Saints and Doctors: What’s the Connection?

To approve sainthood to a pope, the Vatican only needs one miracle. And there we have it, a new saint.

Pope John Paul was named a saint by Francis after a Costa Rican woman is said to have been cured from a brain aneurysm after praying to John Paul in 2011. His first miracle, curing a French nun of Parkinson’s disease, was also confirmed.

What makes a religious or sacred act holy is evidence of a miracle. We all need evidence – and there is, indeed, evidence.

To institutionalize a belief, a procedure must be followed, just as in any other organized entity. When declaring someone a saint, the Vatican is required to certify that a “miracle” was performed through the intercession of the candidate – a medically inexplicable cure that is lasting, immediate and directly linked to prayers offered by the faithful. The process is comparable to a peer-review procedure – one pope endorses another to promote him to sainthood.

The anointing of sainthood appears to be merely another step in the hierarchy of the church – similar to the rankings of priest, deacon, and pope. The rather mechanical process evokes a much deeper inquiry not about the basics of sainthood, but the purpose behind it. We can’t help but wonder: Do miracles happen?

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