Now the mission of this scholar appears to have entwined with those of two Americans. Both were possibly miraculously cured through his intercession.
If Pope Benedict XVI decrees
either claim a miracle, the venerable cardinal who dominated the
One story involves a 61-year-old deacon with a crippling spinal condition. The other involves a 17-year-old left comatose by an accident.
The tribunal probing the case of
Deacon John Sullivan of
“Deacon Sullivan was restored to
full mobility after prayers to Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) in 2001,”
“I don’t know that it’s a miracle until the Holy Father says it is, but it’s been an experience of great faith,” Deacon Sullivan said.
Both men also met this summer with
the deacon and with Andrew Munroe, the 17-year-old from
Interest in Cardinal Newman’s cause is worldwide, as his legacy of intellectual honesty
has influenced thousands, including Pope Benedict XVI. Born in 1801, Newman
became an Anglican vicar. After recovering from a severe illness, he felt that
God had saved him for a special mission. He launched the Oxford Movement, a religious revival within the Church of England.
He converted to Catholicism in 1845 and entered the priesthood. He founded
Pope John Paul II declared Cardinal Newman venerable in 1991. One miracle attributed to his intercession is required for beatification, and then one subsequent one for canonization.
Sullivan’s story began five years ago. His chronic back problem was so bad that he feared he’d be unable to finish his studies for the diaconate. He prayed for Cardinal Newman’s help. Neither he nor Cardinal O’Malley could discuss the story other than to confirm that a tribunal exists. But the deacon did say, “It’s a beautiful story.” Following his recovery, he was ordained in 2002.
“There’s a whole wave of
secularism going on here and in
Andrew Munroe’s case has not
reached the stage of Deacon Sullivan’s. Rather, the Roman postulator of the
cause, Andrea Ambrosi, will gather evidence in
Andrew suffered severe brain
damage in a fall from a car on Oct. 17, 2005, the same day Father Chavasse disclosed news that the
Andrew lay in a coma for the next two weeks, and doctors predicted the worst. His parents, Greg and Mary Ann Monroe Sullivan (no relation to the deacon), refused to take him off life support.
On Oct. 30, they had a Mass
celebrated for him at
“I said to them, ‘Miracles can happen,’” he recalled. He challenged people to pray for one through Cardinal Newman’s intercession.
“After that, Andy was taken off life-support and he could breathe on his own,” his mother said. She contacted Deacon Sullivan, who conducted two healing services at Andrew’s bedside.
During the second service Nov. 26, he blessed Andrew with a relic, a lock of the cardinal’s hair. “Andy made the peace sign and gave ‘thumbs-up’ to the 20 of us there,” Mrs. Sullivan said. “The next day he began therapy. Doctors had said his speech would never come back; now he talks like us.”
Andrew is continuing physical therapy and 11th-grade honor studies with a tutor.
“Andy will recover all the way because he’s supposed to. He has so many people coming back to God because of him,” his mother said. “This was part of Andy’s mission.”
Gail Besse is based in