Considering the state of the world today, it might surprise you to learn that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is currently considering the canonization causes for as many as 100 people, who have been declared a Servant of God, Venerable, or Blessed. (For more on the steps to canonization, click here: https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/cause/process.asp.)
Michael O’Neill, a man known as the Miracle Hunter, has made it his business to follow such causes. He will be sharing the stories of the most fascinating of these causes with EWTN’s viewers in the new EWTN Original Docudrama entitled “They Might Be Saints” – and you can see the first episode at 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20! (Find EWTN at www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)
This inspiring occasional special premieres with the story of Bishop Frederic Baraga and includes interviews with two bishops who support his cause for canonization. (Encores 9 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 21.)
“We’re always wondering what we can do to evangelize,” O’Neill said. “To me, Bishop Baraga is the ultimate example. He traveled thousands of miles across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – in snowshoes — to teach people about the faith. He’s at the stage of venerable now. The Church is now searching for miracles to get him to those next stages. He is an up and coming saint.”
O’Neill says that Bishop Baraga came to the U.S. from Slovenia at the request of Bishop Edward D. Fenwick, first bishop of Cincinnati, who needed missionary priests to serve in places where there was no Catholic presence. Baraga, a former lawyer who spoke eight languages, was so successful that he not only became a bishop but he inspired 12 other priests from Slovenia to come to the U.S. – and three of those priests eventually became bishops.
While this week’s episode is the first to be presented under the “They Might be Saints” banner, EWTN viewers may remember “The Journey of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey,” another program O’Neill produced for EWTN last year, which told the story of this French nun serving in Turkey, who is credited with discovering the Virgin Mary’s home in Ephesus.
“[Sister Marie] followed the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich,” O’Neill said. “She came from wealth so she was able to buy the house with her family’s funds. It’s an incredible story. We found a replica of Mary’s house in Vermont [and used that for the filming]! It’s an incredible story!”
O’Neill’s third special is on the Martyrs of La Florida, Apalachee natives who lived in Florida in the 1700s and who converted to Catholicism through the influence of Spanish priests.
“Their faith meant so much to them that they were willing to die for it,” O’Neill said. “[In those days], the English … partnered with other Native Americans who did not like that these Indians were converting. It’s a really powerful episode. Hundreds of them died. It’s quite a large cause.”
Viewers will have the opportunity to hear O’Neill talk about his work and the Martyrs of La Florida on a special “EWTN Live” at 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 6, and to see the episode itself at 10 p.m. ET, with encores at 3:30 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, Thursday, June 7. Keep watching EWTN’s website (www.ewtn.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ewtnonline) for information about future episodes.
O’Neill says he initially wanted to do a series of programs on different types of miracles, which would flow naturally out of his work as a miracle hunter. “But I realized what people really need are the stories of the faith. We have so many people on the path to sainthood here in the U.S. In every canonization cause, there is a search for miracles. I am so fascinated when the Church looks to canonize saints – to try to look to heaven to see if the person is interceding for us!”
So how does a person make a career of hunting for miracles?
O’Neill is cradle Catholic who took an archeology class at Stanford University in California. The final assignment for the class was to write about an artifact in human history that had some sort of impact. He decided to write about St. Juan Diego’s tilma (or cloak) and its miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“I was so fascinated, not only that people have been claiming miracles throughout the centuries, but that the Church would say that that these are supernatural events worthy of belief. I said [to myself], ‘Someday when I grow old, I am going to come back to this stuff and study it.’”
However, when he was graduating he got some life-changing advice from none other than former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was Vice Provost of the University at the time. “She said, whatever you do in life, become an expert in something. … It was such good advice.”
O’Neill realized he wanted to become the expert on miracles – and so his website, www.miraclehunter.com, was born. The Miracle Hunter calls himself “a skeptic and a believer all rolled into one” and says he has found that a lot of people share his interest in the subject.
“Lots of people have questions about miracles. What is approved by the Church? How do they approve them? I am a miracle researcher. I split my work between researching the miracles and sharing the information.”
He does this through multiple websites, through pilgrimages to places like Italy (where he takes people to sites where miracles not only occurred but, in some cases, are still occurring), and, of course, through a television show like “They Might be Saints.”
Many people think that saints are people who lived in the distant past or who had some rare power that allowed them to live lives of heroic virtue.
However, most readers will remember Venerable Patrick Peyton, the rosary priest, who died in 1992; St. Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997; or St. John Paul II, who died in 2005 – the not so distant past! As Mother Angelica famously said, “We are ALL called to be saints.”
Get inspired to do your part by ordinary people who didn’t let the opportunity of a lifetime pass them by. Tune into the premiere of “They Might be Saints” at 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 on EWTN.