Yet another modern pope may soon be added to the book of saints as the Vatican prepares to endorse a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul VI which will pave the way for his beatification.
The Religion News Service is reporting that the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints are planning to meet to confirm the miracle on May 5. Once approved, Pope Francis is likely to proclaim his beatification at the end of the Synod of Bishops in October of this year.
The miracle is said to have occurred in California in the 1990′s when a 24 week-old fetus was diagnosed as having critical complications that would cause it to either die in the womb or be born with seriously damaged kidneys. The mother was advised to abort the child.
She refused, and instead placed an image of Pope Paul VI and a remnant of his vestments on her stomach and began praying for his intercession.
Her child was born healthy at 39 weeks and doctors are unable to explain the change in its conditions. Doctors continued to monitor the child’s health until the age of 12.
An officially inquiry into the case was launched in 2003 and medical experts confirmed just last year that the child’s recovery was inexplicable.
Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in a small town in the northern Italian province of Brescia to a wealthy family. Frail but intelligent, he received his early education from the Jesuits. He was accepted into the seminary in 1916 but was permitted to live at home because of his poor health. After ordination, a brief stint as an attache to the nunciature in Warsaw, Poland, ended when the cruel winters were found to be too difficult on his fragile physical state. He returned to Rome and was assigned to the office of the Secretariat of State where he remained for the next thirty years.
A shy and deeply spiritual man, his great intelligence won him notice and he was eventually picked to lead the Archdiocese of Milan, which he did with such vigor that he soon became known as the “archbishop of the workers.”
“He revitalized the entire diocese, preached the social message of the Gospel, worked to win back the laboring class, promoted Catholic education at every level, and supported the Catholic press. His impact upon the city at this time was so great that it attracted world-wide attention,” writes the Vatican in his official biography.
Although he had resisted elevation to cardinal once before, he was given the red hat by Pope John XXIII in 1958. Only five years later, he would receive yet another crown from the Church, this one belonging to St. Peter.
Elected Pope on June 21, 1963, his first message to the world was to commit himself to continuing the work of Vatican II begun by his predecessor, a promise he would fulfill handily during his fifteen year reign.
Among his many accomplishments was the landmark encyclical he wrote on the regulation of birth, Humanae vitae, in July, 1968. Unfortunately, the document caused international controversy, which greatly overshadowed the last years of his pontificate.
“Pope Paul had an unaccountably poor press and his public image suffered by comparison with his outgoing and jovial predecessor,” the Vatican bio reads.”Those who knew him best, however, describe him as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of ‘infinite courtesy.’ He was one of the most traveled popes in history and the first to visit five continents.”
He died on August 6, 1978, the feast of the Transfiguration. As a final testament to his profound poverty of spirit, he asked for a simple funeral with no catafalque and no monument over his grave.
This announcement, coming on the heels of the canonization of two saints who were raised up in what is believed by many to be one of the evil eras in the history of the world, is living proof that what St. Paul teaches us in the Letter to the Romans is true beyond a doubt. “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
While it is true that we are living in a time of great evil, we are also living in a time of unprecedented grace – which means there is no better time than now to be a saint!
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