American writer Stuart Chase once wrote, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” And while there is much truth behind the quote, the reality remains that it is human nature to always seek proof to validate our beliefs. In the case of seeking proof for miracles, the irony is that we search for scientifically verifiable evidence for perceptible intercessions by God even when these occurrences are themselves scientifically inexplicable.
The Catholic Church, for example, while acknowledging that miracles are beyond the scope of science, still maintains very stringent requirements for the validation of miracles. This process is overseen by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a body within the Church that assesses the validity of miracles for the purpose of declaring the sainthood of individuals. Currently, the Congregation classifies miracles into three groups: resurrection from the dead (quoad substantiam), the curing of an incurable disease (quoad subiectum), and the curing of a disease within an impossibly short period of time (quoad modum). However, in the process of verifying these three types of miracles, the Church has also recognized related inexplicable events — including apparitions of God or the Virgin Mary — as miracles themselves.
Here are ten astounding events that have been recognized or are currently being investigated as genuine miracles:
10. Man’s Amputated Leg Is Restored Instantaneously
In 1637, a 20-year-old agricultural laborer from Calanda, Miguel Juan Pellicer, fell off from a cartwheel he was steering and severely injured his right leg. He was treated at a hospital in Valencia, but insisted that he wanted to receive treatment at the Our Lady of the Pillar Hospital because he was a devotee of the Lady. When Miguel Juan arrived at the hospital after the 50-day journey, the doctors decided to amputate his leg because it was “very phlegmonous and gangrenous,” almost appearing black. Throughout the crude procedure, Pellicer unceasingly called on the Virgin of Pillar to aid him. Upon recovery, he resorted to begging but continued to rub his stump with oil while he prayed for Mary’s intercession. He got his answer on the evening of March 29, 1640. As Miguel Juan slept, his parents saw that his leg had been fully restored, and when he woke up, Pellicer claimed that he had dreamt of the Virgin rubbing his leg with oil. The case was thoroughly investigated and thereafter declared a miracle.
9. Woman Nourished by Just One Sacred Host a Day
Therese Neumann (1898 – 1962) of Bavaria, Germany was blinded and partially paralyzed by several accidents she suffered. In fact, being bedridden caused her to develop bed sores so terrible they sometimes exposed her bone. However, beginning April 29, 1923, the day St. Therese of Lisieux was beatified, Therese claimed the saint had cured her paralysis, had gotten rid of her bedsores, and had restored her eyesight. Furthermore, from the day of her miraculous cure until her death in 1962, she was also reported to have consumed no solid nourishment except for The Holy Eucharist. Within that period, she also reportedly developed stigmata on her chest and on her left hand. As a result of these unexplained phenomena, in 2005, the Church formally began proceedings for Therese Neumann’s beatification.
8. Priest Levitates in Front of Crowds
Even as a child, Joseph of Cupertino experienced ecstatic visions, making him an outcast of sorts among his peers. As he grew older, he was drawn to religious life, but various orders rejected him because of his lack of education and frequent ecstatic episodes. However, a determined Joseph begged friars near Cupertino to allow him to be their servant, and he so impressed them that they accepted him into their Order. In 1628, Joseph was ordained a priest, and his ecstatic episodes became even more frequent. In fact, during Masses and other holy gatherings, he began to levitate in front of huge crowds. At first, his ability to levitate was associated with witchcraft. But by 1763, he was canonized as the patron saint of aviators, air travelers, astronauts, students, and even people with mental handicaps.
7. Lady Appears to Thousands, Captured by Cameras
On April 2, 1968, a Muslim bus mechanic named Farouk Mohammed Atwa saw what he thought was a woman preparing to attempt suicide by jumping from the roof of the Church of Saint Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt. Police,who were alerted to the sighting dismissed the image as a reflection of the light from street lamps, but crowds still gathered because they believed the apparition was that of the Virgin Mary. The sightings continued until 1971, and all in all, it is believed that hundreds of thousands of people, including prominent church and government officials, witnessed the apparition. In fact, several newspaper photographers and television cameras managed to capture the apparition, and no one could explain it to be of a natural origin.
6. Water from Grotto Cures Dozens
In 1858, a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes, France named Bernadette Soubirous claimed she saw a Lady in white, who told her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found. News of the purported apparition and the resulting grotto quickly spread, and soon, hundreds of sick patients were flocking to the site to drink from the spring. Despite government efforts to fence off the grotto, many cures were reported as a result of the “miraculous water,” seven of the healings confirmed by a professor to be lacking in logical medical explanations. In response to the numerous claims of cures, Pope Saint Pius X set up the Lourdes Medical Bureau, which is completely independent of the Church. As of today, 69 of the thousands of cases brought to it have been certified as genuine miracles. Bernadette was officially recognized a saint in 1933.
5. Image of the Virgin Mary Appears on Cloak
On December 9, 1531, a peasant in Mexico City, Juan Diego, saw the vision of a woman on Tepeyac Hill. The woman identified herself as the Virgin Mary and asked that a church be built on that site. Juan Diego relayed the message to Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga, who in turn, instructed the peasant to ask the lady for a miraculous sign. That Juan did, and the Lady responded by healing Juan’s uncle and ordering Juan to collect flowers from the top of the hill. Juan climbed the hill in fulfillment of the request despite its seeming strangeness; the hill of Tepeyac was usually barren in December. To his surprise, at the top of the hill, he found Castilian roses, which were not native to Mexico. Juan took some of these flowers, wrapped them in his cloak, and proceeded to see the archbishop. At the meeting, when Juan Diego opened his cloak, the archbishop was shocked to see the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on the cloak’s fabric. Today, the image is an iconic one, and in 2002, Juan Diego was declared a saint by the Church.
4. Statue of the Virgin Mary Sheds Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa had been diagnosed to be incurably deaf when she entered a small convent near Akita, Japan. But her hearing returned to normal after a strange series of events beginning in 1973. On June 12, Sr. Agnes saw a brilliant light shining from a tabernacle. Sixteen days later, a cross-shaped wound developed on her left hand, and by July 5, blood began to flow from the opening. The next day, a voice from the statue of the Virgin Mary, located in the convent’s chapel, spoke to her, telling her that her deafness would be healed. The following morning, other nuns noticed blood on the right hand of the statue. Later, on September 29, the community saw a brilliant light emanate from the statue, after which it was covered by what looked like sweat. Then, on January 4, 1975, the statue began to weep. An analysis of the blood, sweat, and tears from the statue later confirmed that the substances were of human origin. And, as the voice from the statue had promised, Sr. Agnes’s hearing was permanently restored on May 30, 1982.
3.Wounds of Christ Manifest on a Priest
On July 27, 1918, Italy’s Padre Pio offered himself to God as a sacrifice so that World War I would end. Around one week later, on August 5, while Padre Pio was hearing confessions, he had a vision of Christ piercing his side. Shortly afterwards, he actually developed a corresponding physical wound — his first experience of stigmata, which continued until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the opening was even described to be fragrant, similar to the blood from the wounds of several saints before him. Even independent doctors could not explain the wounds that had appeared on the priest’s hands, feet, and side. Predictably, news of the phenomenon spread quickly, in part because people believed that Padre Pio’s sacrifice had actually contributed to the end of the war. However, the Church hierarchy was not amused and ordered Padre Pio to reduce the publicity surrounding his stigmata. Nevertheless, in 2002, 34 years after his death, Padre Pio was declared a saint by the Catholic Church in canonization rites officiated by Pope John Paul II.
2. Three Shepherd Children Predict Sun’s Strange Behavior
On October 13, 1917, tens of thousands of people gathered near Fatima, Portugal because Lucia dos Santos, Francisco Marto, and Francisco Marto predicted that a great miracle would take place. The shepherd children had earlier claimed that a lady who had appeared to them several times had revealed the prophecy to them. After a period of rain, many of those gathered saw the sun appear more opaque and spinning in the sky. Then, in a zigzag pattern, the sun seemed to careen towards the earth, resulting in panic as the people thought the world was ending. When the phenomenon ended, people claimed that their clothes, which had been soaked by the rain, suddenly became completely dry as did the previously muddy ground. Critics attributed the unexplained episode to various phenomena including mass hysteria, a sandstorm, and optical illusions. But on October 13, 1930, the Church certified the event to be a genuine miracle.
1. Bread and Wine Change Into Actual Flesh and Blood
In around 700, a Basilian hieromonk, as he was celebrating Mass and delivering the words “This is my body. This is my blood,” doubted his own pronouncement. Seemingly a response from God, the unleavened bread was said to transform into actual human flesh and blood. News of the miraculous transformation quickly spread, prompting the archbishop to call for an investigation. Several other investigations would follow, the most notable one performed from 1970 to 1971 by an anatomy and pathology expert, Dr. Odoardo Linoli. He found that the flesh was actual cardiac tissue, while the blood, despite having been in existence for more than a thousand years, remained fresh despite the absence of any preservatives. The blood was also found to be of human origin and of the type AB. Today, the Church believes that the incident was a genuine Eucharistic miracle. The flesh and blood from it is available for viewing at the Church of St. Francis in Lanciano.