Phenomena Around Mystic Found To Be More Extensive Than Previously Thought
By Michael H. Brown
Last week we put to bed an updated edition of a book about Venezuelan visionary Maria Esperanza de Bianchini of Caracas, and in conducting new interviews -- with both Maria and members of her family -- it has become apparent that her gifts, already known to be among the most variegated of any modern mystic, are more extensive than previously thought.
Such are the claims that they challenge the credulity of even the most ardent believers, yet have been witnessed by hundreds of competent observers -- hearkening to phenomena reported around many historic seers and saints.
We still urge caution. Each new claim must be discerned. But so detailed are the accounts from reliable witnesses -- in some cases scientists -- that they sail into the realm of historic manifestations. Not since Padre Pio has a modern visionary combined so wide a range of alleged mystical experiences.
Now in her mid-seventies, Esperanza is associated with Church-sanctioned apparition site of Betania ("Bethany") near Caracas and is widely known for the apparitions, visions, locutions, prophecies, healings, bilocations, words of knowledge, stigmata, reading souls, and Eucharistic miracles. But there are a number of incidents that go beyond those phenomena, and one was described by husband Geo -- a native Italian who met Maria during one of her many journeys to Rome.
It was what he calls one of the most significant events in her life and occurred in 1954 while Maria was with a group of friends.
"She was seated praying the Rosary and suddenly they heard a noise, a loud sound, and saw a light from the ceiling," recalls her husband, a Caracas businessman. "A ray of light came from the ceiling and hit Maria hard, struck her chest. At that moment she had a very sharp pain and lost consciousness. She was two or three days in bed, like immobilized. Later she started to recover. What struck her heart appeared days later, materialized in the form of an object like the point of an arrow or sword, a very strange metal. It came out of her chest. On the sharp object was something written. It said, 'Heaven, earth, new life,' and it had a little dry blood on it. She kept it wrapped in cotton."
Daughter Maria Coromoto recalls an equally phenomenal incident when, watching as her mother was praying over another group, Esperanza apparently levitated a foot or two off the floor -- something that has been witnessed on other occasions while she is in ecstasy during Mass and has been reported among historic saints such as Joseph of Cupertino.
This incident took place in the home. "She used to have the Rosary every Friday," recalls Coromoto. "When she gave the blessing -- to all the people who were there -- she was lifted. I five years old or so and looking up and it was, 'Whoa, my mother is floating!"
While that occurred when Coromoto was only a child, more recently the daughter, now in her forties, experienced an extraordinary event in Florida. "We were invited to a conference in Tampa in February of 1994 and were getting ready to go when I asked my mother for a jacket," she relates. "We left, and when we got to the conference, my mother started to give her speech. I had the jacket on, and a nametag with my name written. While my mother was talking, I felt something [moving] inside the jacket. At first I thought it might be an insect. It felt like it was pulsating, or tickling, like popcorn was popping. I saw a rose petal caught in the nameplate. It was stuck. And while I was feeling this sensation of movement in the pocket, I put my hand in the pocket and I saw the petals coming out and out and out – multiplying inside the pocket. I was just amazed, and everyone started seeing it – dozens and dozens of petals. This went on for about five minutes."
Maria's sons-in-laws, mainly businessmen, testify to other such materializations: weeping images in the home, oil coming from Maria's skin, and Hosts appearing on her tongue. Most incredible are claims that on 15 occasions between January 18, 1986, and August 15, 1995, an actual rose, stem and all, has pushed through the skin of her bosom -- unfolding from a bud and witnessed by friends, doctors, a broadcaster, pilgrims, and even a Caracas television journalist who filmed it, in addition to members of the family. This takes stigmata to a new level, rare even in the annals of canonized mystics. So far the only comparable phenomenon we can find was a saint who experienced flowers that came out of his mouth.
Yet such assertions continue almost without end, with everyone around Maria relating a special story, including a son-in-law trained as a biologist. All show tremendous dedication because of what they have witnessed.
Visions. Stigmata. "Another time, when we opened the washing machine, there were all these petals all over my mother’s clothes," says another daughter, Maria Gracie. "It was so amazing!"
"We are accustomed to this now," notes son-in-law Carlos Marrero Bornn, a Caracas businessman who serves as an interpreter.
Coromoto is his wife, and she adds: "My mother is always giving us a new surprise. The supernatural became like natural."
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