Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Miracles, Then and Now

When I was little, my parents gave me and my brothers and sister a Children's Book of Saints, which was awesome and which I read all the time. My favorite saints were the early Church's young virgin martyrs, you know - St. Cecilia, St. Agnes of Rome, St. Lucy, St. Agatha - the power squad of Eucharistic Prayer I.

Anyway, I was thinking about them a lot a few weeks ago when an agonstic friend of mine asked me why there aren't more modern-day miracles. I told him that to be canonized, two miracles must be attributed to a person's intercession, so there's actually an abundance of modern-day miracles. But he wasn't talking about medical miracles (which those for saints' causes now often are), but amazing, undeniable ones - he mentioned God's appearance in the Burning Bush.

I was thinking about how St. Lucy, when she was turned in for being a Christian, was going to be taken to a brothel, but when they came to take her away, she became so heavy and stiff they could not move her. And for St. Agnes, when a man looked at her with impure thoughts, he was struck down with blindness and appeared dead.

I then compared that to St. Maria Goretti, a modern day saint, whose neighbor tried to lure her into having sex with him and, when she resisted, he stabbed her 14 times to death. He wasn't struck down from on high. She didn't become untouchable. St. Maria Goretti tried to preserve her virginity just like St. Lucy and St. Agnes, so why no miraculous intervention for her?

St. Maria's story doesn't end there. She forgave her murderer before she died and one night several years later, when he was in his prison cell, she appeared to him and handed him 14 lilies - one for each of the wounds he had inflicted upon her.

I think the difference in these stories tells us something about our world today. To show His power in the early Church, God performed amazing miracles like striking down a man who looked the wrong way at St. Agnes and made St. Lucy heavy and stiff so she wouldn't be taken to a brothel. But in the 20th century, He showed us His power through forgiveness - the forgiveness St. Maria Goretti and her family offered to her murderer and the forgiveness the Church offered him by welcoming him into Her fold.

For so many people today, signs and wonders won't convert them. But forgiveness - the power of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation - will. It is what they need. That's pretty amazing.