MONSIGNOR MICHELE DI RUBERTO SITS IN AN OFFICE IN THE VATICAN surrounded by 250 red-bound books, each of them a would-be miracle. Of all the faiths that recognize the continuing eruption of the divine in human affairs, Catholicism has gone farthest to systematize that belief; and Di Ruberto, the Under Secretary at the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, sits near the pinnacle of miracle verification.

For the 60-year-old priest, the occupation is a necessary step toward a greater goal: the naming of saints. The church assumes that a saint will be active after death; that once in heaven, he...

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