James Carroll on Sainthood: A Rebuttal

Does the canonization process include “a kind of church sponsored blasphemy?” James Carroll claimed in the Boston Globe that requiring two healing miracles for sainthood “implies that God actively declines to intervene in countless other cases.” And this “effectively makes God the inflictor of suffering that could be released, but is not.” This reasoning seems seriously awry to my eyes. The questions of answered prayers, unanswered prayers and healing “miracles” is a much more complicated matter.

In the Gospels (John 14:12-14) Jesus tells his disciples to ask him for anything and promises that they will do greater works than he, because he is going to the Father and they will ask in his name. Undeniably, intercessory prayer and healing petitions are commanded for disciples; and answered prayers of the early disciples are recounted with gratitude. But at other times, then as now, petitions for healing didn’t effect cures. When this happens, God should not be said to be directly inflicting suffering or even actively replying with a “no.” Rather many secondary causes and unknown variables are seen to be in play.


When intercessions and healing prayers are successful other factors are operating. The readiness to ask and the receptive faith of the one in need play their part, as well as the personal ability of the healer to receive and convey God’s powerful, ever present love. Saints are saints because they channel the Spirit’s life giving water to others. And how they must rejoice in participating in the action. St. Therese’s desire to spend her eternity doing good on earth is not unique. Calling on the saints builds up the communion across time and space. It gives testimony to the fact that we are surrounded by a supportive cloud of witnesses, visible and invisible.

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4 years 8 months ago
Intercessory prayer has always carried that bit of ambiguity about it. The way we have gotten around it is to appeal to God's will. I also like the connecting over time/space continuum the communion of saints offers us but when religious leaders fall too heavily on the "just have faith" it sets the pray-ers up for disappointment. Take your point about the broader dimensions of the supportive and consoling aspects of faith whatever the outcome. However, I also suspect Carroll is on to something different when he questions the process of saint-making in the 21st century. A life lived modeling Christian values speaks louder to me than "miracles"from beyond.....thus the conflictual reaction to JPII's canonization.
Bruce Snowden
4 years 8 months ago
Hi Mr. Carroll, look up Mt.20 vs-15, to get a clue on the “why?” of miracles where Jesus says, “Have I not the right to do as I choose? Or are you jealous because I am generous?” Simply being able to speak to God (pray) is a huge plus, rooted in the belief that besides being the Almighty One who hurls Universes on his fingertips into the infinity of the cosmos, God is also Father, or as St. Paul says “Abba” loosely translated as “Daddy.” And as a sitcom of years ago says, “Daddy Knows Best!” Or was it "Father Knows Best." Having offered a clue to “understanding” Godly decisions, as buttress let me add, “Who has known the mind of God, or who has been his counselor?” Well, I can tell you whom I think is God’s principal “counselor” next to his Son, none other than the Mediatrix of all Grace, Mary, Queen of Heaven. Of her, the Son says to his Father, “Dad, do whatever she says!” This referencing heaven's eternal Cana, Jesus's everlasting Nuptial Banquet. You know what power rooted in love Mothers have! So if you want to find out how to pray assuring a recognizable answer every time, go to Mother Mary. All of this is, of course, rooted in Faith, which St. Paul says is “evidence of things not seen.” Without Faith all of this is just a lot of bunk! However, through Faith we know that “Daddy” listens attentively to all that his “kids” say, just as any good Father does. For some the answer is a hug and a reassuring kiss. And that is more than enough! Some of God’s “kids” get that scooter they want, called for lack of a better name a “miracle.” Really, are “Daddy’s” kisses and hugs any less miraculous that our brother’s/sister’s scooter? So, in short, Mr. Carroll, let’s just pray, leaving the outcomes to “Daddy God” for in every way, Daddy does know best! Mr. Callahan, you're on target, but maybe what I've tried to say is beyond the grasp of the more erudite. That's O.K. In heaven no one is erudite, but all are wise.


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