DUBLIN, Ireland—During her lifetime, Mother Teresa was described as a “living saint” by many. Now, less than a year after her death, evidence is emerging that she may be a saint in heaven.
Last week in an interview with BBC Radio Four's “Sunday” program, Archbishop Henry D‘Souza of Calcutta revealed that he has ordered an investigation into a claim that a French woman was miraculously cured by Mother Teresa's intervention.
The alleged miracle involves a woman who suffered multiple fractures in a serious car accident in France. Several days after the woman prayed to Mother Teresa asking for her help, an X-ray photograph taken through her bandages found that the woman's bones were no longer broken — her fractures and wounds had completely disappeared, leaving her doctors astounded.
The Missionaries of Charity received queries from hundreds of people after Archbishop d‘Souza told a private television channel in India and a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio program in late August that the case was possibly a miracle. But the archbishop also added, that the “miracle may not be valid, as rules require that a cure be immediate and not a gradual improvement with a time gap.”
He said the case of the French woman “seemed to fit the conditions required for a miracle.” She had broken her bones in a car accident, but claimed to have been healed after she touched a medallion Mother Teresa had given her.
If his archdiocesan investigation supports the claim of a miracle it may speed along the process of recognizing Mother Teresa as an official saint of the Catholic Church. The archbishop has already said he would like to beatify the founder of the Missionaries of Charity before the year 2000.
However, according to the Vatican's canonization rules, the official investigation process may not begin until five years after a candidate's death. Therefore, the archbishop's inquiry is into the miracle, rather than a formal beginning of the canonization process. Once that process begins, most likely in the year 2002, Mother Teresa's life, sayings, and writings will be minutely examined for any action or statement contrary to Church teaching and to prove that she led a life of heroic virtue. Evidence of a miracle will allow her to be beatified, and evidence of a second miracle will allow canonization as an official saint.
The superior of the Missionaries of Charity in Dublin, Sister Benicitta, said she was “not surprised” at the news of the alleged miracle in France: “We have heard stories of several miracles and Mother is definitely in heaven continuing our work and supporting us all the time.” reports of miracles in New York that were granted through Mother Teresa's intervention.
At the Missionary of Charity's mother house in Calcutta, Sister Candelaria also said: “There have been many miracles reported to us.” During Mother Teresa's lifetime, the Missionaries of Charity say there were many miracles associated with her work with badly needed food and medical supplies arriving at the mother house unexpectedly just as supplies were about to run short.
Following Mother Teresa's death last year, Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, said she might be declared a saint sooner than normal, such was the level of pleading for her cause in Rome. The reason for the five year delay before a canonization inquiry can officially begin is to allow popular devotion to a candidate for sainthood to develop. But Mother Teresa was and is universally loved among Catholics and non-Catholics across the world, so it can be argued that that popular devotion is already in place.
The investigation into the miracle in France will have to ascertain that the woman in the car accident prayed only to Mother Teresa for help. If prayers were said to any other saint or Our Lady, for example, the miracle can not be fully attributed to Mother Teresa's intervention.
Cian Molloy writes from Dublin, Ireland.