The Deacon's Bench

With John Henry Newman now headed toward sainthood, attention is being focused on the man who was miraculously healed by Newman’s intercession.

He is a permanent deacon from Massachusetts.

And the Boston Globe caught up with him:

Lying in a hospital bed after surgery on his spine, unable to walk and in agonizing pain, Jack Sullivan propped himself up on elbows and prayed.

Not to some vast, unknowable god, but to a specific figure in the Catholic Church, vastly respected, yet mortal: Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Englishman who died in 1890.

The healing, as Sullivan tells it, was almost immediate. He felt a tingling all over, was flooded with warmth, and, as easy as that, he could walk.

Now, the recovery that Sullivan, 70, has been describing for almost eight years, a drama that unfolded in August 2001, is on the verge of being deemed a miracle by the Catholic Church, and the unassuming Marshfield man, a church deacon and father of three, is at the center of a campaign to make the late British cardinal a saint.

A panel of theologians, convened by the branch of the Vatican that investigates possible miracles, has concluded that Sullivan’s recovery resulted from his prayer, the London Telegraph newspaper reported. A panel of doctors previously researched his claim and found no medical explanation for what happened, Sullivan said. The final decision on whether recognize the healing as a miracle rests with Pope Benedict XVI. If that status is given, as expected, it would lead to beatification for Newman. Sainthood would require recognition of a second miracle.

A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston declined to comment yesterday, saying that the Vatican does not allow discussion of such investigations.

For Sullivan, who said he has remained pain-free since his prayers were answered and who has lately been busy fertilizing his rose garden and celebrating 40 years of marriage to his wife, Carol, the Vatican finding confirms what he has long believed.

In an interview at his home, the good-natured, rosy-cheeked Sullivan said his most striking memory of that summer day in 1991 is the wave of well-being that swept over him as he prayed.

“The most important thing was the sense of exuberance I felt, exuberance and confidence that all would be well, all would be rosy, and a tremendous happiness,” he said yesterday, sitting in a comfortable brown armchair with views of towering pine trees. “I got up and walked all over the place, twisting my cane like Charlie Chaplin.”

Check out the Globe for the rest.

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