Page 4, 18th August 1950

18th August 1950
Page 4
Page 4, 18th August 1950 — AT YOUR SERVICE

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People: Scriptural


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I find it repugnant to me to believe a great many of the miracles and wonders, as for example, those related to Fatima, which are described in your paper. Surely true religion does not require this kind of sensationalism?

IN one form or another this is a fairly common view today, and it is worth immediately noting that it is by no means as scandalous as many of us may at first sight think. For example, the only individual miracles which a Catholic is bound by his faith to believe are the miracles recorded in Scripture. Apart from belief in those individual Scriptural miracles, a Catholic must hold that miracles cart be performed and can be knoem with certainty and that miracles are part of the proof of the divine origin of the Church.

Certainly. the miracles of Fatima are not of faith, neither even are the miracles of Lourdes.

Furthermore, the first stress in Our Lord's life is not on miracles but on the spiritual action of grace, just as it is not the miracles which make the saint. but the heroic virtues which sometimes enable the saint by his prayers and actions to obtain from God—the only cause of a miracle— the working of miracles. (Naturally, the fundamental doctrinal mysteries or miracles of the Faith itself, the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ and Our Lord's real presence in the Holy Eucharist are in a class apart.)

Thus, our questioner, while he appears to be something of a sceptic has in a way got bold of the right end of the stick. He in not impressed by the miracles which he may read of because he instinctively feels that true religion is primarily a matter of the supernatural, not the miraculous, and because he feels doubtful about the evidence, or even possibly the inner propriety, of cer

tain alleged miracles. In both regards, his instincts are thoroughly Catholic. An act of supernatural charity is worth infinitely more in itself than the miraculous healing of a disease; and the Church herself is the first to be sceptical of the reports and tales of apparitions, cures, and the like. For that matter, many similar "wonders," including apparent ecstacies and trances, are often found in non-Christian religions, especially in the East.

But just because the Church is the first to insist on the secondary value of the miraculous and the last to believe in the irrefutable nature of

the evidence for any individual miracle, we, for our part, need not be too insistent on our own private doubts and feelings. If the Church, after meticulous and prolonged examinations such as those which have been given to the phenomena of Lourdes or to the miracles required for canonisation, declares herself satisfied that she is faced with happenings explicable only, both because of their nature and their cause, as the direct action of God Himself wrought independently of natural powers and laws, trien it is really rather rash of us to refuse belief just because somehow we don't like the sound of them !

* *

It is perfectly true that the Church in the past has currently accepted and even sometimes incorporated into her liturgy, miracles which modem scholarship has demonstrated to have been legendary. • People in the past were less critical than they are today and in any case the Church has always made it clear that its acceptance of such miracles is according to the worth of the human testimony for them. Therefore Catholic scholars and historians are perfectly entitled to use their training and resources in order to examine those alleged wonders. But there is all the difference in the world between a scholarly critical examination of miracles, and giving way to a mere feeling that miracles don't happen.

Moreover, even legends may have a eenuine spiritual value in an epoch when men are more interested in the spiritual significance of human actions than in the actual occurrence or non-occurrence of tha actions themselves.

Only the shallowest of philosophies would nowadays deny the possibility of God's miraculous intervention. Today the Church uses and requires the highest scientific standards of investigation. So, while we are not bound to believe in this or that miracle, we need have no difficulty in following the Church's careful guidance and holding with her that the miraculous is vet another proof of her divine origin, and aocept with her, if only on human testimony, which is subject to possible revision, the miracles of which she approves, not only because the evidence is really good, but because of their doctrinal significance or devotional help. As for Catholic newspapers, their job is to report what happens and what is seriously alleged to have happened. This is the raw material for further investigation and obviously does riot necessarily imply that the newspaper holds the event to be authentically miraculous.

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