John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope: Beatificat... Read more
Photo: Felix Carroll
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre of France, whose cure from Parkinson's was the miracle that led to Pope John Paul II's beatification.
Marian Press has released the Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope, by Fr. George W. Kosicki, CSB, and David Came. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2:
Pope John Paul II suffered from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease in his last years, as he struggled with slurred speech, trembling in his hands, and stooped posture. He even had to put up with the indignity of being transported on a platform. According to papal biographer George Weigel in Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, John Paul was first diagnosed with the disease in 1994. The Vatican would go public with the diagnosis several years later.
Especially in the closing weeks of his life, John Paul was rendered almost completely silent in his suffering from the disease. Who can forget, for example, how he was unable to speak and could only bless the crowd in St. Peter's Square on his last Easter Sunday in 2005?
What makes John Paul II's struggles with advanced Parkinson's — which was a contributing factor in his death — so poignant is the nature of the miracle recognized for his beatification. The miracle involved a French nun who says she was instantly healed of Parkinson's through his intercession two months to the day after his death. As we consider his legacy as the Great Mercy Pope, the crowning irony of this is that he was able to relieve someone else of Parkinson's through his intercession while he himself struggled with the cross of the disease to the end.
The nun involved is Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre Normand of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood. She works as a nurse in a Paris maternity clinic and had been diagnosed with Parkinson's in June 2001 at the age of only 40. She reports of the disease that it affected the whole left side of her body, creating great difficulty for her, as she was left-handed. After three years, she said that the initial phase of the disease, slow but progressive, was followed by an aggravation of the symptoms, which included an increase of the trembling, more rigidity, pain, and insomnia.
Tellingly, she said that watching Pope John Paul II deteriorate from the effects of Parkinson's disease, "I saw myself in the years to come" (Catholic News Service report, March 30, 2007).
When John Paul II passed to the Lord on April 2, 2005, Sr. Simon-Pierre reported that her condition began to worsen week by week. She was unable to write and if she attempted it, what she wrote was unintelligible. She could drive only for short trips because her left leg would stiffen and her rigidity would impede her driving. Further, to do her work at the maternity clinic, it took more time than usual. She says that she was exhausted. (This comes from her testimony, written in 2006, which formed part of John Paul II's cause for beatification.)
Members of Sr. Simon-Pierre's congregation began to pray for her healing from the disease through the intercession of John Paul II, following the Vatican dispensing with the five-year waiting period for John Paul II's cause on May 13, 2005.
SISTER SIMON-PIERRE'S TESTIMONY
She reports further in her testimony of 2006 about her miraculous healing:
On June 1, I was finished; I struggled to stand and to walk. On June 2 in the afternoon, I went to find my superior to ask her if I could leave my work. She encouraged me to endure a bit longer until my return from Lourdes in August, and she added: "John Paul II has not yet said his last word" (John Paul II was surely there, in that meeting, which passed in serenity and peace). Then, Mother Superior gave me a pen and told me to write: "John Paul II." It was 5 o'clock in the afternoon. With effort, I wrote: "John Paul II." We remained in silence before the illegible letters, then the day continued as usual.
At the end of the evening prayer, at 9 o'clock at night, I went to my office before going to my room. I felt the need to pick up the pen and to write, just as if someone within me was saying: "Pick up the pen and write." It was between 9:30 and 9:40 at night. To my great surprise, I saw that the writing was clearly legible. Not understanding anything, I went to bed. Two months exactly had gone by since John Paul II's departure to the House of the Father. I woke up at 4:30 a.m., surprised that I was able to sleep, and I leapt out of bed: My body was no longer insensitive, rigid, and interiorly I was not the same.
Then, I felt an interior call and the strong impulse to go to pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament. I went down to the Oratory and prayed before the Most Blessed Sacrament. I felt a profound peace and a sensation of wellbeing; too great an experience, a mystery difficult to explain with words.
Later, before the Most Blessed Sacrament, I meditated on John Paul II's Mysteries of Light. At 6 o'clock in the morning, I went out to meet with the sisters in the chapel for a time of prayer, which was followed by the Eucharistic celebration.
I had to walk some 50 meters, and at that very moment I realized that, as I walked, my left arm was moving, it was not immobile next to my body. I also felt a physical lightness and agility that I had not felt for a long time.
During the Eucharistic celebration, I was full of joy and peace; it was June 3, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Coming out from Holy Mass, I was sure of my cure; my hand did not shake any more. I went to write again, and at midday I stopped taking my medicines.
On June 7, as planned, I went to my neurologist, my doctor for the past four years. He was also surprised to see the disappearance of all the symptoms of the disease, despite my having interrupted the treatment five days earlier. The next day, the Superior General entrusted an act of thanksgiving to all our communities, and the entire congregation began a thanksgiving novena to John Paul II (testimony written in 2006 for John Paul II's cause for beatification).
In this account of Sr. Simon-Pierre's healing, there's an intriguing connection with the exact time of John Paul II's death, 9:37 p.m. on April 2, 2005, and the time two months later on June 2 "between 9:30 and 9:40 at night" when Sister says someone within her urged her to try again to write John Paul's name. Was this someone within her John Paul II, coming to her aid, perhaps two months to the minute after his death? After all, she notes that this time her writing of his name, to her "great surprise," was "clearly legible."
APPROVAL FOR THE MIRACLE
The diocesan inquiry on a miracle for the Servant of God John Paul II began in 2006. It included submission of the testimony of Sr. Simon-Pierre's possible miraculous healing through the intercession of John Paul II. Such a miracle is required for beatification, along with proof that the candidate lived a virtuous life to a heroic degree. (This was covered in our first chapter.)
In the case of the miracle for the cause, it is investigated by both medical experts and theological consultants. Theolog- ical consultants weigh the evidence for determining that the alleged miracle occurred through the intercession of the candidate for beatification.
Usually, a possible miracle involves a physical healing, such as was the case with Sr. Simon-Pierre. This is where the medical investigators weigh in with their expertise to determine whether the healing is inexplicable on scientific and medical grounds.
In the case of the healing of Sr. Simon-Pierre, the medical consultants voted their approval on October 21, 2010. The theological consultants followed suit with their approval on December 14, 2010. The miracle was then approved by the Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on January 11, 2011. Finally, approval by Pope Benedict XVI and publication of the Decree on the Miracle came on January 14, 2011.
Now the way was cleared by the Vatican to schedule the date for the Venerable Servant of God's beatification.
'I SAW GOD'S GLORY'
Following the beatification, which we will cover in our next chapter, Sr. Simon-Pierre has committed herself to sharing her testimony involving the miracle. For instance, at the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy celebrated in Poland on October 1-5, 2011, she gave her testimony in Wadowice, the hometown of John Paul II.
On that occasion, she mentioned how "my congregation did pray for the mercy of my healing." She also said that she "saw God's glory" at the beatification of John Paul:
Since May 14, 2005, [the day after the Pope dispensed with the five-year waiting period for John Paul II's cause to start] a certain verse from the Gospel of John has been deep inside me and has not left: "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (Jn 11: 40). I saw God's glory in St. Peter's Square on May 1, 2011, on the Sunday of Divine Mercy when John Paul II was declared Blessed. Six years had just passed since I stopped my therapy. ... My congregation did pray for the mercy of my healing from Parkinson's disease, so that I could work and serve in my maternity clinic, as a nurse taking care of mothers and newborns. I was young then [in my 40s]. To take part in the Church's mission, arms, hands, eyes, and hearts are needed so that all families — all families regardless of their problems — can be told about the divine love of our Father. We hope that this healing miracle has made at least a small contribution to the beatification of Pope John Paul II ... . We deeply loved the Pope, seeing in him the Shepherd of God's Heart and the Pope of the Family.
For Sr. Simon-Pierre and the rest of us, Blessed John Paul II's merciful intercession for her and his faithfulness to the Lord during his struggles with Parkinson's stand as a testament to God's mercy and John Paul's heroic virtue. They inspire us to do likewise, interceding for those in need and bearing our own crosses in fidelity to our merciful Savior's will for our lives. Such a testament to God's mercy can inspire us to see the glory of God shining through our lives, as it did for Sr. Simon-Pierre at the beatification.
O merciful Savior, You told Martha before raising her brother Lazarus from the dead, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (Jn 11:40). Give us eyes of faith to see Your glory shining through our lives. Grant this prayer through the intercession of Your servant, Blessed John Paul II. Amen.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand will be a special guest speaker at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass, on Sunday, April 29. She will also be among the speakers at the 8th Annual Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy Conference, May 1-2.
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Father George W. Kosicki is a longtime collaborator with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. In 1987, he headed their Divine Mercy Department in Stockbridge, Mass., which was responsible for editing and proofing the English translation of the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass. He is the author of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate.
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