Next Stop: Canonization

Popes past and present were in the news last weekend. They shared the world's stage with a Costa Rican woman who recounted "a miracle" that she attributes to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Let me explain.

On the morning of July 5, journalists in the Vatican Press Office had just digested the news that Pope Francis had issued his first encyclical, The Light of Faith (largely written by Benedict XVI when he was Pope but signed by Francis), when Director Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, asked them to return that afternoon for another announcement: Pope Francis had approved the cause for canonization of two of his predecessors, Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII.

Father Lombardi told the journalists that the Holy Father had approved a decree on a second miracle attributed to Blessed John Paul's intercession, but he had waived the requirement for a second miracle in the case of Blessed John XXIII. Citing a "favorable vote" taken by a commission of cardinals and bishops "on the canonization of Blessed Pope John XXIII," Fr. Lombardi said that it was Pope Francis's will that the sainthood of the great Pope of the Second Vatican Council be recognized. Father Lombardi stressed that a canonization without a second miracle would still be valid, given that that there is already the existing miracle that led to John XXIII's beatification in 2000.

Within a couple of months, a special consistory of the College of Cardinals will establish a date for the canonizations of the two Popes. "No date has been set," Fr. Lombardi said, "but it is very likely that there will be one canonization ceremony [for both Popes] before the end of the year."

Various media reports suggest that Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is being considered as a date for the canonizations. The logic is that it is a major Marian feast day and both Popes were devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Further, scheduling the canonizations on that date would allow enough time to prepare Rome for the event.

The second miracle that has paved the way for Blessed John Paul II's canonization involved a 50-year-old woman in Costa Rica who is married and has children. She had been given only a month to live. Floribeth Mora says that she was instantly healed from a cerebral aneurism on May 1, 2011 - the very day of John Paul II's beatification in Rome, which was Divine Mercy Sunday that year.

The first miracle that led to John Paul's beatification in 2011 concerned Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun whose instantaneous healing from Parkinson's disease came only two months to the day after John Paul's death in 2005.

With the blessing of the Vatican, Mrs. Mora publicly shared her story for the first time at a news conference on Sunday, July 7, in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

As reported by insidecostarica.com, Mora, a devout Catholic, kissed her rosary, crossed herself, and spoke of how the Lord had shown her great mercy though John Paul II on that Sunday in 2011 dedicated to Divine Mercy. "The Lord had compassion on me, and through the intercession of John Paul II, He gazed upon this unworthy woman and healed me," she said.

Mrs. Mora, who lives in Dulce Nombre de La Union, a hillside town 15 miles northwest of San Jose, had walked into a hospital in the nearby city of Cartago on April 8, 2011, complaining of a bad headache. She was diagnosed with a severe migraine.

The pain lasted for three days, so Mrs. Mora returned to the hospital. A series of tests revealed a deadly aneurism on the right side of her brain that had begun to hemorrhage.

On April 13, 2011, her neurosurgeon, Dr. Alejandro Vargas, advised her against high-risk surgery and said that she probably had about a month to live.

She said that she went home "afraid of dying and leaving my children and my husband." At the same time, Mrs. Mora said that she relied on her strong faith and her "deep love for God" to see her through this time of crisis.

Even as her health grew worse, Mrs. Mora sought the intercession of John Paul II.

A few weeks later, on May 1, she had planned to join thousands of the faithful at National Stadium in San Jose to watch on a large screen Pope Benedict XVI beatify John Paul II in Rome, but she was too weak to go. She stayed at home instead and watched the beatification on her television.

Mrs. Mora said that a photograph of John Paul II seemed to speak to her during the beatification.

"The next morning, I woke up, and heard a voice that told me: 'Rise! Don't be afraid!' And I said, 'Yes, my Lord,'" Mrs. Mora recounted. "Since that day, I got up from that bed, and I'm here and well."

Dr. Vargas, who attended the press conference, said he conducted a battery of tests and was incredulous at the results.

"I was surprised: the aneurism did not exist," the doctor said, reporting that Mrs. Mora's brain arteries appeared "totally normal."

In their own investigation of the miracle, Vatican experts interviewed Dr. Vargas exhaustively and then flew Mrs. Mora to Rome for another round of medical tests to verify that she had been completely healed.

"God exists, there are many miracles, and I'm one of them," Mrs. Mora said.

"God directed His compassion towards such a tiny country and blessed us with a miracle!" said San Jose Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, also at the press conference.

Whether the canonization of Blessed John Paul II is celebrated later this year or sometime next year, Mrs. Mora plans to travel to the Vatican for the occasion. During the festivities, she'll undoubtedly share again about John Paul's Mercy Sunday miracle, which has given her a new lease on life.

In the meantime, you might find her praying together with her family and friends at an altar she and her husband, Edwin Arce, have built at the entrance to their home. The altar features a portrait of Blessed John Paul II surrounded by flowers and candles.

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