A priest who was severely paralyzed from a neck injury believes he was healed through the intercession of 19th century priest Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos. If declared a miracle by the Vatican, the healing could lead to the blessed’s canonization.
Fr. Byron Miller, executive director of the National Seelos Shrine in New Orleans, said “some of the best doctors in the country” told Fr. John Murray there was little chance he would walk again.
“So my reaction to his recovery was astonishment at the wonders of our awesome God through His company of saints, including the powerful prayers of Bl. Seelos in heaven!”
In 2009 Fr. Murray, a Baltimore-based Redemptorist parish priest known for his preaching, was paralyzed from the chest down after he tripped on a walkway and struck his head against a railing, breaking his neck. Doctors said he would never walk again.
“When they said I’d never be able to move, they took away all hope,” he told the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s newspaper the Catholic Review.
He began living and undergoing rehabilitation at a home for retired priests in Timonium, Md. On Nov. 28, 2010, he was able to move his left leg slightly off the ground.
“I was ecstatic,” the priest said. “Here I was about six weeks after they told me I’d never move again and, lo and behold, I could move. Just the foot, but it kept going and going and going.”
Today the priest is completely mobile with the help of a walker.
He attributes his healing to a relic of Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who once served in Maryland before moving to New Orleans.
Fr. Miller told CNA on Jan. 5 that Fr. Murray developed his devotion to the blessed while pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis, Md., where Bl. Seelos himself was pastor during the Civil War.
Fr. Murray preached and presided at the National Seelos Shrine in April 2010, about four months before his accident.
“When we heard of his situation, I assured him that a votive candle at the Shrine was lit for him, and that the Seelos Center staff and the Redemptorists of New Orleans were keeping him in our prayers,” Fr. Miller said.
Fr. Miller, who is the vice-postulator of Bl. Seelos’ cause for canonization, said that Fr. Murray’s case has not been formally submitted as a possible miracle. However, Fr. Miller has already brought the case to the Redemptorist postulator general’s attention to make an informal evaluation of whether the healing has the characteristics needed to declare a miracle.
“Bl. Seelos needs one miracle to be declared a saint. The healing in a case has to be immediate, permanent, and complete,” Fr. Miller explained.
Advocates of his canonization are also monitoring the case of a woman from Virginia who injured herself in a fall and was unable to kneel because of the metal plates placed in her leg.
She visited Bl. Seelos’ shrine, prayed with a crucifix and became able to kneel before his remains.
Bl. Seelos was born in Germany in 1819 and later moved to the United States. He was ordained a priest in Baltimore and served in parishes in Baltimore, Annapolis, Pittsburgh and Cumberland. From 1863 to 1866 he was an itinerant missionary and then joined a Redemptorist community in New Orleans. There, he showed special care for the poorest and most abandoned in society.
He cared for victims of yellow fever, dying of the disease in 1867.
Bl. Seelos’ life shows how love of God and neighbor and how tolerance and adaptability can be “brought to perfection in all of us,” Fr. Miller said.
“His remarkable willingness to leave his beloved homeland and come to America to minister to German immigrants in need, and his willingness to come to New Orleans when he knew the dangers of yellow fever, reveal a man who lived a rather ordinary life, but with extraordinary faith and trust in God.”
The saint showed personal charisma and there are many firsthand accounts from people who attributed healings through his prayers and blessings while he was alive. Since his death, many people who have been healed credit his intercessory prayers.
“Knowing Fr. Murray as I do, I give thanks to God that he is one of them!” the priest said.