Capistran as a living miracle-worker
One of the basic differences between the in vita and post mortem miracles is the active role assumed by the saint in the first group; while post mortem miracles are essentially impersonal (even when the visions had by the miraculés introduce the saint's specter into the story), living saints are able to better control the application of their exceptional power and to choose, at least to some extent, the beneficiaries and the forms, times, and places of their interventions.1 The in vita miracles thus deserve our attention since they can reveal something of the saint's own attitudes toward the working of miracles, while additionally this double (in vita and post mortem) perspective can furnish some interesting comparisons and contrasts.
It is perhaps an exaggeration to affirm that in vita miracles tend to be “dangerous for ecclesiastical authorities”,2 but their status is clearly more problematic than that of posthumous miracles. Medieval canon law considered an authentic and complete sanctity as bipartite, involving two equivalent elements: the saintly way of life (mores) and miracles (signa). But whereas the first could only manifest itself during this life, the latter was primarily to be expected after the saint's death (Kleinberg 1992, 27). While miracles are considered a sign and consequence of one's saintly life, the sanctity of a living person is always a fragile thing. In life the gift of miracles may celebrate one's virtues, but it needs to be constantly merited with these same virtues. This interdependency of virtues and the domination of the world through miracles was finely formulated by Nicholas of Fara: “it is good and justified that everything obeys him, who always obeyed his Lord”.3 After death this two-way bond simplifies, and miracles then become not only welcome but even necessary as evidence of one's past saintly life (cf. Barone