Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Over the weekend, The Baltimore Sun ran the following article on the sickness and cure of Mary Ellen Heibel, a resident of Annapolis who attributes her cure to the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has begun to investigate the claim.
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos was a nineteenth-century German Redemptorist who served several missions here in the United States before succumbing to Yellow Fever in New Orleans in 1867. He was beatified in the Jubilee Year 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Click here fore more information on Blessed Seelos.
In Annapolis, a miracle worthy of sainthood?
Woman’s cancer vanishes after prayers to 19th-century Maryland priest
By Arthur Hirsch
June 28, 2009
The treatment for terminal cancer that Annapolis resident Mary Ellen Heibel took at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2004 and early 2005 worked beyond anyone’s wildest hopes, wiping out malignant tumors in her lungs, liver, stomach and chest. Her doctor did not expect it, nor could he explain it.
Surely the outcome was remarkable, but was it – in the sense applied by the Roman Catholic Church in such cases – a miracle?
In a few weeks, a committee appointed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore will begin exploring that question, examining 11 witnesses, including Heibel, pressing her doctors, nurses and friends in an attempt to understand what happened. The findings gathered at the archdiocese’s downtown offices will be shipped to Rome, and ultimately will bear on a campaign to have Francis X. Seelos, the 19th-century Maryland priest to whom Heibel had turned in prayer for help, canonized as a saint.
For only the fifth time in its 200-year history, the archdiocese has launched a test of faith and science to help the Vatican determine whether one of its own was not only exemplary in virtue during life but now has the power in death to intercede with God. In the end, it will be up to the pope to rule on whether Seelos is to join the men and women held up by the church through the centuries as models of holiness.
“Did what happened come about by the intercession of Blessed Seelos? That’s what we have to discover,” said the Rev. Gilbert J. Seitz, the judicial vicar who heads the committee, emphasizing that its job is not to judge the case but to gather information in a process akin to taking a deposition.
The Rev. William Graham, a canon lawyer and member of the committee, says the purpose of the examination is to determine what took place and whether it can be attributed to natural causes.
The great number of martyrs stood firm in their love for one another
because they shared the same spirit and the same faith.
A day after celebrating the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church pauses to remember all of the other Christians of Rome who also suffered under the cruel hand of Nero.
The names of the first martyrs are known only to God.
In July AD 64, during the tenth year of Nero’s reign, a great fire engulfed the city of Rome. It was only stopped after six nights and seven days, when several buildings were demolished. Strangely, the fire restarted in the garden of Tigellinus the next day. It was rumoured Nero himself ordered the fires, since he seemed to have taken so much joy in them. Reports of strange men torching houses saying only that they had orders, fueled the idea Nero started them. It may serve to note that many fires had afflicted Rome over its history, but as with the others it is generally thought that this fire started accidentally as well.
Nero, nonetheless, sensing the growing suspicion, declared the “Christians” had started the fires. No one thought that they had, but they were rounded up anyway. Some were sewn up in wild beast skins and fed to wild dogs while still alive. Some were covered in pitch and wax and after being more or less impaled with stakes, set alight.
Though most were hardened to the utterly savage and barbaric life of the Roman empire, it is noted that many were horrified at the treatment of those first Christians.
Writing at the end of the first century, just a few decades after the persecution of Nero, St. Clement of Rome exhorted the Corinthians never to forget the witness of the Roman martyrs. The arena of persecution never closes, he reminded them, and thus the example of the martyrs never loses its relevance for the Christian life. The following excerpt of Clement’s letter appears in today’s Office of Readings.
But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labors and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.
To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished. us with a most excellent example. Through envy, those women, the Danaids and Dircae, being persecuted, after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, finished the course of their faith with stedfastness, and though weak in body, received a noble reward. Envy has alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Envy and strife have overthrown great cities and rooted up mighty nations.
These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. (Chapters 5-7)
you sanctified the Church of Rome
with the blood of its first martyrs.
May we find strength from their courage
and rejoice in their triumph.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.