Supernaturally Oriented Catholicism Grows

Holy Spirit, Pentecost


“African Christianity puts a powerful stress on the miraculous, on eternal life, on the active providence of God, on healing grace, and on the divinity of Jesus… The reason a supernaturally oriented Christianity grows is that it is congruent with the purposes of the Holy Spirit, and also that it presents something that the world cannot…When Christianity collapses into purely this-worldly preoccupations…it rapidly dries up.”

I was particularly struck by Bishop Barron’s observation regarding the supernatural nature of Christianity, of a Christianity that stresses the miraculous, eternal life, the active providence of God, and healing grace.  Bishop Barron, it seemed to me, was intentionally trying to reconnect modern western Christianity to its roots, to shake it from a slumber of comfort and worldliness.  

The Supernatural Church

It wasn’t long after I read Bishop Barron’s blog that I ran across the book, “Raised from the Dead” by Fr. Albert Hebert, in which he catalogs the stories of 400 saints who have raised people from the dead.  As I leafed through the pages of the book, I was stunned.  I was also challenged and encouraged.  Reading the accounts, it became clear to me that perhaps the most miraculous of miracles- being raised from the dead, did not end with the apostles.  Even among well-known saints, though, we rarely hear of their miraculous feats. It almost as if we, in the west, are afraid of what we cannot understand, and reduce even great saints to mere moral caricatures.

St. Patrick

St. Patrick had a lot more going on than the lore of chasing snakes from Ireland.  A man named Machaldus, and his friends, decided to mock St. Patrick.  They covered one of their group, with a cloak as if he were dead, and asked Patrick to raise him to life.  Patrick, knowing the trick, told them the man was, indeed, dead.  After uncovering the now dead trickster, Patrick raised him from the dead.  Machaldus, who had attempted to mock Patrick, converted and became known as St. Machaldus.

St. Stanislaus

St. Stanislaus, as bishop, purchased property for his Church from a man named Piotr, who died shortly after the sale.  3 years later, Piotr’s sons contested the sale as part of a plot against Stanislaus.  The saint ordered Piotr’s grave to be opened, touched the man’s bones with his crozier, and his entire body filled out.  Piotr gave witness to the sale, reprimanded his sons, and then asked to be returned to the grave.

St. Francis Xavier

In the city of Combutura, a boy fell into a deep well and drowned. After the body was recovered, Francis prayed over the dead child.  Francis took him by the hand and ordered him to rise in the name of Jesus Christ. Immediately the boy returned to life.

St. Vincent Ferrer

St. Vincent Ferrer is credited with many miracles, one of which has a “Silence of the Lambs” quality to it.  The wife of a man who had given lodging to the saint had gone insane while the man was away.  Upon his return, he learned that his wife had cut their young sons throat, chopped up the body, and roasted some of it, even attempting to serve it to him as food.  St. Vincent came to the home, gathered up the bloody pieces of the corpse, prayed, and made the sign of the cross over the reassembled body.  The body parts immediately reunited and the boy came back to life.

Padre Pio

A woman came to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio, carrying her dead six-month-old baby.  As the woman cried in her despair, Padre Pio took the baby’s body and prayed.  After a few minutes, he said to her, ‘Why are you yelling so much? Don’t you see that your son is sleeping?’   The baby was very much alive.  

Martin of Tours

St. Martin of Tours is credited with raising at least three people from the dead.  A woman, carrying her dead baby and accompanied by a large crowd, came to St. Martin for help.  The woman pleaded with St. Martin, then a bishop, to give her son back to her.  The bishop took the child in his arms, knelt and prayed.  When he rose, the child was alive.

Stretching the Paradigm

For the record, I have never seen a person raised from the dead.  But, I have been witness to people being miraculously healed.  I have seen people receive healing in heart, mind, and body.  In one instance, I witnessed a deacon with fused discs and pins in his lower back, bend over and touch his toes.  With a huge smile on his face, he said, “This is impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.”  It is an amazing thing.  

In every experience, I see a common denominator.  The supernatural, whether it is healing, movement of God in a person’s life, or an intimate encounter with Him, builds faith and hope.  It witnesses to the individual, and the world, something that is other- worldly.  It raises our hearts and minds toward Heaven.  Many of the saints above understood that the supernatural expressed into the natural world is a very effective evangelization tool. St. Vincent is said to have converted upwards of 200,000 souls in his life, many of them after witnessing amazing miracles.  

The supernatural, though, is not a parlor trick.  Neither is it an end to itself.  I believe that Bishop Barron has it straight on, that supernatural Christianity is congruent with the work of the Holy Spirit.  Its purpose is to demonstrate the intimate love and the amazing power of a good God.  It always points back to its source.  

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5 thoughts on “Supernaturally Oriented Catholicism Grows”

  1. There is a kind of intellectual poison that has done great damage to the health of Christianity and that is the denial of God’s providential care for the world. People tend to think that God’s role as limited to the last judgment. Anyone who adheres to this notion of God has denied the God of Christian revelation. It may be an implicit denial or explicit, but in any event, such persons have lost an essential element of genuine Christianity — and it is a widespread disease.

    1. You are describing the heresy of “Modernism” which Pope St Pius X warned about; Pope Benedict XVI called it the “Tyranny of Relativism”, and it is the culture which strips away and denies the spiritual dimension of creation. It is the PC Culture of Death which denies the reality of sin, and thereby has institutionalized the unforgivable Sin Against the Holy Spirit. May God have mercy on us when the chastizement soon falls upon us. . . .

  2. Yes. It riles me the way many cradle-Catholics seem to relegate Christianity to a place a long way below Catholicism, as if to disparage the contributions of the best elements of Protestantism, but one thing is certain : The Catholic church is utterly supernatural, whatever the dire depravity of its weaker vessels in the higher reaches of its leadership, and the dire effects on its witness. The sacraments are daily miracles as momentous – more momentous – than stilling the wind and the waves on Lake Galilee.

  3. Today in the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass the Gospel was Matt. 9: 5, where Jesus cures the paralytic. In it Jesus says, “”For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’? “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed, and go home.” And he rose, and went home.”

    The priest’s homily was about visible and invisible miracles. He spoke about how both kinds are present in this Gospel – and Jesus addressed the invisible kind, the kind given through supernatural reception of graces and healings of mind and spirit, and that they are every bit as miraculous as physical healings and raising from the dead. And because they are “invisible” to most observers, they are doubted and God is doubted.

    Is it any wonder most people in our hyper rational age doubt the supernatural? (Oh, I mean, unless it is demonic like ghosts and UFO’s. 🙂 ) They actually contend if you can’t apprehend something with your senses, it doesn’t exist – handy to deny the existence of God, but falls apart when you ask if they believe in microwaves.

  4. I agree with this article and with Bishop Barron (coincidentally, I’m going to see him speak next week in Lake Placid, NY) that the Church needs to bring back the emphasis on the supernatural and mystical aspects of the Catholic faith. There are so many examples like those presented in this article and yet most Catholics are either unaware of them, forgotten about them, or dismiss them as unbelievable folklore. There is a YouTube video that highlights the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires which involved Pope Francis which is quite good. You can access it here:

    My own father was once healed from an incurable eye condition by someone involved in the charismatic movement in the Church. My dad told me that at first, he was mocking the person who offered to pray over him. However, after he did, my dad’s eye condition was healed. The ophthalmologist caring for my dad eventually wrote him a letter stating there was no medical explanation for my dad’s eye condition being reversed. Up until that point, my dad had been a difficult and impatient man according to my older siblings. But after that, my dad became a very devout catholic and helped start perpetual adoration in his parish. If he were alive today, he would probably tell you his spiritual healing was the real miracle.

    I realize that not all claims of the supernatural can or should be believed. However, there are so many that the Church has verified that they all cannot be simply dismissed as fiction. I think if our priests and Bishops shared more of these stories with parishioners, you would see the faith of Catholics grow again, more vocations to the priesthood, better attendance at mass and catholic schools, and a return to the sacrament of Reconciliation.

    Thank you, Ken for sharing the above stories. God Bless you and your family!

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