The Religious A priori
Scientific Evidence of Miralces
The Special Mission of Lourdes
The Marian Library Newsletter
No. 38 (New Series)
Since the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, a procedure has gradually developed for verifying the cures and healings which occur there. Today, Lourdes is recognized as the Church's foremost center for investigating healings. There, medical personnel from all the world are invited to investigate the evidence for reported healings. Included among the medical examiners are those who allow and those who exclude the possibility of miraculous healings. The procedure also attempts to respects the dignity of the person who has been cured. John Paul II reminded the medical personnel of Lourdes that the verification of miraculous cures is Lourdes' "special responsibility and mission" (Nov. 17, 1988).
The Number of healings
"It is impossible to estimate the number of cures which have occurred at Lourdes. There are healings of a spiritual nature, such as faith, conversion, acceptance, joy. There are also the psychological cures-- freedom from anxiety, release from addiction and compulsion. There are cures of a physical nature, the only type investigated at Lourdes (and also the only type accepted in the beatification or canonization process), because evidence of both the past and present condition can be presented."
There have been only 66 official proclomations of miracles at Lourdes since the miracles began. This may sound like so few that it is hardly worth caliming them, however, this is not the case. It is really a testimony to the rigor of the process and to the Chrch's refusal to use the miracles as any sort of propaganda. If the calims were merely used to bolster propaganda of some sort one would think they would choose many more than this. But the requirements or so strict that only a few are accepted. There is actually a much larger pool of claims to choose from, and many more "remarkable" cases that did not make it because the documentation is just too difficult to get.
Marian Library (Ibid.)
"In the last one hundred years, over 6,500 individuals have reported cures to the Medical Bureau. Of these, at least 2,500 cases are considered truly remarkable, but they lack some requirement needed to allow them to advance to the next stage--witnesses, evidence, lack of agreement on the nature of the ailment. In the last twenty years, there have been reports of about twenty cases of extraordinary cures or healings, about one a year. Mr. Bély's healing is the 66th cure occurring at Lourdes which has been officially recognized by ecclesiastical authorities. The recognition by church authorities has been a feature of Lourdes for a total of sixty- three years of its history."
The Process of Verification
There are three stages:
1)Examination by Lourdes Medical Bureau.
"The first occurs when the cured person is examined at the Lourdes Medical Bureau. Established in 1883, the Medical Bureau receives the testimony of the cured person, of the doctor and of those who accompanied the person to Lourdes. After the preliminary examination, the cured person is usually asked to return to Lourdes a year later for another examination. Many cases remain at this first level because of the difficulty of gathering the previous medical reports, a frequent occurrence with individuals who come from underdeveloped areas."
2) Cases passed to International Bureau.
"Sufficiently documented cases are passed on to the International Medical Bureau. Established in 1946, this bureau consists of medical doctors, psychiatrists, and experts in specific diseases. The criteria for recognizing a cure at Lourdes are the same as those proposed, in 1743, by the canonist Prospero Lambertini (the future Benedict XIV) regarding the miracle required for the beatification and the canonization of saints. The infirmity must have been serious and considered impossible to cure; no medication or treatment must have been given, which could possibly have caused the change; the cure must be sudden and complete, with no relapse. In a word, the cure must be unexplainable, that is, there is no human or natural factor which could have effected the cure. (The doctors at Lourdes speak only of inexplicable cures, not "miracles.") If, in the opinion of the International Medical Committee, there is no natural explanation for the cure, the case is then referred to the bishop of the diocese in which the individual resides."
3)Investigation by Diocesan Canonical committee.
"At present, the final stage in the process is the investigation by the diocesan canonical committee, appointed by the bishop of the diocese. In the early years of Lourdes, the final judgment appeared to rest with the doctors, so much so, that the second President of the Medical Bureau wrote, in 1892, that "the history of Lourdes has been written entirely by doctors." In the twentieth century, church authorities have assumed a greater role in the discernment process. Although medical science has a role to play in their discernment, science alone cannot be the final arbiter. Since miracles are signs which point to something beyond, they belong to the order of faith. It is the Church's prerogative to recognize these signs of faith. In addition, a miraculous cure is not simply an impersonal intervention of divine power, but a gift to the individual, frequently accompanied by greater faith, charity, peace. For that reason, the canonical examination should also consider the individual's disposition at the time of the cure and religious attitudes which are part of his or her life.
The final word belongs to the bishop of the diocese, who, as did Bishop Dagens, recognizes the miraculous cure "in the name of the Church."
The Lourdes Medical Bureau and the International Bureau hold Symposia and conferences at which medical experts of all kinds present papers on the data of the miracle calims. Both philosophical and medical questions are addressed. The papers of top academic quality and the discussions are very important. There is a very interesting section on the Marian Newletter site about this, it is well worth reading, but we cannot go into that here. I urge the reader to click on that link and consider all that is said. One of the major issues addressed is the meaning of miralces. The Catholic chruch does not regard miracles as proof of the existence of God, rather, it understands them as a message, a sign form God, and the Pope has decalired that miracles are a call to prayer and to seek God. In light of this realization, I present a few examples of hearlings from Lourdes:
A Few examples from Lourdes
The Marian Library Newsletter
No. 38 (New Series)
On February 10, 1999, Msgr. Claude Dagens, bishop of Angoulˆme, France, announced that the cure which Mr. Jean-Pierre Bély, a member of the diocese, had experienced at Lourdes twelve years earlier, was truly "a sign of Christ." The bishop said, "In the name of the Church, I recognize and acknowledge in public the authenticity of the cure which Mr. Jean-Pierre Bély experienced at Lourdes on Friday, October 9, 1987. This sudden and complete cure is a personal gift of God for this man and an effective sign of Christ the Savior, which was accomplished through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes."
In 1984, Mr. Bély was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and, by 1987, he was completely paralyzed. He was brought to Lourdes on a stretcher in 1987 as a participant in the October Rosary Pilgrimage. On the final morning of the pilgrimage, as Mr. Bély was anointed in the Sacrament of the Sick, he felt a "sensation of coldness" followed by "a gentle warmth" that seemed to fill his entire body. "Later, I took my first steps, just like a baby who is learning to walk."
Patron saints Index
Colonel Paul Pellegrin
3 October 1950
age 52; Toulon, France Post-operative fistula following a liver abscess in 1948. By the time of his pilgrimage in 1950, the condition had degenerated to an open wound that required multiple dressing changes each day, and showed no sign of healing. On emerging from his second bath in the waters, the wound had completely closed, and the condition never bothered him again. Recognized by the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France on 8 December 1953.
Brother Schwager Léo
30 April 1952
age 28; Fribourg, Switzerland multiple sclerosis for five years; recognized by the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland on 18 December 1960
Alice Couteault, born Alice Gourdon
15 May 1952
age 34; Bouille-Loretz, France multiple sclerosis for three years; recognized by the diocese of Poitiers, France on 16 July 1956
8 October 1953 and 10 October 1954
age 31 and 32; La Richardais, France arachnoiditis of posterior fossa (blindness, deafness, hemiplegia); recognized by the diocese of Rennes, France 15 August 1956
Ginette Nouvel, born Ginette Fabre
21 September 1954
age 26; Carmaux, France Budd-Chiari disease (supra-hepatic venous thrombosis); recognized by the diocese of Albi on 31 May 1963
Elisa Aloi, later Elisa Varcalli
5 June 1958
age 27; Patti, Italy tuberculous osteo-arthritis with fistulae at multiple sites in the right lower limb; recognized by the diocese of Messine, Italy on 26 May 1965
17 July 1959
age 22; Marseilles, France femoral osteoperiostitis with fistulae, epistaxis, for ten years; recognized by the diocese of Marseille, France on 11 May 1965
1 June 1963
age 23; Scurelle, Italy Sarcoma (cancer) of pelvis; tumor so large that his left thigh became loose from the socket, leaving his left leg limp and paralyzed. After taking the waters, he was free of pain, and could walk. By February 1964 the tumor was gone, the hip joint had recalcified, and he returned to a normal life. Recognized by the diocese of Trento, Italy on 26 May 1976.
1 May 1970
age 41; Lion D'Angers, France Recurrent right hemiplegia, with ocular lesions, due to bilateral carotid artery disorders. Symptoms, which included headache, impaired speech and vision, and partial right-side paralysis began without warning in February 1964. During the next six years he became wheelchair-confined, and nearly blind. While on pilgrimage to Lourdes in April 1970, his symptoms became worse, and he was near death on 30 April. Wheeled to the Basilica for the Ceremony the next morning, he felt a sudden warmth from head to toe, his vision returned, and he was able to walk unaided. First person cured during the Ceremony of the Anointing of the Sick. Recognized by the diocese of Angers, France on 17 June 1978.
Delizia Cirolli, later Delizia Costa
24 December 1976
age 12; Paterno, Italy Ewing's Sarcoma of right knee; recgonized by the diocese of Catania, Italy on 28 June 1989
9 October 1987
age 51; French multiple sclerosis; recognized by the diocese of Angoulême on 9 February 1999
More detailed information on all these cases can be found on an offical Lourdes website.