David Keohane, 29, was on his way home from a party in Coogee in Sydney when he was beaten beyond recognition in August last year. He had been in a coma in a hospital in his home town of Cork in Ireland, but awoke on St Patrick’s Day and is now talking.
Doctors had been unsure he would ever recover consciousness. His family are attributing his dramatic recovery to the intercessions of Australian Josephite nun Mary MacKillop, whose prayers for him they had constantly asked.
Catholics don’t pray to the saints (although they may sometimes loosely use that expression). Instead, they ask the saints, their friends in heaven, to pray for them in the same way as other Chrisians ask their friends on earth to pray for them. Catholics (and some other Christians) believe that if we are united in Christ, even death cannot separate us from those who have gone before, and that the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ continue to care for us.
Mary MacKillop was beatified by John Paul II in 1995. The process leading to the Church recognising her as saint began in 1925, so it has certainly not been rushed. The final stage is canonisation, which really means ‘being added to the list.’
The Pope doesn’t make anyone a saint – only God can do that. Every Christian is a saint, in the sense of being sanctified, set apart for God’s purposes. But the Church acknowledges certain people through whom the light of Christ has shone so clearly that their heroic dedication to the will of God is an inspiration to others. One of the requirements is two confirmed miracles attributed to the intervention of the person. Mary MacKillop needs a second miracle.
During his visit to Australia in 2008, Pope Benedict said: ‘She will be canonised, we’re waiting for the miracle.’ The recovery of David Keohane may be that miracle. But it will be a long process, and any medical testimony will be thoroughly tested.
Still, this might be it – Australia’s first saint.
This is the Mary MacKillop Prayer, as prayed by her own order, the Josephites:
Most loving God,
We thank you for the example of Blessed Mary MacKillop,
who in her living of the Gospel witnessed to the human dignity of each person.
She faced life’s challenges with faith and courage.
We pray through her intercession for our needs……..
May her holiness soon be acknowledged by the universal Church.
We make this prayer through Jesus the Lord.