Healing of Miamian could lead to canonization
MIAMI | Just a month after the announcement of a possible miracle in Miami, archdiocesan officials announced the conclusion of their investigation and sent the official results to Rome for review.
If the results, announced June 17, 2022, are accepted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, it would be the second miracle attributed to Venezuela’s Blessed José Gregorio Hernández, known as the “doctor of the poor,” making him eligible for sainthood.
It also would be the first verified miracle to take place in Miami: the healing of a terminally ill resident, a native of Venezuela.
Normally, the diocese where the possible miracle occurred and where the witnesses live carries out the investigation. To have this process happen in Miami is historic. This is the first time the Archdiocese of Miami convenes an ecclesiastical tribunal made up of an episcopal delegate, who is also a judge delegate, a promoter of justice, a medical expert, and three notaries. In addition, the process was conducted bilingually, in English and Spanish.
“It’s been a historic moment for everyone, above all for the archdiocese,” said Father Luis Rivero, who was named by Archbishop Thomas Wenski as his episcopal delegate.
Father Rivero teaches theology and canon law at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and is also a judge in the Metropolitan Tribunal. He explained that the only one authorized to open a cause for sainthood is the bishop of the diocese where the presumed saint lived, in this case, the bishop of Caracas, Cardinal Baltazar Porras. But since the presumed miracle took place in the Archdiocese of Miami, Archbishop Wenski began this investigation.
“It has been a very meticulous process,” Father Rivero noted. “The ecclesiastical tribunal was not created to judge, but to gather information and send it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, so they can make the final judgment and present it to the Holy Father.”
In this case, it appears a miracle involving physical healing occurred through the intercession of Blessed José Gregorio. Obviously, the investigation involves the person who was cured and the doctors who treated that person, all of them witnesses. Also part of the investigation are those who initiated the intercession, those who prayed to Blessed José Gregorio, and the number of people who prayed. The postulator presents the witnesses, and during the trial, more witnesses may come forward with knowledge of the presumed miracle.
“Two doctors also are called to inspeccione, that is, to inspect. They don’t know the person who was cured, they have never treated that person and after reading the medical reports they testify that the person is healthy. If they can offer a scientific explanation, that is taken into consideration, but if not: How can this be explained? How can a person with certain symptoms, or a certain pathology, recover in such a short time?” Father Rivero said.
But the details regarding the person who received the miracle cannot be divulged “until after the Holy See makes a decision,” he added.
The work of the ecclesiastical tribunal concludes when they present the results of their investigation into the presumed miracle. After that, all that remains is “to pray. That the Holy Spirit and the Lord will do their work,” Father Rivero said.
The investigation into this presumed miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed José Gregorio involved 16 witnesses, including medical experts, doctors who treated the person and objective witnesses. The process lasted a little over two weeks, from May 31 to June 17, when the investigative documents were presented at a small ceremony in the archdiocesan Pastoral Center.
Archbishop Wenski offered a prayer at the start of the ceremony: “Lord, we thank you for the examples left to us by the lives of your saints. We give you thanks for our brother who experienced an inexplicable healing in which we see your hand. We are here asking for your grace, that we might proclaim more efficiently these wonders, so that the world might come to know you better and all the world might believe in you and in the power of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Both Father Rivero and Father Rafael León, promoter of justice for the case and a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, signed three copies of the document containing the results of the investigation, each one 648 pages long. Each copy was then closed and sealed in front of notaries and representatives of the archdioceses of Caracas and Miami.
The original documents will be preserved in the archives of the Archdiocese of Miami, to be opened only with the express permission of the archbishop. Father Teodoro Ricardo Pirera Vegas was charged with taking the two authenticated copies to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a duty he swore to uphold.
The copies were given to the Holy See on June 20 by Cardinal Porras, Father Gerardino Barrachini, current vice postulator for the canonization of Blessed José Gregorio, and Father Pirera.
“This cause (for sainthood) definitely has social, cultural, ecclesial, and historic impact for our country,” said Father Barrachini, a native of Venezuela. He added that Blessed José Gregorio “is a man who has gone beyond the borders of Venezuela and is now part of Catholic culture, of popular culture.”
Once the results of the investigation made it to Rome, “we concluded the so-called diocesan phase of the presumed miracle. The document now moves to what is called the Roman phase,” Father Barrachini said.
In Rome, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints conducts its own investigation, consulting with its own doctors and experts.
“If the doctors and experts have no objections, the process moves to the pope, who with the cardinals approves and declares that this was a miracle and decides on a date for the canonization,” said Father Luis Largaespada, pastor of St. Hugh in Coconut Grove.
“That could take time, Roman time. It could be a year or more of waiting, then, for the will of God to be fulfilled,” Father Barrachini said.
In March of 2022, at the request of Father Largaespada, Father Barrachini brought a relic of Blessed José Gregorio, which made its way to various archdiocesan churches. When the relic was exposed at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Doral, the person who received the presumed miracle told the story of his healing to the congregation.
“It had only been six months since his healing,” Father Largaespada said.
“It was the first time he went to an event for José Gregorio,” said Corina Hernández, parishioner at St. Hugh.
Shortly afterward, during a retreat at St. Hugh, the person once more shared his testimony. He met Father Barrachini and they spoke, at which point he concluded that this might be a miracle.
A serious investigation began in April, Cardinal Porras came to Miami in May, and in June the process was concluded.
“Truly this has been an accelerated process because the case appears verifiable,” Father Largaespada said.
The person who received the miracle knew about Blessed José Gregorio but was not devoted to him. He was very ill, and doctors offered his family no hope. His relatives could only pray for him.
“The Lord was great to him,” Father Largaespada said, because he was not only healed physically but spiritually. “His relatives say he is a different person.”
“This has been a dream come true for me, to see the process regarding a miracle and that it all started with me asking for the relic of José Gregorio,” Father Largaespada said. n