"It's a miracle!" We've all been guilty of saying those words, without thinking about what they really mean. But within the Catholic Church (as in other religions), a miracle is an amazing and supernatural event, one that could not have occurred without the intervention of God. And most often, in the Catholic tradition, God makes these interventions through one of his faithful servants -- a saint. One early saint, condemned by the authorities to be defiled in a brothel, could not be moved -- even when she was attached to a team of oxen! Others healed the crippled, restored sight to the blind, or even raised the dead.
Today, the Catholic Church requires at least two posthumous miracles as part of the canonization process -- that is, the verification process that makes great religious figures into saints. It might surprise you to know that saints are being canonized, regularly, to this day. The current pope, Francis, has canonized 885 persons since taking his office in 2013! Most often, these posthumous miracles are healings achieved by means of prayer to the saint-to-be, who has already attained a state of veneration.
Our quiz takes a look at the fascinating world of the saints and their miracles -- healings and resurrections, stigmata and levitation, bilocation, incorruptibility, and more. Join us to learn a few things, or prove how well you remember the lives and works of the saitns.
Sigh. We love you, St. Brigit, but this is not helping stereotypes about the Irish!
Frances Cabrini is known as "Mother Cabrini" in the United States, where a street in Chicago is named for her. The curing of the blind child was her beatification miracle.
During John Paul's funeral, mourners cried "Santo subito!" or "Saint(hood) now!" The healing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre was considered to be due to his posthumous intercession.
Thomas Aquinas is a well-known name in philosophy. He admired the "pagan" philosopher Aristotle and wrote about the Greek's ideas -- probaby from a seated, not floating, position.
"India" might have tipped you off here. This happened one year after Mother Teresa's death.
"St. Mungo's" is the wizarding hospital in J.K. Rowling's books. In real life, St. Mungo enacted several miracles, including bring a robin back to life after other boys killed it.
Peter is considered the first pope, the "rock" on which Christ built his church. You can read about his miracles in the Biblical book of Acts.
St. Denis is known as the first bishop of Paris. After being decapitated by the Roman authorities, he carried his own head to the place where his abbey was later built.
A stingy king refused to give Brigit land for a convent. The saint-to-be asked for as much land as her cloak could cover. Then, as her nuns stretched it out, Brigit's cloak expanded miraculously. The shocked king agreed to give the saint the land she wanted.
Disturbingly, the three boys were said to be murdered by a butcher, to be sold as meat. Nicholas was also known for secretly giving bags of gold coins to a poor man's three daughters, slipping the bags into the house by night ... which might help to explain how he became "Saint Nick" in Christian tradition.
This is a harder miracle to believe in literally, largely because dragons have never actually been proven to exist, whereas fatal diseases (which saints often cure) do. Still, the story is beloved, especially in England, where St. George is considered a patron saint by Catholics.
This legend is appropriate, because Anthony was known for his eloquent preaching. Ergot poisoning, the cause of his death, is also called "St. Anthony's Fire" in his honor.
Not much is known about this early Christian martyr. Christians come to Naples annually to see the liquefaction of his blood, but since there is only a tiny amount, and the vial cannot be opened for fear of damage, there's robust debate over what people are actually seeing.
St. Pio was born in the late 19th century, but was most active in his work as a friar and priest in the 20th. He died in 1968.
The story is called the "Wolf of Gubbio." Francis is said to have tamed the man-eating wolf just by speaking to it, and thereafter, the villagers fed the wolf, which no longer attacked them or their livestock.
To some in Sweden, St. Bridget is a national hero. But to others in this largely-secular nation, her religious visions -- which she had from an early age -- are no more than signs of mental illness.
Levitation isn't an uncommon event in the annals of sainthood. It is often associated with spiritual ecstasy.
Maria Droste du Vischering is better known by the name "Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart." Her body rests in Ermensinde, Portugal.
Bernadette was only 14 when she began receiving visions at the grotto. Today, Lourdes is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.
You might know this saint's name from the thrift stores that bear his name. Rather, they're named after the society founded to follow in his history of charity.
Eyewitness accounts attested to St. Pio being in two places at once. He is also credited with healings, communication with angels, and other supernatural phenomena. So many, in fact, that the Vatican initially did not believe the accounts.
St. Cecilia converted her husband Valerian, who saw the angel crowning her with roses. Both Cecilia and Valerian were among Rome's earliest Christian martyrs.
Valentine is an early saint, and accounts of his life differ. But in one, the blind girl he heals is his jailer's daughter. On the day of his execution, he leaves her a note signed "from your Valentine," starting a tradition of love notes with the same name, passed on St. Valentine's Day.
The turning of the tide at Orleans was seen as a sign that God favored the French in the Hundred Years' War. Sadly, St. Joan was executed for heresy at only 19 years of age.
Accounts differ as to why Lucia, or Lucy, lost her eyes. Some say that they were gouged out as part of her tortures. Another story is that she did it herself, to discourage a suitor who admired her eyes. Either way, her hagiography says that they were restored when she was taken to her family tomb.
Elmo's life was full of close scrapes. After a bolt of lightning struck the ground next to him as he was preaching, narrowly missing him, sailors claimed him as their patron. The discharges of static electricity from ship's masts is therefore called "St. Elmo's Fire."
This would have made "St. Eligius" an ideal name for the equine veterinary hospital where Beth works on "Rick and Morty." Sadly, the name had already been used in the medical drama "St. Elsewhere," so the writers were left with "St. Equus."
Sebastian was an early Roman martyr. He did not die, as is sometimes said, from being shot with arrows. He survived that, history says, to reproach the emperor Diocletian for his treatment of Christians. This resulted in a second, and successful, execution attempt.
The friars were snowed into their monastery and starving, the story goes, when a sack of bread appeared on the front doorstep.A team of European scholars were so intrigued by the legend that they examined what remained of the sack, finding it to be from roughly the correct time period.
Stephen is such an early figure in the Bible that the story of his stoning to death can be read in the book of Acts. It was St. Augustine who wrote about the miracles caused by his relics, in "City of God."
This reportedly happened in the now-Italian region of Lombardy. Sebastian is the patron saint of plague patients.
St. Jude was one of the original 12 apostles, known as "Thaddeus" in the gospels. He is not to be mistaken for Judas Iscariot.
You might know St. Vitus better as the namesake of "St. Vitus dance," a poetic name for chorea (tremors or uncontrollable body movements). The name arose because the faithful used to dance before a statue of St. Vitus. He is now the patron saint of patients with chorea.
Faustina Kowalska was a nun in her native Poland. She had ecstatic visions often, and died at just 33 years old.
Nowadays, two posthumous miracles must be credited to a candidate for sainthood. Often, these are cures or healings effected after prayers for the blessed person's intercession. However, some early saints have no miracles in their life stories, just teaching, leadership and/or martyrdom.