In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Newman upon authentication of a first miracle in which a man was healed of an incurable spinal disease by the benefits of the Venerable Newman’s intercessions. Last year, a woman with unstoppable bleeding was cured through the intercessions of the Oxford convert. And so, with two authenticated miracles, Pope Francis will canonize Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman this Sunday, October 13, 2019 — and his Feast will be celebrated by the universal Church on October 9th in perpetuity.
Yet it is important to note, for the whole watching world, that it is God who makes saints. The Catholic Church, and the successor of Saint Peter as Christ’s Vicar, has been given keys to heaven, and a sacred deposit of faith by which to make true judgments, to recognize the actions of God in time. It does this also by tests of virtue and sanctity, and most especially by way of miracles.
What sort of evidence is a miracle, and why should we need that sort of evidence to confirm a saint? In the early church, it was commonly said that what makes Christianity so credible is its very incredibility. Indeed, it is often the case that people come to believe that Christianity is true because of the most incredible things. It is incredible to think of Christ turning water into wine, healing a hemorrhaging woman, governing the canonization of scripture, making possible the witness of the martyr, or miraculously healing others through the agency of Christ’s servants, that is, out of the prayers of saints in heaven.
The whole of Christianity may be understood as the miraculous presence of God in our time. The saint and the miracle converge as incredible public signs which make credible the claim that Christianity is not a mere human construction but the power and wisdom and presence of the one true God, active in history.
The great blaze of publicity for Saint John Henry Newman will rightly attend to his life and works, his virtue and sanctity. But his life, it must be said, is a miraculous sign which points to its divine cause. What the miracle of his converted life, and the miracles effected by his prayers, show us is not simply the man, but God through the man.
Since the early church, the relics of the martyrs, and the prayers of the saints, have all been inextricably united to the miracle of miracles, Jesus Christ, true Man and true God. It is by this graced union to the Lord that we may see John Henry Newman as he is, as sanctified, deiform, an agent of God’s active power and presence with us now, and for all eternity.
Every person, old and young, lay and clergy, believer and unbeliever, who watches the canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman this Sunday will not simply be watching the end of a process of canonization. They will be witnesses to God. God is present in history, God is at work in His Church, and God is at work among the citizens of His City on pilgrimage.
What does it prove? What does the world care of Saint John Henry Newman? It proves something incredible. It proves by miraculous signs that the Church then is the Church now, and that God will not cease to gather a people unto Himself until the end of time. And it is by such incredible signs that Christianity is now, and shall always remain, credible.
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