, my face was uncovered and I found myself surrounded by doctors and nurses. I was dismayed to discover that Deolinda had been allocated an adjoining room, contrary to what I had asked for. I did not know how I could manage without her experienced help and constant words of encouragement. Dr Araujo then arrived and began to give instructions to the nurses and assistants.

"After he had gone, my own doctor remained for some while and two nurses charged with watching all my movements took up their station by my bed. When Dr Azevedo finally left that evening, I could not restrain my tears any longer. For a long time I wept, offering my tears and grief to Jesus. On seeing me so desolate, the nurses permitted Deolinda to remain near me that night, together with another nurse who learned from her the correct way of turning me.

"The following day, a Friday, I began my true Calvary in that place. I had an ecstasy in the morning (1 have one every Friday), and the doctors and nurses gathered round my bed. Dr Azevedo was there and after writing the words of the ecstasy he passed them round for the other doctors to read. Nothing escaped their watchful gaze, not even the most insignificant detail which was commented on at once ....Dr Araujo was very strict, even to the point of harshness. He sternly forbade any nurse to question me in the slightest way. When one of the nurses tried to comfort Deolinda, who was weeping because of my condition, Dr Araujo immediately dismissed her and forbade her to enter my room again.

"During the night of Friday to Saturday, I had a great crisis of vomiting which made me suffer severely and which was made worse by the absence of my sister who knew how to sustain me. Dr Araujo arrived in the morning, but my prostration was such that I did not hear him knock at the door. I heard him whisper to one of the nurses by my bed, 'It is all over with her.'

"At these words, I opened my eyes and said, 'Doctor, I have had these crises at home.' He replied curtly, 'Miss, don't think that you have come here to fast.' I understood what he meant and felt deeply wounded.

"When he was informed of the ecstasy of the previous day, he asked for the notes of it and having read them, commented, 'It seems impossible that Dr Azevedo, so intelligent, lets himself be deceived by these things. It is necessary to make an end of this nonsense. From now on, take away all the clocks so that the sick woman will be ignorant of the time.' (As if the Lord had need of clocks')

"Dr Araujo then tried to treat me with medication, but I would not consent. Several times the nurse came near me, convinced that I was dead. For five days I underwent a continuous agony, more in the spirit than in the body, because in those crises, they never permitted Deolinda to come near me, while at home two people were frequently necessary to sustain me. All were persuaded that the crises were due to a lack of nourishment and they kept me isolated, convinced that I would ultimately be compelled to ask for food, or else die of starvation. How they deceived themselves! They did Bot know that nourishment came to me from the Sacred Host which I received every day.

"When Dr Azevedo returned and learnt of the attempts to make me take medicine and nourishment, he said to the hospital staff, 'This sick woman has only come so that the reality of her fast and the normality of her mental faculties can be ascertained - nothing more. I trust that Dr Araujo will abide by these terms. I do not permit anyone to give her injections or medication, unless she specifically requests them, or I consent to it. You will see that after each crisis she has, the dark rings under her eyes disappear, her colour returns and her pulse becomes normal.' He paused and then added, pointedly, 'I can assure you of one thing: without nourishment, you would die, I would die, but the sick woman here will not die.'

"His kind words on my behalf did much to rally my flagging spirits. Five days later, the vomiting stopped com¬pletely, the colour reappeared on my face and my pulse became normal.

"The strict surveillance by relays of doctors and nurses continued. Never for one moment was I left alone. The door of my room opened only to admit doctors and nurses. The improvement in my condition failed to convince any of them. They said it was impossible to live without nourishment and they tried to intimidate me, using soothing, persuasive tones to induce me to take food. But all their efforts were in vain. On one occasion I heard them affirm that my case could be one of hysteria, or a phenomenon still unknown to medical science.

"Dr Araujo visited me several times each day, occasionally taking me by surprise at night, as if to discover some¬thing .... Even if I live until the end of the world, I will never forget the apprehension I felt whenever he opened the door, and my anxious suspense of waiting for his words. So many times I prayed, 'May this night serve to give light to him, to the people who surround me and to all the souls who find themselves in darkness.'

"During his frequent interrogations of me, he tried in every possible way to persuade me to take food and end the fast. A nurse even tried, on many occasions, to take away my Faith. She used interminable arguments to discourage me and to convince me that what was happening to me was not the work of God. Once Dr Araujo said to me with a malicious expression, 'You convince yourself, Miss, that God does not want you to suffer. If you wish to save souls, he can save them himself if it is true that he has the power to do so.' At other times when he questioned me, I seemed to see in front of me a wolf in sheep's clothing. I had the impression of seeing Satan himself trying to destroy my Faith and convince me that my immolation for souls was all an illusion.

"On one occasion I replied to him, 'The things of God are so great, so great, and we are so small, so small. At least, I am, doctor.' He stiffened and then said scornfully, 'You are right, but I am far greater than you - and by how much!' So saying, he took himself off.

"How far Dr Araujo was from comprehending this law of love for souls! If he knew the value of a soul, he would realise that everything is too small to save it. My stay in the hospital was a constant rain of humiliation and sacrifice. Oh, if I had known how to suffer for Jesus! To this end, I tumed to little Jacinta of Fatima whose picture I keep at the foot of my bed, and said to her, 'Dear Jacinta, you who were so small have proved all this. You know how hard it is.' Only through prayer and the prayers of many good souls was I able to gain the strength to climb this sorrowful Calvary with such a heavy cross.

"One day, Dr Araujo sat down by my bed and tried to convince me that I was a victim of delusion. He began with an involved discourse on medicine and spoke of one of his professors to whom he had presented a long work, pains-takingly put together during many days and nights of study. The professor read the work and asked him if he was certain that it was accurate. The doctor replied 'yes' and cited the arguments supporting his case. As the conversation lengthened, I looked at him, pretending that I did not understand, but thinking, 'You go so far to fall so near?' Meanwhile, the doctor continued, 'I was convinced that I had done a good job, but the professor let me finish and then, with a few deft strokes, briefly demolished my case. My breath was taken away. I felt humiliated over so many lost hours and the realisation that my long study had collapsed in a few seconds.' I had already guessed what was coming and replied, smiling, 'But my case does not fall, doctor. A very good and wise man follows me and has studied me for years. [Dr Azevedo.] If the work is of God, there is nothing that can make it collapse.' Dr Araujo seemed rather embarrassed and said, 'We will see,' and retired in a hurry.

"On the 17th and then on the 30th day of my stay at the hospital, my mother came to see me. I had such a desire to see her! But she stayed only a very short time and always under the watchful eye of the nurses who were keeping me under continual surveillance. When my mother wept, I had to smile and joke to conceal my sorrow.

"The difficult days passed with the endless changing of nurses under the directions of the doctor. With some, who went beyond the limits of their duties and their rights, I suffered more than with others. After some weeks, the doctor began to allow me a little freedom and permitted my sister to spend some time near me, though without giving her permission to touch me. On the 21st day, he allowed the nuns of the hospital to make a brief visit to me.

"While Deolinda and I were beginning to think of letting the family know of our approaching return to Balasar, an unexpected obstacle arose. One of the nurses charged with my surveillance had spoken of my case to a physician named Dr Alvaro. Not knowing anything about me, he expressed his immediate disbelief and affirmed that the nurses who were watching me must have been deceived. He added that he would only believe in my fast if it were testified to him by a nurse of his faith.

"Dr Araujo was indignant because it put the seriousness of his study in doubt. He invited Dr Alvaro to send a nurse of his own choice and the latter selected one of his sisters. I was therefore asked to remain in the hospital for an additional period of observation.

"The new test lasted ten days - and with what suspicion! When my sister, with Dr Alvaro's permission, entered my room every evening to turn me, the new nurse lit the light and stood beside her. As soon as Deolinda left, the nurse made a rigorous check to ascertain if Deolinda had con¬cealed something under the sheets.

"Nor did they lack subterfuges to induce me to eat something which the assistant nurse always had with her. When she showed me some tasty morsels, I smiled without saying anything and when she offered them to me, I thanked her and still smiling, pretended not to understand her. Frequently, all my linen was taken away to be inspected. The nurse who assisted me during those last ten days became convinced of the reality of my fast and afterwards visited my home where she greeted me like a dear friend.

"On 19 July 1943, the eve of my discharge, all the children of the hospital passed around my bed and I prayed with them. Later more than 1,500 people came and the authorities had to call the police to maintain order. One policeman limited himself to standing by my bed and saying continually to the crowd who pressed around, 'Pass along, pass along.' The doctor had to literally implore the crowd that pressed round the entrance to the hospital and in my room to move back so that I would not be suffocated. I remained humiliated, exhausted and full of self-contempt for the tears of the visitors and for the many kisses I received which I did not merit and did not want.

"On the morning of my departure, Dr Araujo rose early than usual and told me that he had been unable to sleep that night due to the responsibility weighing on him. When he arrived at the hospital, a crowd awaited him. After spending a short while with me, he permitted some people to enter the hospital and only then did he tell us that we were free and that the 'observation' was ended. He allowed my sister to eat a meal near me and then said, 'In October, I will come to visit you at Balasar, not as a doctor-spy, but as a friend who esteems you.'

"I kissed the doctor's hand gratefully and thanked him from my heart. I did this in all sincerity for I was deeply grateful to him for the seriousness with which he had treated my case."

The Official Medical Reports
So ends Alexandrina's account of the medical investigation of her fast. The official report issued by Dr Araujo confirmed the prodigy as "scientifically inexplicable". The key sentence stated: "It is absolutely certain that during forty days of being bedridden in hospital, the sick woman did not eat or drink and we believe such phenomenon could have happened during the past months, perhaps the past 13 months leaving us perplexed."

The report is signed Dr Gomez de Araujo of the Royal Academy of Medicine, Madrid, specialist in nervous diseases and arthritis.
In addition to the formal medical report, there was a certificate signed by Drs lima and Azevedo. It read as follows:

We the undersigned, Dr C. A. di Lima, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Oporto and Dr E. A. D. de Azevedo, doctor graduate of the same Faculty, testify that, having examined Alexandrina Maria da Costa, aged 39, born and resident at Balasar, of the district of Povoa de Varzim ... have confirmed her paralysis .... And we also testify that the bedridden woman, from 10 June to 20 July 1943 remained in the sector for infantile paralysis at the Hospital of Foce del Duro, under the direction of Dr Araujo and under the day and night surveillance by impartial persons desirous of discovering the truth of her fast. Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time. We testify also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure, pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and she had not, during these forty days, any natural necessities.

The certificate continues:
"The examination of the blood, made three weeks after her arrival in the hospital, is attached to this certificate and from it one sees how, considering the aforesaid abstinence from solids and liquids, science naturally has no explanation. The laws of physiology and biochemistry cannot account for the survival of this sick woman for forty days of absolute fast in the hospital, more so in that she replied daily to many interrogations and sustained very many conversations, showing an excellent disposition and a perfect lucidity of spirit. As for the phenomena observed every Friday at about 3 p.m. (i.e. her ecstasies), we believe they belong to the mystical order .... For the sake of the truth, we have prepared this certificate which we sign. Oporto , 26 July 1943."

A distinguished professor who carefully examined the medical reports and other details of the examinations made on Alexandrina testified:

"In returning to my friend and client (i.e. Fr Pinho) the copies of the reports concerning the singular case of Alexandrina Maria da Costa, I desire to thank him for the opportunity he has offered me of studying in minute detail this strange case .... It was above all as a doctor, specialist in nutrition, and not only as a Catholic, that I found that which had happened to the sick woman so interesting. I also attach great importance to his testimony (i.e. Fr Pinho's report on Alexandrina submitted some years earlier to the Archbishop of Braga), because an enlightened confessor and spiritual director is, perhaps, more competent than anyone else to determine if his subject is mentally normal or abnormal.

"In my opinion, it is not possible to explain by purely scientific means, or better still, by medical means, that which has happened to Alexandrina da Costa. Nothing makes us believe, according to what one reads in the detailed reports of the doctors and the confessor, that it is simply a matter of hysteria, particularly in view of the long time in which the sick woman has passed, and is still passing, without taking the slightest nourishment. On the other hand, I am certain that it is not a matter of deception because the impartial commission which observed her for forty days and forty nights with rigorous vigilance, could verify that her abstinence from nourishment was total.

"Now this abstinence from all food during such a long period of time is incompatible with life, and much less with the maintenance of normal temperature, respiration, pulse, blood pressure, etc .... Her intellectual life is intense, her relationships are perfect, her faculties and senses are retained in an absolute manner. . . . This extraordinary case, rather I would say exceptional case, can in no way be explained by purely natural means, or through scientific data. The inflammation of the spinal cord, which is most probably the cause of the paralysis, has nothing to do with her abstinence from food, being merely a parallel illness."

This report was signed by Professor Ruj. Joao Marques, professor of medical science in Pernambuco and uni¬versity lecturer of the faculty of medicine, and also Professor Recife; professor of the branch of nutrition of the School of Social Service in Pernambuco and also the president of the Society of Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Pernambuco.

There we have the certification and the verdict of medical science. But Alexandrina had a more enlightened explanation. She confided to her confessor that Our Lord had told her, "You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls."

-“Alexandrina The Agony and the Glory” by Francis Johnston, Tan Books, 1979 -Availible from Tan Books here.
-“Blessed Alexandrina A living miracle of the Eucharist” by Kevin Rowles, New Hope Publications, 2009 -Availible from New Hope publications here.

-For more information on Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, see my other article "Blessed Alexandrina da Costa -Mystic and Victim Soul"

Speaking in Tongues -A supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit

The Gift of Tongues -Speaking in ones native language while being understood by those of various languages.

Concerning the gift of speaking in Tongues, in the Acts of the Apostles we read:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and E'lamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2: 1-14)

And so the gift of Tongues we will refer to in this article is not the Charismatic gift of Tongues that is practised by some today, but the Apostolic gift of Tongues as related in the Scriptures, whereby a person speaks in their own native language, but is heard and understood by those of various languages.

St Anthony and the Gift of Tongues
The book “The Little Flowers of St Francis” was written by Brother Ugolino about 100 years after the life of St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua, the details of which are based on original documents of the Franciscan Order. In Chapter 39 of this book we read:

"St Anthony of Padua, one of the chosen disciples and companions of St Francis, whom the latter called his Vicar, was preaching one day before the Pope and the Cardinals in Consistory, there were therefore present at that moment men of different countries- Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English and men of many other different languages and dialects.

"And being inflamed by the Holy Spirit and inspired with apostolic eloquence, he preached and explained the word of God so effectively, devoutly, subtly, clearly and understandably that all who were assembled at that Consistory, although they spoke different languages, clearly and distinctly heard and understood everyone of his words as if he had spoken in each of their languages. Therefore they were all astounded and filled with devotion, for it seemed to them that the former miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, when by the power of the Holy Spirit they spoke in different languages.

"And in amazement, just like in the Acts of the Apostles they said to one another: "Is he not a Spaniard?' How then are we all hearing him in the language of the country where we were born-we Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English, Lombards and foreigners?"

It was not only at this consistory that St. Anthony's gift of tongues was utilized. It is written that while preaching in Italy he spoke in perfect Italian, and while in France he preached in French, although he had never studied these languages. Also remarkable is the fact that "the simple-minded and the most ignorant listeners were capable of fully comprehending all he said; and his voice, though gentle and sweet, was distinctly heard at a very extraordinary distance from the speaker."

The gift of Tongues in the preaching of St Paul of the Cross
The grace of being heard at great distances was also documented on at least three occasions in the life of St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), the holy founder of the Passionist Order. Because of his extraordinary reputation for holiness, people would come from great distances to hear the man of God preach his missions, and to witness the remarkable miracles and cures that often accompanied his preaching. Therfore the crowds that gathered during his missions were often immense. On at least three documented occasions, his voice could be heard by all those present, even amdst the usual noises of such a great crowd, extending even those who were literally several miles away. This extraordinary grace took place in the three locations of La Tolfa, at Civitacastellana, and on the Isle of Elba, where he was heard a full five miles away.

Also, as stated above with the Apostles and also St Anthony, it was also documented on several occasions that his Italian language was understood by members of different foreign nationalities and languages who had come to listen to him.
[For those interested, the webmaster has a website devoted to the extraordinary life of St Paul of the Cross here.]

The gift of speaking in Tongues in the life of St Dominic
And then there is also another holy Founder, St. Dominic (1170-1221), the founder of the Dominican Order and the great promoter of the Holy Rosary, who was given the gift of tongues when he was one day on a journey to Paris with his companion, Bertrand of Garrega, and a number of other friends and disciples.

While on the road they visited the sanctuary of Rocamadour, where they spent the night praying before a miraculous image of Our Lady. The next day, as they journeyed along, they sang litanies and recited psalms and the divine office, which attracted the attention of two German pilgrims, who began to follow them. When they came to the next village the two German pilgrims, being greatly attracted by the devotion of the little band, made motions to them indicating that they should sit down and dine with them. It was somewhat of an awkward situation since the Germans could not understand the Dominicans, nor could the Dominicans understand the Germans. This continued for four days, with the Germans sharing their food with the Dominicans.

On the fifth day St. Dominic addressed Bertrand in this manner:
"Brother Bertrand, it grieves me to reap the temporal things of these pilgrims without sowing for them spiritual things: let us kneel down and ask God to grant us the understanding of their language, that we may speak to them of Christ." Accordingly, they knelt down and prayed. When they rose up, they were able to converse with the Germans in their own language and did so without difficulty for the rest of the journey.

As they drew near Paris, the Germans, now filled with spiritual consolations, departed from them. The earthly food which the Germans had provided had been exchanged by Dominic for spiritual food which nourished their spirits and was beneficial to their eternal salvation. St. Dominic, for his part, charged Bertrand to keep silent about the matter and to keep it secret until his death, "lest the people should take us for Saints who are but sinners.'"

-See also the German Mystic and Stigmatic Therese Neumann and the supernatural gift of speaking and understanding ancient Biblical languages.