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.