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There are many stories of certain saints levitating or even flying. Many include reports of some particular saint seen hovering a few feet above the ground as they were deep in prayer.

Does the Roman Catholic Church have an official position on this? Are some saints officially recognized as 'levitators' or are the stories dismissed?

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Teresa of Avila was apparently so embarrassed by her levitation that she asked God to stop doing it (at least in public). –  James T Sep 26 '13 at 1:50

1 Answer 1

Skip to the "however" toward the end to avoid a lot of build-up.


I'm not finding anything official, and my favorite source is coming up inconclusive, but leaning toward "It's either bogus or of the devil, not of God.".

A search for "Levitation" on the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia site returns exactly four results.

The first is an article called "Impostors", which recounts various, well, impostors. Excerpt:

More to our purpose are a number of feigned or deluded ecstaticas who often traded upon the popular credulity in countries like Spain that were ready to welcome the miraculous. Amongst the most famous of these was Magdalena de la Cruz (1487-1560), a Franciscan nun of Cordova, who for many years was honoured as a saint. She was believed to have the stigmata and to take no other food than the Holy Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament was said to fly to her tongue from the hand of the priest who was giving Holy Communion, and it seemed at such moments that she was raised from the ground. The same miraculous levitation took place during her ecstasies at which time also she was radiant with supernatural light. So universal was the popular veneration, that ladies of the highest rank, when about to be confined, sent to her the cradles or garments prepared for the expected child, that she might bless them. This was done by the Empress Isabel, in 1527, before the birth of Philip II. On the other hand St. Ignatius Loyola had always regarded her with suspicion. Falling dangerously ill in 1543, Magdalena confessed to a long career of hypocrisy, ascribing most of the marvels to the action of demons by which she was possessed, but maintaining their reality. She was sentenced by the Inquisition, in an auto-da-fé at Cordova, in 1546, to perpetual imprisonment in a convent of her order, and there she is believed to have ended her days most piously amid marks of the sincerest repentance (see Görres, "Mystik", V, 168-174; Lea, "Chapters from Relig. Hist. of Spain", 330-335). A large number of similar cases have been discussed in considerable detail by Lea both in his "Chapters" just cited, and also in the fourth volume of his "History of the Inquisition of Spain", but Lea, though indefatigable as a compiler, is not to be relied on in the conclusions and inferences he draws.

Score: Legitimate levitation:0, phony (or possibly of the devil):1

The second, "St. John of the Cross" doesn't actually mention levitation.

Score remains Legitimate levitation:0, phony (or possibly of the devil):1

The third: "Spiritism"

I'll spare you the quote, but levitation is listed as one of the phenomena associated with Spiritism, which is seen as not of God, but of the opposite.

Score: Legitimate levitation:0, phony (or possibly of the devil):2

The fourth, "St. Gerard Majella" also doesn't actually mention levitation.

Score remains Legitimate levitation:0, phony (or possibly of the devil):2

Other searches: "Levitate" returns similar articles, plus a few Latin verses, but in these, the word "levitate" is translated to English as "light", "lightly" or "lightness" consistent with the normal translation. Example, 2 Corinthians 1:17

However...

Some other sites that look less official to me suggest otherwise. There are several seemingly legitimate cases reported, which are seen as genuine miracles, and seem relatively accepted.

Frustratingly, I cannot find an official statement at all. The most plausible I've found to an official stance is in an un-cited, un-referenced answer that sounds entirely plausible and consistent with all the "noise" I've found. It is CatholicCulture.org's article on Levitation.

According to Benedict XIV, in order to verify genuine levitation it is first of all necessary to make a thorough investigation to eliminate any chance of fraud. Then he states that a well-authenticated levitation cannot be explained on merely natural grounds; that this phenomenon is not, however, beyond the power of angels or demons; and that with the saints it is a kind of anticipation of a prerogative of glorified bodies.

This same statement can be found on many sites, and appears to be commonly accepted as a valid assertion.

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Benedict XIV beatified St Joseph of Cupertino, who was a levitator. It's possible that that quote dates from that occasion. –  Andrew Leach Sep 26 '13 at 7:58
    
I'll corrupt a Chesterton quote here, <<if Saints levitate, it's because they take themselves lightly>> I don't think it's ever diabolism in the case of canonized saints, except maybe St. John Vianney being tormented by Satan. –  Peter Turner Sep 26 '13 at 21:39
    
I gave you an upvote, but this one might have to have a bounty if nothing good comes in. You did okay, but the idea that there is nearly nothing on this surprises me. @AndrewLeach maybe you might be able to find it and verify that it is genuine. –  fredsbend the Grinch Nov 29 '13 at 6:46
    
@fredsbend I think it's at archive.org/details/actacanonization00azev but the OCR'd text is really not very good! It will take some wading through. –  Andrew Leach Nov 29 '13 at 7:44

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