What It Takes To Be A Saint

Katherine Drexel Could Be The World's Next Saint

Once a year in Philadelphia, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is packed for a special Mass to honor an extraordinary nun named Katherine Drexel, who may soon be known as St. Katherine.

If she is named a saint, it will be not only for what she did in her life, but also for the miracles she is said to have performed after her death in 1955, reports 48 Hours Correspondent Bill Lagattuta.

Thirty-nine-year-old Robert Gutherman is absolutely convinced that what happened to him as a 14-year-old was in fact a miracle.

In 1974, he developed a severe ear infection, and his parents took him to a top doctor.

"Two of the bones were destroyed, the muscles in my ear, around my ear, were pretty badly damaged," Gutherman remembers. He recalls the doctor's comments: "He said,...'Bones are gone, they're gone. You're just going to be deaf in that ear.'"

With no possible medical cure, they tried the only thing left: praying to Katherine Drexel.

"We were asking that the pain would subside," Gutherman says.

For Robert Gutherman, praying to Katherine Drexel miraculously cured his ear infection.
But what he got was much more than that. Suddenly Gutherman could hear again, and what the doctor then found astonished him: The bones in his ear were actually growing back.

The doctor said his body's healing itself, according to Gutherman. "So when my parents said to the doctor, 'You know this is a miracle that we think through Katherine Drexel,' he said, 'Well it's got to be, because I have no other explanation to it.'"

What happened to Gutherman might seem to some miraculous, but it's technically not a miracle, at least in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Until all the evidence makes its way to the Vatican in Rome, where a massive bureaucracy of investigators, theologians and doctors must all sign off on it, what happened to Gutherman in 1974 will not be considered a miracle.

Even so, the final say rests with just one man.

When the pope says it's a miracle, his word is infallible, according to church law. So by the time any evidence reaches his desk, it had better be right.

And that's where world-renowned transplant surgeon Dr. Rafaello Cortezini comes in. Having studied miracles for more than 20 years, he says heÂ's seen more than 300 in all.

Dr. Cortezini heads a team of 50 leading physicians who review seemingly miraculous cures for the Vatican. They try to determine if there is any possible scientific explanation.

But it takes more than a doctor's note to make it a miracle. In the Vatican archives, Monsignor Robert Sarno keeps track of hundreds f volumes of documents and testimony on candidates for sainthood, going back about 400 years.

The oldest records dating back to 1588 represent every detail of an individualÂ's life.

"Every element of a person's life is investigated,Â…including the miracles," says Sarno. "Even afterlife, if you will."

Who supplies this information? Just about anyone who ever had anything to do with the miracle or the miracle maker. And there are still some people in Philadelphia who knew Mother Drexel personally.

Dr. Rafaello Cortezini is in charge of reviewing seemingly miraculous cures for the Vatican.
At the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Monsignor Alexander Palmieri and Sister Ruth Catherine have compiled the evidence for Drexel's miracle and her saintly life.

"The miracles are the stupendous part, but you have to look beyond the miracles and see what is the miracle confirming," says Palmieri.

"I don't think you'd find too many multimillionaires that would give up all their money, give their whole life to God," Sister Ruth Catherine adds. "She could've done anything she wanted, been anything she wanted, gone anywhere she wanted. And she didn't choose that; she chose God."

If the Drexel name sounds familiar, it may because of the famously wealthy family Katherine Drexel was born into. It founded Drexel University and several big banking companies.

Much of her life was devoted to helping and educating black and Native Americans, in missions and schools across the country.

"She saw the end of racism in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist,Â…where all races find their unity," Palmieri says.

Still no matter how holy your life may have been, you still need the miracles, not just one, but two to qualify for sainthood. And in the case of Drexel, believers think they have the second one: a young girl who, like Gutherman, had a hearing loss that doctors said was incurable.

"From my limited experience, I think this is a miracle," Palmieri says. "When the child was about a year, year-and-one-half years old was when they started praying to Katherine Drexel....And suddenly the child started to hear."

Find answers to frequently asked questions about saints at Catholic Online.
Monsignor Palmieri has compiled that evidence and sent it onto Rome. Now, Father Paolo Molinari, who holds the title of chief postulator, cts somewhat like a lawyer in reviewing the miracle.

And even though he's never met his client, he feels he knows her quite well.

"When you begin to become acquainted with somebody, and that somebody is better than you are, you are attracted, and you develop a bond of friendship. And that's what I feel," says Molinari.

Molinari ultimately presents his case to the men in red, a select group of cardinals and bishops, the second-highest ranking men in the church.

"It's tougher than anything I know of as far as a process to prove anything," says Palmieri.

The sight is one that few people see: It is the meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It is the last step before the case is sent to the pope.

Drexel has already passed the first step. In 1988, Pope John Paul II approved the Gutherman miracle at a ceremony in Rome. And if the congregation is convinced by the evidence and approves the second miracle, it will be up to the pope to give his stamp of approval, and Mother Drexel will take her place in the exclusive communion of saints.

It's something everybody expects will happen. And when it comes to the two miracles, with both cases of hearing restored, some see a message in that.

"I believe that the message that Katherine Drexel is saying to us is to wake up and listen," says Gutherman.

Monsignor PalmieriÂ's perspective is quite similar: "I think it's almost as though God's saying to us through Katherine Drexel, 'Open your ears, the ears of your heart.'"