Do you know what the “Imprimatur” and “Nihil Obstat” in books written by Catholic authors is all about? “Imprimatur” is Latin for “Let it be printed” and is found in the front matter of the book typically on the same page as the copyright statement. It tells us that the content has been examined by a Catholic bishop and, as a result of this examination, has been approved for publication. The name of the bishop and the date of his approval are given. The purpose of the approval is to let the reader know that the work has been thus examined and is found to be free of any threat to the faith and morals of Catholics. “Nihil Obstat” is Latin for “Nothing hinders” and is also found on this page in the front matter of a book. It tells the reader that the content has been examined by a Catholic diocesan censor for reasons similar to the Imprimatur and has been approved for publication. Again, the date of the approval and the delegated censor’s name are given. Both are declarations that the content is free of doctrinal of moral error.
The reason these terms are on my mind today is that I’ve been reading a book titled Exploring the Miraculous by “miracle hunter” Michael O’Neill and, for obvious reasons, I checked the front matter to see if the approvals were given. They were. One item addressed in the book is the incorruptibility of the bodies of some saints. The bodies of these saints, for various reasons, have been exhumed and found to be incorrupt after a period of decades, or centuries in some cases. For some of his statements, he references another book written by Joan Carroll Cruz titled The Incorruptibles, which I have in my personal library and also has the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat approvals. I conclude that the stories of such saints found in these books are believable. The stories include some familiar saints, such as St. Bernadette Soubirous, the young French girl who had the visions of Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Catherine Laboure, who had the visions of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. When I visited France back in the year 2000, I was fortunate to have personally viewed the incorrupt body of St. Catherine in her glass reliquary.
Skeptics question the validity of claims of incorruptibility, as you might expect, often calling incorrupt bodies "mummified." In the introduction to Cruz’s book, she addresses these questions and discounts any claim of artificial means of keeping the bodies from decay. Indeed, in some cases, there was absolutely no attempt at such artificial means, as temperature control, embalmment, or environmental control. These were simply human beings who lived such virtuous lives, who interceded with Christ to cause miraculous phenomena (or they would not have been declared saints), and who found such favor with God that He demonstrates to us his almighty power though their incorruptibility.
These occurrences of incorruptibility should be enough to fully convince anyone of the existence and power of God. How else could the phenomena be explained? Yet, people go about their daily lives as if there is no God. People give no thought of the existence of a higher power and potential disaster of disbelief. It reminds me of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man wanted Abraham to ask God to have someone rise from the dead and warn his five brothers of the consequences of their actions. Abraham’s response is classic: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31). The modern response might be this: “If they will not listen to Jesus Christ and his Church, neither will they be persuaded if a deceased saint’s body remains incorrupt after death.” My prayer for today: Please, Lord, grant the gift of faith to those who ignore you so that they may be given their heavenly inheritance on Judgement Day. Amen.