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The Inside Story on Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s “Miracle Baby”


Cari Donaldson - published on 03/11/14

Three months after James was stillborn, the results of a follow-up MRI came in.  White matter was age-appropriate; there was no inflammation, extra fluid, or blocked blood flow; all regions seemed normal.  In other words, there was no sign of the brain damage that was noted after James finally took his first breath.  Three months after that, James’s feeding tube was removed.

Friends and family told James’ parents that the boy’s story needed to be shared with the Sheen Foundation.  This was a miracle, they insisted, through Sheen’s intercession.  Finally, Bonnie’s mother pressed her case, if for no other reason than for a record to be kept of the events.  Expecting absolutely nothing in terms of follow up, Bonnie sent in the story of James’s death and life to the Sheen Foundation.

From there, the story spread like wildfire through the channels.  Ultimately, it wound up at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, where a seven-member team of medical experts reviewed the documents.  Science, they concluded, cannot explain the revival and complete healing of James Fulton.  Their findings reached Bonnie and Travis on March 6, who decided to celebrate the miraculous with a charmingly earthy dinner of steak and ice cream.

James, now a completely normal three year old (if such a thing exists), has been a sign and symbol of God’s love and mercy to so many people.  However, his parents still marvel at the mundane aspects of the events.  “It hasn’t really changed my faith, or my husband’s,” Bonnie says.  “[T]he miracle affirmed what we already knew of God: he is all powerful and he can raise the dead and restore us all to life. Everything we went through with James has only been an affirmation of what we already knew of our great God. But I will say that mean people in the comboxes make me have to work on my charity and mercy. (How can someone be mean about a dead baby?! I don’t get it but some people can.)”

The finding by the medical panel, while an important step in Sheen’s canonization process, is not the final hurdle.  From here, the case will go on to be reviewed by a board of theologians, then a panel of cardinals, and finally, the Pope.

Looking at James happily playing with his four siblings, Bonnie talks about the bittersweet nature of the alleged miracle.  “I know that James’ miracle has been a really beautiful, powerful thing for so many people,” she says. “I am so happy to celebrate with so many people. 

However, I also assume that it can be a very hard story for grieving parents to hear. I am sure there’s nothing I can say to help but, for what it’s worth, I never forget those parents and they are always in my heart and prayers.“

Maybe it’s that compassion for others, born out of a love of God, which is the real fruit of a miracle.

Cari Donaldsonis the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories: How I Found God, Had Kids, and Lived to Tell the Tale. She married her high school sweetheart, had six children with him, and now spends her days homeschooling, writing, and figuring out how to stay one step ahead of her child army. She blogs about faith and family life at

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