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“Ask a Priest: Why are there not more miracles today as in the Early Church?”
Q: Scripture records how commonplace it was for miraculous healings to take place throughout the apostles’ ministries … even when the shadow of an apostle’s cloak passed over someone. Why is it only very rare to hear of physical healings in the Church today? Why has God greatly limited the graces given to priests for physically healing those they minister to? It’s sad. -C.L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I can understand your sadness at not hearing of more miracles nowadays. One of the great mysteries of life is why God allows so much suffering in this world, including among the innocent.
Your question touches on a number of important points, so let’s take them one by one.
True, the New Testament records that Jesus performed a lot of miracles, either directly or through his apostles. Miracles helped to give credibility to Jesus’ message and helped to demonstrate that he was indeed the Son of God. Miracles also gave credibility to the apostles’ preaching.
Yet miracles were not the end-all of Jesus’ mission. In fact, he tended to give more priority to his preaching than to his miracles. “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38).
Presumably, Jesus could have spent all his time performing miraculous cures. But he didn’t. It is not that he was indifferent to people’s physical suffering. Rather, he was more interested in healing their souls, in bringing them to repentance.
Still, miracles seemed to have a more prominent place in the early Church. As time went on, it seemed that God relied on more-normal signs of his grace to accompany his Church. These included the numerous works of charity done by and within Christian communities and the witness of Christian marriages and families.
Of course, miracles are not a thing of the past. There are still miracles today. The Church canonizes saints, in part, on the basis of miracles done in their name. This does not imply that there are not other miracles in the world. Many of us have heard of seemingly miraculous cures, such as among cancer patients who enjoy an inexplicable recovery. True, the Church might never verify officially that these cures are miracles. Yet, our intellects can draw faith-filled conclusions when presented with powerful evidence.
It is good to remember that the best cures are spiritual. “Miracles” of grace can bring people back to the sacrament of confession after a lapse of decades. That kind of healing has consequences that can last longer than any physical cure. (For further reading, you might consider the “Amazing Grace” books series published by Ascension Press. The books compile real-life experiences of normal people in today’s world who had remarkable, “miraculous” encounters with God’s grace.)
In answer to your last observation, I’d say that God has already given priests the gift of being able to bring the best healing to souls, through the sacraments. God has been known to give special powers of healing to some priests and laypeople. In any case, the Almighty is not indifferent to our suffering. Often he wants us to simply embrace it and offer it back to him for the sake of souls and for his glory. I hope this helps. Rest assured of my prayers.