Is Audrey Santo a Saint?

The commissioners, made up of laymen and clergy, spent a night in the house and were astonished when a religious icon they brought oozed oil. Asked whether he had ever seen anything like this in his life, Madonna said, "No, I can't say that I have."

"We tried to keep an open mind," said Ciotone. "We thought we had no explanation for it. We had to live with the ambiguity, which is difficult -- the ambiguity of saying we don't know."

The commission's study was conducted with the full cooperation of the Santo family. Its preliminary findings found "no obvious evidence of chicanery," but added that "the presence of oil is not proof, direct or indirect, of the miraculous." It also concluded that "there is no evidence that the family has sought financial gain for themselves."

"If this is a hoax," McCarthy said, "it is a spiritual disaster from which everyone, if that were proven, would have to disassociate themselves instantly because it would be evil."

While the church moved slowly to continue its investigation, no fraud was ever proven. But to McCarthy none of this has ever been about the paranormal.

"What we can immediately see in front of us is a mother, loving, unbegrudgingly, without cease, her child in a situation that is almost impossible to love," he said.

"This is a very, very serious form of love Linda is executing here. If the statues are of God, then, in my judgment, they are pointing to Linda and what she has done over all these years in terms of just goodness and love that she has given to that child who, in the eyes of the world, is really junk, should have been gone a long time ago, and yet the person gives up their whole life for her. That's love."

'Bittersweet Departure'

For 20 years, until Audrey drew her last breath, Linda held her daughter in her arms and in her heart. Finally, on April 14 of this year, with the entire family at her side, Audrey died at the age of 23.

"It was very sad," Linda said. "It was a bittersweet departure." She says that now Audrey is in heaven, healed and probably running around, but that she left behind "a great hole."

Today, sympathy cards adorn Audrey's empty room. The bed where Linda kissed her daughter's feet daily is empty. The nurses are gone, the halls are quiet and the roar of medical equipment has turned silent.

"I miss her tremendously," she said. "Not just on a spiritual level, and worldly level, but she's my daughter. There's always an emptiness, always a loss. Something that no one or anything in your life can fill. But I know Audrey's healed. I know she's in heaven. I know that. I absolutely know that. So I can't worry about her. I worry about what, as a family, what we're suffering here."

"It wasn't a burden," Linda said. "The greatest gift you can have is to take care of another human being. And if it's your child, and you love them the way you should, then that's easy. No burden."

While some might look at Linda as a saint, she points to her daughter as the real saint. She believes that one day the church will canonize Audrey. "That was obviously God's plan, right?" she said.

At Audrey's funeral, prayers and music filled the cathedral. But perhaps the most touching tribute came from Diane McNutt, one of Audrey's caregivers for four years.

"I am grateful to God for the gift he gave me to be able to care for her. What a treasure," McNutt said before hundreds of mourners. "She has changed my life forever. We will all miss holding you, wiping your tears and just being there for you. It was an honor to be a part of your life, Audrey."

As Audrey's casket, draped in a red cross, passed Linda, she kissed her daughter goodbye.

"If we truly believe we are made in the image and likeness of God," she said later, "what greater honor is there than living and taking care of each other?"

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