“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus, Matthew 17.20
Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular Catholic feast days of the whole liturgical year. The devout and nominal alike head to church, line up to receive ashes, and make final decisions about what they’re giving up for Lent.
But about 800 years ago, it was the date of an extraordinary miracle of one of the Church’s greatest saints.
On Ash Wednesday in 1218, the 48-year-old St. Dominic was in a chapter house with a few cardinals discussing some administrative issues. Suddenly, someone crashed through the door. According to Butler’s Lives of Saints, which records the story, the man was “tearing his hair, and making great lamentation, crying out.” And it was because he was bearing bad news: the nephew of one of the cardinals present had recently been thrown from his horse and killed.
At first, everyone remained in stunned silence. The cardinal fell into a deep grief. Dominic tried to offer some words of comfort, but with little effect.
After some thought, Dominic took charge of the situation: he ordered that the dead man’s body be brought and that Mass be prepared in the nearby church.
During Mass, Dominic “shed a flood of tears.” Then, during the consecration, something incredible happened (other than transubstantiation, of course!): while Dominic raised the Body and Blood of Christ into the air, he fell into a religious ecstasy and began levitating! All those present saw it.
When Mass was complete, Dominic led everyone over to the dead man’s corpse. He knelt down and prayed silently for some time, then stood back up, making the Sign of the Cross. Then, again, he started levitating, and proclaimed loudly, “I say to thee, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, arise!”
By the grace of God, in front of all those present, the dead man came back to life and arose completely unharmed!
Word of the miracle spread quickly. The town, the local church, and even the pontiff himself, all celebrated the news and praised God.