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Brazilian priest recalls prayers to Mother Teresa as canonisation nears

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Girls dressed up as Blessed Mother Teresa during an event to commemorate her 104th birth anniversary in a school in Bhopal, India, in 2014. Photo: CNS/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA
Girls dressed up as Blessed Mother Teresa during an event to commemorate her 104th birth anniversary in a school in Bhopal, India, in 2014. Photo: CNS/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA

Although some may say it was by chance, Brazilian Fr Elmiran Ferreira Santos believes that God’s hands were leading him when he arrived late one afternoon at his Our Lady of Aparecida Parish and found, waiting for him, a grief-stricken parishioner, whose husband had been diagnosed with several brain tumours.

“The husband’s condition had deteriorated and he had been placed in the ICU,” Fr Santos told Catholic News Service.

“The wife just didn’t know who to turn to,” he added. Fr Santos said he asked the woman to sit and pray with him to Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, founder of the Missionaries of Charity.

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“I had just returned from a Mass with the nuns at the Missionaries of Charity and even had a little medal that was given to me by the sisters in my pocket,” said the priest, who added he gave the medal to the patient’s wife and asked her and her family to pray to Blessed Teresa even more fervently in the days to come.

Fr Santos said that, with the grace of God and the prayers to Mother Teresa, the patient improved, was taken out of the intensive care unit and, in a period of two days, was given a clean bill of health and discharged.

“When a complete recovery of his health was seen and the doctors could not explain how, I understood that Blessed Mother Teresa had helped,” said Fr Santos. He said he reported the occurrence to the sisters, who in turn told their superior. The priest also said the doctor who took care of the patient was the doctor on call for Pope Francis during his visit to Brazil in 2013 for World Youth Day, and that the doctor had spoken to the pope about the patient.

The word about the patient’s recovery soon spread throughout the parishes, the diocese and beyond Fr Caetano Rizzi, the judicial vicar who oversaw the case at the Santos diocese, said the entire diocesan process occurred very quickly.

He said he received a telephone call in mid-June 2015 from a friend in Rome telling him that the Vatican was looking at a possible miracle attributed to Mother Teresa and that two Vatican representatives would be flying to Brazil in a week’s time to look at the evidence. The vicar said that, a week later, Vatican representatives were there to hear testimony from witnesses, medical experts and theologians. There were four sessions per day during four days. On June 26, the process ended, and the representatives returned to Rome with all the evidence gathered by the Santos Diocese.

After a diocesan investigation into a potential miracle yields positive results, the case goes to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. A panel of physicians is convoked by the congregation to study whether the healing is authentic and lasting, and that there is no natural, medical explanation for it. With the doctors’ approval, the files are passed on to a panel of theologians.

The theologians study the events – especially the prayers – surrounding the alleged miracle and give their opinion on whether the healing can be attributed to the intercession of a particular sainthood candidate.

If the theologians give a positive opinion, the cardinals who are members of the congregation vote on whether to recommend that the pope recognise the healing as a miracle and set a canonisation date.

Fr Santos says that the experience reinforced his belief of just how merciful God is and “confirmed the Gospel, which states that we are all called upon to be saints.”

In 2000 Josephine Bakhita was declared a saint; one miracle attributed to her intercession involved a Catholic in the Santos diocese.

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