Thursday, June 18, 2009

Deacon healed though the intercession of Cardinal John Newman

Deacon John Sullivan, of Marshfield Massachusetts, claims to have been healed through the intercession of Cardinal John Henry Newman. If the miracle is confirmed, Cardinal Newman may be on the road to beatification as early as this summer.

This story was published in the Catholic Herald - London.
LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - An American deacon has described in detail how he was cured from a severe spinal condition after praying to Cardinal John Henry Newman.

John Sullivan, 70, of Marshfield, Massachusetts, described the healing to American television networks just days after it was reported that Vatican theological consultors had unanimously ruled it a miracle that could pave the way for the beatification of the Victorian convert.

The healing, which was earlier concluded to be inexplicable by medics, now awaits the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood and Pope Benedict XVI before Cardinal Newman can be declared Blessed.

If the miracle is confirmed, Cardinal Newman could be beatified as early as this summer, said Rev. Mr Sullivan, a deacon at St Thecla's parish in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

In its sainthood process the Church generally must confirm two miracles as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and one before canonisation.

In 2000 Mr Sullivan, a married father of three grown children and a long-serving court magistrate for Plymouth District Court, was in the middle of his diaconal studies at St John's Seminary when he began experiencing severe and incapacitating back pain. Tests and scans revealed that several of Mr Sullivan's lumbar vertebrates and disks were squeezing his spinal cord and affecting the nerves going to his legs. Doctors told him that, without surgery, he could become paralysed.

"I was in agony. There was no traumatic event that occurred that would have caused this pain. It just suddenly happened," explained Mr Sullivan. "I was doubled over in agony and experienced constant pain."

Not only was Mr Sullivan shocked by the diagnosis, but he was also devastated that he could not return to his diaconal studies, which started up in a month. "I enjoyed the first two years of the process and my heart was really set on being ordained because I wanted to be of service to the Church and to serve God in the best way that I knew how," he said.

To distract himself from his pain and disappointment, he left his doctor's office and went home to watch television. A programme on the beatification process for Cardinal Newman happened to be on the Eternal Word Television Network.

After the programme Mr Sullivan said he decided to recite this simple prayer to Cardinal Newman: "Please, Cardinal Newman, intercede with God to help me go back to classes and be ordained."

When he awoke the next morning Mr Sullivan was pain-free and could walk upright for the first time in months.

His doctors had no medical explanation for that turn of events. He returned to his diaconate classes and remained free of back pain for the next eight months.

In April 2001, the day after his diaconal classes ended for the year, the pain returned in "full fury", said Deacon Sullivan.

A cortisone injection to the spine provided no relief and his doctor again recommended surgery to repair his back, which the doctor said was the worst he had ever seen.

Before the surgery, Mr Sullivan struggled to complete as many hours as he could in his diaconal internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Surgery revealed that his back was in an even worse condition than his doctor had thought and that he probably would not be able to walk again for at least four months.

In severe pain after the surgery, Mr Sullivan again prayed to Cardinal Newman to help him to walk so that he could finish his internship and be ordained with his class.

"I felt a very warm sensation and a tingling all over that lasted about five or 10 minutes and a tremendous sense of joy, exuberance and confidence," said the deacon, adding that he immediately became pain-free.

"I had no pain anymore and I had been in agony a couple of minutes before."

"I walked all over the hospital and they released me immediately," he continued. "There is no other explanation than that Cardinal Newman interceded for me." Mr Sullivan's doctor confirmed that there was again no medical explanation for his recovery. After receiving his doctor's confirmation, Mr Sullivan wrote to Fr Paul Chavasse, the postulator for Cardinal Newman's sainthood cause at the Birmingham Oratory, and the process for validating the miracle began.

On the day of his diaconal ordination in September 2002, he received news that the reputed miracle would be presented to Rome for confirmation.

Mr Sullivan, who now walks at least a mile and a half a day and can do hours of gardening pain-free, says that he has the back of a 30-year-old and he owes it all to Cardinal Newman.

"I needed a lot of help because I was in serious straits and for some reason Cardinal Newman was made available to me, and it was God who answered my prayers through Newman," he said.

"I wouldn't be deacon or a father or husband without Cardinal Newman. He gave me back my life and I am very, very grateful and I certainly had nothing to do with it."

Mr Sullivan hopes to serve on the altar during the beatification Mass.

The Vatican would not comment on the vote of the theological consultors. A spokesman for the Birmingham Oratory said the fathers were still awaiting formal notification on the progress of Cardinal Newman's cause.

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