We don't hear about miracles like these every day, but that doesn't mean they don't happen -- and perhaps more frequently than we imagine.
It's unusual for the headlines to be full of miracles, but this week, they were.
The first was the recently approved miracle connected with Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The announcement that Sheen's beatification would occur on Dec. 21 pushed the Engstrom family's miracle back into the news once again. And what a miracle it is!
On Sept. 15, 2010, Bonnie Engstrom went into labor. It was a normal, low-risk pregnancy and childbirth until her son, James, was born lifeless. An unknown knot in the umbilical cord had tightened during labor and delivery, and the baby's oxygen supply had been entirely cut off. Without a pulse for 61 minutes, the medical staff at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, were preparing to note the time of death. Bonnie's husband, Travis, performed an emergency baptism, and his pulse returned. The Catholic chaplain offered to confirm James, as his prognosis had not changed. An initial MRI showed significant brain damage.
Afterward, the couple posted what had happened on Facebook. They encouraged people to ask the intercession of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to restore their infant son's brain and prevent organ failure. People all over the world prayed for a miracle. And that's exactly what the Engstrom's got. James' follow-up MRI was completely normal, and he has lived without any trace of being oxygen deprived for over an hour.
The second story to hit the news this week involves a New Orleans family and the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. Originally from Germany, Seelos was ordained a Redemptorist priest in the United States as a missionary to German immigrants. He served in Pittsburgh alongside St. John Neumann. Not long after the Civil War, Father Seelos was sent to a Redemptorist community in New Orleans. He contracted yellow fever visiting the sick during a serious outbreak of the disease and died at the age of 48. Father Seelos was known for his kindness and had a reputation as a "healing priest." Beatified in the year 2000, he is a favorite intercessor in New Orleans.
Last winter, Michelle and Brandon Coyles were looking forward to the birth of their first child. They had lost two children previously through miscarriage. Michelle went into labor three weeks early -- on Mardi Gras. Things became complicated as the birth progressed and the couple was told that the baby would need a vacuum-assisted delivery. When Carson Joseph was born at 10:12 p.m., he was blue and lifeless. The good news was that the baby was expected to live; the bad news was that he was likely to suffer mental retardation or cerebral palsy from significant brain injury.
Doctors told the Coyles that their son had a little bleeding around the brain that would subside. Instead, it got worse. Carson's eyes and ears had swollen shut and his organs began to shut down. When an NICU nurse offered to baptize him, Michelle realized that her son was dying. A relative started a prayer chain, and a stranger showed up at the hospital in the middle of the night. Judge Dennis Waldron brought a special crucifix with him, one that had been used by Father Seelos. He placed it on Carson's tiny body, and prayed with the child's parents.
There was no visible change until the next day. Carson's lab results improved, he began to breathe on his own and even eat. Better yet, his MRI revealed completely normal brain activity. The Coyles' story has now been reported to Rome. Whether the Church approves Carson's healing as a miracle through the intercession of Father Seelos or not, it probably doesn't matter much to the Coyles.
We don't hear about miracles like these every day, but that doesn't mean they don't happen -- and perhaps more frequently than we imagine. Our God is not a miser. He is generous and merciful beyond measure. He cares about us and for us. He is an active, not passive, participant in our lives. When's the last time you asked for the miracle you need most?
The Communion of Saints surrounds us with prayer. And God answers prayer, sometimes in mysterious and miraculous ways. The divide between time and eternity is not nearly as thick as we think it is. Miracles show us how close heaven is to earth; how close God is to us; how powerful prayer can be; and how much we have to be grateful for.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.