This news report from the Daily Telegraph tells us about a house in Australia that weeps miraculous healing oils. Lina and George Tannous who emigrated from Lebanon lost their son Mike in a car accident in 2006. Initially the oil seeped from his photographs and from icons in the home. Now the oils seeps from all the walls of the house. Lina and George believe their son Mike is a saint and want the Vatican to canonize him. They claim that miracles have already been achieved through the mysterious holy oil.
This sort of story confirms why I am a Catholic. What is the Catholic response to such things? First of all we do not deny that miracles happen. A miracles is, errm, a miracle. Which means it is an occurrence outside the normal laws of the natural order. However, at the same time, we are expected to exercise caution and careful judgement. We should look for every natural explanation first. We should allow science to step in and tell us what is going on if it can. We should understand that often people just ‘see things’ as a result of religious suggestion and because they desperately want to ‘see things’. I was at at charismatic meeting once and the minister was laying hands on people and they were dropping and ‘resting in the Spirit’ then I heard one lady say to the minister, drop me over there. I’m planning to rest for a nice long time. So sometimes strange things happen, but we sort of help them happen.
So we should examine the oil and find out if there is any rational explanation. In addition to people ‘seeing things’. We should be prepared also that there are charlatans and frauds who produce ‘miracles’ to gain attention or money or both. Finally, some paranormal events are the result of psychic disturbances. Sometimes poltergeists aren’t demons. They’re unexplained manifestations of a disturbed adolescent mind. Similarly, people who are traumatized by grief or illness or disaster unconsciously manifest strange happenings.
But then, we also allow for true miracles. God works through his saints. Wonderful things happen, and one of the reasons I’m a Catholic is because in the end of the day the supernatural-ness of the events in the weeping house in Australia are not determined by Lina and George Tannous or the devotees who are flocking there or by me, but by the church.
We have an authority that both believes in miracles and yet is rightly skeptical. I’ll wait for them to make up their mind.