Devil’s Advocate

Albert Einstein famously said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

To play the devil’s advocate could there not be a few other alternatives? Perhaps not everything is miraculous but then some things are? Or perhaps miracles only occur when you really need them?

And then to the next dilemma. So which one of the two ways is Einstein advocating for? Leaving it open ended as two approaches to life would appear to give you a choice? Is this another Einsteinian relativity theorem that depends on your point of view?

The devil’s advocate started as a job—an official Vatican position with a 500 years old tradition to disqualify candidates for beatification and sainthood. It was and still is the role of the devil’s advocate of the Catholic Church to cast doubt on the character of would be saints and discredit miracles attributed to them to disqualify their candidacy.

For beatification you need one bona fide miracle—to be a saint you need two. Mother Teresa had one miracle sewn up in her locket—that miracle occurred from a locket with a photo of Mother Teresa on it. The reported miracle cure occurred from a light radiating from the locket that shrunk a cancerous abdominal tumor for a young mother in India in 1998. The devil’s advocate on this miracle, a medical doctor, claimed that the tumor was not actually a tumor, it was a cyst, and it was not cancer, rather the result of tuberculosis. The “miracle” he said was that the woman took her medicine and the cyst resolved. Pope John Paul II, after taking the devil’s advocate testimony under consideration, verified the miracle and so Mother Teresa was one miracle closer to sainthood.

Now, Pope Francis has cleared the way for her sainthood verifying her second miracle—a spontaneous cure for a young man in Brazil with brain abscesses that disappeared after the man’s wife prayed for Mother Teresa to intercede with God on his behalf. A devil’s advocate has not come forward to challenge this miracle (or at least it has not been reported).

The Kabbalistic tradition takes the relative position that “everything is a miracle.” It is confirming that Einstein presents this as one possibility and even more so that the spokeswoman for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity had this to say on learning of the good news from the Vatican:

“We thought her whole life was a miracle. Her whole life was dedicated to the poor and there was nothing else in her mind than service. Everyone was accepted and there was no obstruction in her work.”

The ultimate purpose for the “devil’s advocate” position may no longer be to discredit particular miraculous stories (of cures or other happenings), rather it may best be suited to advocate for seeing all life as miraculous, whether for the saint or anyone else. In this way the devil is no longer in the details, the devil’s advocacy is in the big picture—worthy of such a thinker as Einstein.

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