Personal Remembrance: Above All Else, Famous Mystic's Gift Was Hope And Love
By Michael H. Brown
I had never met anyone like Maria Esperanza. For those of you who don't know her, Maria, who hailed from Caracas, Venezuela, was the seer attached to the first site approved as an authentic place of apparitions in decades. Beyond that, she was known for a truly mind-boggling array of gifts: healing, visions, Eucharistic miracles. Her own bishop -- who personally investigated the claims and issued a formal proclamation authenticating the site -- was a weekly guest at her house. At least 34 other bishops and auxiliary bishops in Venezuela approved of that decree, the first of such magnitude since apparitions that were approved in Belgium in 1943. During the investigation testimony was taken from more than 1,000 witnesses, including a prominent doctor who was cured of "incurable" cancer at the site known as "Betania."
More than anything, Maria, who died Saturday at the age of 75, was a mother. This was her greatest gift. I first spoke to her in a hospital in Caracas in 1991 where she was tending to a daughter who was giving birth. Our paths crossed many times through the years and we became friends. There was always a tremendous warmth. There was a caring. There was a sparkle in her astoundingly deep eyes.
Did she really have supernatural contact? Upon my first meeting with her in 1991 she told me the three ages at which I had encountered the most important events of my life -- right on each one. Two years ago, she warned me in an explicit way of a danger I was to face, and was again accurate down to the details. She correctly made a prophecy about our second child.
Oh, the phenomena were remarkable ("incredible" for once in the true sense of that overused word) -- but it was more the feeling she exuded: I have never been with anyone who emanated more love.
This love was witnessed in her family. To the amazement of those watching, Maria's relatives and friends often insisted on being with her when she traveled. It was not unusual for thirty or even as many as 77 relatives and friends to accompany her to the U.S. from faraway Venezuela! Her husband. Six daughters -- each named for the Virgin Mary. A son. A flock of grandchildren. And the in-laws: her sons-in-laws were as devoted to her as the closest blood relatives.
Then there were her "spiritual children." They all felt her love. So did my wife Lisa and I. She gave us the very Parker pen we used to sign our marriage certificate. She expressly wanted us to use it for that purpose. She had something for everyone. I last saw her in April just before our family made a major move and knew in my heart that it would be the last time. She had told me I was one of her spiritual children and I never knew quite what to make of that but the last time I saw her I told her I considered myself a spiritual son. It was one of the final times that she could understand what visitors said.
What joy it was to be around her. What love. I have never seen a closer, more loving family. If, as Scripture says, we are to discern by a person's "fruits," her husband and seven children and extended family and countless friends (thousands often greeted her at Betania) stand as definitive testimony.
Many knew her as a world-renowned mystic, the greatest, it appears, since St. Padre Pio. Seer. Mystic. Stigmatic. It was Esperanza who foresaw September 11 -- I can bear personal witness to that -- and Esperanza who made her last trip to the U.S. as a "mission."
Before her death, a number of people near to her had unusual experiences. In our case, it was a dream I had of Maria young and radiant -- like one would appear in Heaven -- just two nights before the fateful July trip to the emergency room with a semi-comatose condition from which she never recovered. At the same time and without knowing what I had seen, my wife "saw" Maria during Mass in an unusual interior vision. When she died, it was said there was the fragrance of roses.
She was to exit this world in the home of an American, John Crimi, who helped her and her family through many difficult moments, along with dear friends like Ron and Charlene Kyle from New Jersey. What does her passing mean? It seems extraordinary that Esperanza would die during 2004 -- a year that she saw as one with a special happening, a new awakening, and "rivers of light." More, she expressly told family members that a big event or events would occur after the midpoint of the year.
She took ill for the last time the first week of July, which was the seventh month of 2004.
Did her prophecies pertain to the world also, or were they personal visions open to interpretation? She had also said that Jesus would appear after a person widely known and loved died. Might she have been speaking about herself, perhaps without realizing it?
Questions and more questions but the important lessons were personal. Maria taught reconciliation. She taught love. I never heard her criticize a soul! "Hope" was not her middle name, but her name, period. That's what "esperanza" means!
And I'll always treasure the moments we spent together, the incredible feeling of joy she evoked, the wonders. I have no musical inclination, but the first time I met Maria I found myself composing music of sheer joy. May they beatify her in short order! Like they say, save a strand of her hair, she was the real thing, among the very most remarkable people I have ever met, perhaps the most remarkable -- like the Virgin, whom she strove to emulate, a true mother, and above all else a great friend.
I will remember you, Maria, the odor of sanctity, the gleam in your unforgettable eyes, the whisper of knowledge like the delicate caress of wind.
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