Man Arises and Walks -- and Says Pope Helped Him

PHOTO Joe Amaral shares a drink with a friend.

At the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic church in New Bedford, Mass., parishioners believe the late Pope John Paul II is truly a miracle worker.

Joe Amaral is one of those faithful parishioners. He said he's always been a believer in saints and miracles. It's a faith, he says, that is reinforced by the simple fact that he's now walking.

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For decades, Amaral suffered from spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. Doctors had told Amaral and his wife, Ann Marie Amaral, that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, if not in a full-time care facility.

"The doctor said 'I'm sorry,' the connection from the brain ... that tells you to walk and to move, it was, is gone," Amaral told ABC News.

Canes and crutches were a part of Amaral's life for 30 years. His condition was further complicated by a stroke of the spine in 2003, which forced him to quit his job as a real estate appraiser.

Ann Marie Amaral is an accountant for the state. "I went to work, then I would come home and cook dinner, and clean the house, and he would get frustrated cause he couldn't help," she said.

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Despite his handicap, Amaral would attend church at St. Anthony of Padua every Sunday. It was no easy task. His wife recalled what a struggle it was for him just to walk up the stairs in front of their beautiful church.

"It was difficult ... at this particular church, there's no elevator," said Ann Marie.

The head of the Amarals' parish, Father Roger Landry, said Amaral's struggle was well known to all.

"He'd work his way up the stairs -- the huge granite staircase that we have outside," said Landry. " He'd come up on those forearm crutches ... leaning forward, dragging his legs behind... and it touched me very much to see this man's great faith."

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That deep faith was at the center of what Amaral and Landry say was a miracle. It began two years ago, during a Saturday confession.

"Something happened," said Amaral. "And then Sunday morning I felt different. Not physically great, but felt like a calmness and peace."

Amaral said he was inspired to increase his prayers to a spiritual hero, Pope John Paul II. "I prayed to understand God's will," he said. "I never prayed to walk."

Miracle? 'I Just Got Up'

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Then Amaral got what he thought was as a sign. After he finished praying, he turned on the television -- and was shocked to see a documentary on John Paul II.

"I happened to look at the picture of Pope John Paul II and I just got up," Amaral said. "Just got up and started walking. The more I kept walking, the more [I said], 'Thank you, thank you Lord.'"

Amaral's son, David, was the first to see him walk. "It really surprised me," David Amaral said. "It wasn't... something that I thought I would ever see." Amaral said he swore his son to secrecy and walked around his house for two days, making sure it wasn't a fluke, before surprising his wife.

"I came home and he's standing there, and he's like, 'Do you notice anything different?'" Ann Marie recalled. "And I'm looking at him and, you know, who looks at their husband? You come home every day and you see him, just say 'Hey, how's it going?' So I'm looking at him, and I'm like, 'Didn't get a haircut..." It took me like 30 seconds to realize, 'You're standing there.' No crutches. He's not leaning on anything. And I was, I was stunned."

Amaral's doctors were as surprised as the family.

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