Science tries but fails.

Theories abound but fall short.

The incorruptible bodies of saints remain one of the mysteries, and treasures, of the Catholic Church.

By definition an incorruptible body is one, traditionally a saint but not always, that has miraculously preserved after death, defying the normal process of decomposition. Incorruptible bodies were initially discovered in the centuries after the death of Christ, with St. Cecilia believed to be the first known saint to be incorrupt.

Modern science has a tendency to relegate incorruptible bodies to that of mummies, but that is clearly not the case, as incorrupt bodies have soft skin, and their limbs are pliable, unlike the dry and skeletal remains of mummies. Additionally, incorruptible bodies were never embalmed or treated in any manner, yet their remains are flexible and some emit a sweet, unearthly odor.

Amazingly, some even produce blood or oils, which even the scientific arena is unable to explain. For example, when a finger was amputated from St. John of the Cross several months after his death blood began to flow from the wound.

Or the fact that fresh blood appeared on the finger of a medical examiner as he examined the body of St. Francis Xavier also, several months after his death.

Perhaps most startlingly there is evidence that the arms over St. Nicholas of Tolentino have continued to bleed 400 years after his death.

It was not unusual in the Middle Ages to exhume all beatification and canonization candidates in the presence of working people, doctors and medical specialists, making these miracles well documented.

Even in more modern times, incorruptible bodies of saints have been uncovered, including St. Charbel Makhlouf who died in 1898. For 45 days after his death, which is the traditional length of time for a body’s decomposition, strange lights appeared over his grave.

After 45 days, his body was exhumed and found to be perfectly fresh.

It is important to note that being incorruptible is not a requirement for sainthood, and in fact the cause for beatification is traditionally well under way before a body is exhumed.

With science unable to offer any plausible explanation, and even the laws of nature suspended, many infer the occurrences can only be explained through divine intervention. And many believe it is an avenue in which God visibly appears to believers in modern times, offering encouragement and hope in one’s daily
struggles.