Benedicta McCarthy, 25, said she believes she would not be alive today if not for countless prayers to her namesake, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
"I've been ... really blessed with ... a lot of things I felt were miracles," McCarthy, the product of a devout Catholic family in Brockton, Mass., said.
While McCarthy's parents were out of town in 1987 when the family was fighting the flu, the oldest children were left in charge. McCarthy, the youngest of 12, got into the medicine box and swallowed enough Tylenol to land her in the emergency room.
Desperate for divine intervention, the McCarthy family organized prayer chains, asking anyone they knew to pray specifically to Benedicta, who had been dead for more than 40 years.
McCarthy was named after the German nun, who was born Edith Stein, to a Jewish family and found the Catholic faith in her 20s. Stein eventually joined the Carmelite order of nuns in 1933 when Adolf Hitler's regime took over Germany. She was killed at Auschwitz in 1942 and is said to have gone to her death forgiving her persecutors.
When their baby was in intensive care and at the top of the liver transplant list 23 years ago, she said, McCarthy family members believed their prayers to Benedicta were heard immediately.
"I started to move my toes and ...[doctors] just did a bunch of tests and lab work and everything came back normal," she said. "Like there was no gradual recovery. When they looked back at the doctors' notes, one of the doctors that had seen me that morning had wrote in the notes, this child has made a remarkable recovery."
McCarthy's father, Charlie, said it was a miracle.
"I remember very explicitly when Benedicta walked out of Massachusetts General Hospital at 2 years old without an ounce of medication," her father said. "With a balloon, she walked to the elevator, pressed the button herself, and all I could think of is, 'There goes the glory of God.'"
The case was sent to the Vatican, who then authorized a rigorous investigation to determine whether McCarthy's healing was indeed miraculous. In the course of three years, anyone with any knowledge of the events was interviewed in exhaustive detail.
McCarthy's older siblings were quizzed down to the minute details of exactly what kind of Tylenol their youngest sister ingested. The family was also questioned about to whom they directed their prayers.
"That was the big thing, that we had all prayed to Edith Stein," older brother Charles said. "And that my parents had asked people. And, also, that my parents had told us to tell others to pray to Edith Stein."
Sworn testimony was also taken from experts in liver damage and child poisoning. Doctors who had overseen the case were also questioned, including Dr. Ronald E. Kleinman.
"The questions were very pointed and very direct," Kleinman said. "I think they really wanted to know what happens to children who do get an excessive amount of acetaminophen. Do children usually die from this kind of poisoning? Was this an extraordinary case?"