One Puerto Rican's Journey to Sainthood

In three weeks the first Puerto Rican to ever become beatified by the Roman Catholic Church will face the next challenge on his path to become the first Puerto Rican Saint. This is the story of Carlos Manuel Cecilio Rodríguez Santiago, or Carlos Manual (Charlie) as most call him, or the Puerto Ricanized "Chali".

Charlie started this journey back in 1981, when a 42 year-old mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's malignant lymphoma. She and her husband had been friends of Rodríguez during his college years and knew of his death from cancer. She prayed to Rodríguez for intercession on her behalf. After fully recovering, she publicly attributed her recovery to the miracle of intercession.

In 1991, a priest from Spain, Rev. Mauro Meza, came to Puerto Rico to conduct a seminar. After learning about Rodríguez, he was authorized by the local bishop to take the story to the Vatican. In Rome, Meza initiated the process of inquiry that could lead to canonization. As a result of the findings from this investigation, it was decided that the process to canonize Rodríguez could be started.

On July 7, 1997, Pope John Paul II decreed Charlie's heroic sanctity and service in his life. The process took a major step on April 29, 2001, when Rodríguez was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

The next challenge

In 2001, a diabetic in Mayaguez was prepped and ready to undergo surgery to amputate his leg. A diabetic, his leg had become infected and the infection had turned into gangrene. The night before the operation the man had a vision of the Blessed Carlos Manuel. When doctors evaluated him prior to the operation they discovered that the flow of blood through the leg had been restored and the amputation would not be necessary.

Now, in three weeks the medical documentation, plus eyewitness reports of the miracle will make their way to Rome, where they will be examined by the Vatican. If the miracle is validated, then according to canonization procedure defined by Catholic Church's canon law, Charlie will become Puerto Rico's first Saint.

Did you know?

Rodríguez is the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified. In the entire Western Hemisphere, Rodríguez is only the second layperson to be beatified.

Now it gets really weird...

I have to make a confession! I'm particularly interested in the outcome of this process. For you see, I have a strange connection to Charlie. In short, he's very special to me. Why you ask? Well come may say these are mere coincidences, sometimes you just have to admit that there are some things which go beyond coincidence.

While Carlos Manuel died of Cancer, what many people don't know is that his cancer was the result of having suffered with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (an IBD) for most of his life. This year, it will mark my 20thy year after having being diagnoes with Crohn's Diesease, an IBD.

All of my life, I've always bet on the number 13. While most people consider the number "bad luck", I've always embraced it. You see I was born on the 13th, July 13th, 1963. Charlie before he died confessed to his friends that "The 13th is a good day.” Several days later he died, the date? It was July 13th, 1963.

For a small city boy from Indiana, to live in a city, on a rock in the middle of the ocean, in a culture that is as foreign to me as any a white American can imagine, where a man died on the same day I was born, from complications from the exact same disease that rules my life...well I just know that we are connected. I feel the connection, you would too.

It's a miracle that we have this connection. It was a miracle that made him Blessed Carlos Manual. And hopefully now, it will be a miracle that will make him a Saint. Miracles happen, we just need to be open to them; surrender to them. Let us all surrender to hope. Hope for Carlos Manuel, and hope too, for Puerto Rico. God knows we need it!