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Miracle leading to Bl. Artémides Zatti’s Canonization

By Fr. Donnie Duchin Duya, SDB

       Manila, The Philippines, 30 September 2022 -- In the consistory held on August 27 of this year, Pope Francis announced that Bl. Artémides Zatti is to be canonized in Rome on October 9 along with nine other candidates for Sainthood.

       For somebody to become a Saint, a miracle, an event that cannot be explained by logic or natural causes, is one of the requirements. One miracle must be demonstrated to have occurred as a result of the influence of a candidate for sainthood in order for him to be referred to as "blessed."

       The procedure takes off by praying to the saint who "intercedes" with God, typically to heal a disease. This is then examined by a medical panel that has been sworn to secrecy.

       The miracle that paved the way for Bl. Zatti’s canonization took place in 2016 in San Vicente, Sto. Tomas, Batangas (south of the Philippines), with the then 64-year-old Renato Narvaez. On August 11, he felt sick. He tried to rest, hoping that the discomfort would subside, but he started vomiting. His family members persuaded him to be brought to the hospital.

       Renato was admitted to the Daniel Mercado Medical Center in Tanauan, Batangas. In the emergency room, he underwent various tests. His blood pressure shot up to 240/150. Though his speech was normal, his family noticed that he had lost some of his memory. For example, when asked who his eldest son was, he said that it was Glenn, instead of Allan.

       Two days after his confinement, he suffered another stroke attack. Her attending physician, Dr. Lea De Las Llagas ordered a second computerized tomography (CT) scan since the first CT scan had already revealed a hemorrhagic stroke, which is the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel. The second CT scan showed that Renato’s brain was swollen and had a blood clot. Before noon, Renato was brought to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and was sedated with an induced coma.

       The family and relatives met with the team of doctors. They were informed that Renato needed to undergo a brain operation based on the CT scan results. The stroke affected his capacity to speak and eat. Dr. Asis Encarnacion, his attending surgeon, asked the family to take the risk, yet failed to mention the chances of survival and recovery after the operation. With the money involved that amounted to half a million pesos with a 15-to-20 day recovery at the ICU, the family did not immediately agree to the proposed procedure since there was no guarantee of a complete recovery.

       The main decision-makers were Renato’s wife, Gloria, the children (including his daughter-in-law Marivel), and Renato’s siblings. As it was Renato’s life at stake, Pia and Marivel separately called Renato's brother, Br. Obet Narvaez, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who was in Italy at that time. Pia and Marivel informed Br. Obet about the situation of his brother and sought their uncle’s opinion.

       Br. Obet took the family’s side that Renato should not undergo an operation for the reasons mentioned above. The family had already lost hope at this point since more than a decade ago, three of the family members succumbed to strokes. Br. Obet recalled that as he was tasked with removing the medical tubes from the bodies of the said family members, he would soon again do so, this time for his brother Renato. They decided to have Renato be discharged and spend his remaining days at home with his family.

       Mustering some strength and with the resolve to help prepare his brother to die a happy death, he planned to return to the Philippines. As he was preparing to fly home, he brought with him his barong, anticipating his brother’s burial, but he also clung to his faith. He instructed Marivel, Renato's daughter-in-law, to pray to Bl. Zatti. He told them that he would tell them who Zatti was upon his return. He also instructed Cristina, his niece, to put a stampita (holy picture) of Bl. Zatti on the back of Renato's hand.

       When he arrived, he went straight to the hospital. After consulting with the family of his brother, he signed the waiver to discharge his brother from the hospital. Only two tubes remained: the nasogastric (NGT) and the oxygen. The rest of the medicines were set aside. This move was contrary to the advice of their doctors.

       With no improvement in Renato’s health, the family and relatives were already preparing themselves for Renato’s approaching end. One of his sons has already purchased a memorial lot. Back home, they started cleaning their house. The front door was enlarged to fit Renato’s would-be casket in preparation for the wake in their home.

       At 8 PM on August 21, Renato finally arrived home. He only relied on oxygen and NGT. A priest came to their house to administer the Anointing of the Sick at around 10 AM. At 11 PM, he was mumbling some words. The family and relatives gathered were all crying. Br. Obet led everyone to recite the prayers to commend his dying brother to a peaceful death, invoking the assistance of Bl. Zatti.

       At 4 AM the following day, he woke up, sitting on his bed, and he removed the oxygen. He ordered Br. Obet to get him some hot balut (fertilized duck egg, a local delicacy). Br. Obet said no to his request because of the latter's shooting blood pressure. Instead, he was offered hot soup.

       Br. Obet was amazed at such a development because his brother was already speaking as if he did just not wake up from a coma. Renato was assisted by his wife as he needed to go to the bathroom. Upon his return to the room, he could already walk all by himself. Renato was assisted by his wife as he needed to go to the bathroom. Upon his return to the room, he could already walk all by himself.

       The family observed that after the incident, he continued to gain strength. He also stepped out of the house–as if nothing had happened.

       Devotion to Bl. Zatti

       Being the sacristan of their community chapel, Br. Obet recalled praying to Bl. Zatti less than a year before Renato’s illness took place. On November 12, 2015, the eve of the Bl. Zatti’s feast day. Looking at Zatti’s portrait, he challenged the Blessed and nudged him to perform a miracle so that he could already be a canonized saint. Many sick people, not only in Italy but in the whole world, await this miracle.

       Before returning to Rome, the neighbors suggested Br. Obet that what happened to Renato was nothing less than a miracle and that this needed to be reported to the Church authorities. Br. Obet remembered that incident in his community chapel where he challenged Bl. Zatti, and it dawned on him that it must have been the miracle he prayed for.

       When he had the chance, Br. Obet told Fr. Francesco Cereda, SDB, former Vicar of the Rector Major, who was doing his canonical visitation to the community of Br. Obet of the incident. Fr. Cereda then called Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, Postulator General of the Salesians of Don Bosco, to investigate the miracle. As Postulator General, he takes care of the beatification and canonization promoted by the Congregation.

       The Diocesan Inquiry in Batangas was convened the following year. The members of the Diocesan Tribunal are the following:

  • His Excellency Gilbert A. Garcera, Archbishop of Lipa
  • Mons. Ruben M. Dimaculangan, Episcopal Delegate
  • Fr. Martin Macasaet SDB, (notary)
  • Fr. Virgilio Hernandez (member of the tribunal for the inquiry)
  • Fr. Jayson Alcatraz, Chancellor of the Diocese of Lipa)
  • Dr. Mark Anthony S. Sandoval MD, medical expert
  • Dr. Claver Ramos MD, medical expert
  • Dr. Ma Cecille A. Cruz MD, medical expert

       The inquiry wrapped up in 2018, and all the documentation collected was transmitted to Rome and then the positio (formal brief) was prepared. In an interview with Fr. Cameroni said that the Medical Council, in July 2021, acknowledged that the healing was rapid, complete, and lasting as well as unexplainable according to the laws of science. As regards the question of whether it was a true miracle performed by God, the Theological Consultors first, and then the Cardinal Fathers and Bishops, answered in the affirmative.

       On April 9, 2022, Pope Francis, through His Eminence Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, promulgated the decree concerning the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Artemide Zatti.

       Br. Obet noted that this miracle was not just through Bl. Zatti’s intercession. It is a manifestation of God’s mercy.


 
 

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