Spirit Daily

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Two stories for your discernment:

Mormon Asked For A Sign About Catholic Truth And Says He Received The Stigmata

We always warn on phenomena, especially the stigmata, but Holy Week -- the height of such alleged mysticism -- is coming, and there is the particularly interesting case involving a Utah man named Alex.

Let your discernment determine it. And we'll let him tell his story. This is in South Ogden about thirty miles from Salt Lake City and it's interesting among other reasons because Alex -- now 40, a former electrical engineer -- had been a Mormon.

Originally from Venezuela, he was born Catholic (baptized on December 25); converted to Mormonism; spent 23 years in that esoteric religion; and then reverted back upon moving to the U.S. and learning what he calls "the truth" about the Church of the Latter Day Saints -- and Catholicism.

"After being a Mormon for that time I had doubts and prayed to God for a sign that the Catholic Church was the truth," says Alex, who prefers no use of last name or photographs. "I was baptized and raised Catholic until I was 14 years old, receiving both first communion and confirmation. At the age of 14, I met the Latter Day Saints (LDS) missionaries and became interested in knowing more about American ways and I wanted to learn English so I converted to the LDS religion.

"I graduated in electrical engineering from the Universidad Del Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela, married and had two children," he adds, on thewayofthecross.org. "In 1992 I came to the United States and settled in Utah with my now ex-wife and children.

"In 1995 I met and married my wife. We lived briefly in Oregon for one year but came back to Utah because of family. Throughout the past ten years, I was not satisfied nor fulfilled with the LDS religion and in February 2003 decided to once again start attending the Catholic Church. Complications from several back surgeries created problems with my right leg and hip.

"In April 2003, I began praying for a sign that I was on the right path and on April 24th, I received my answer."

It was an excruciating one.

"I was in the bathroom and my hands began to bleed on the backs of my hands," he recalled in a bio. "I had been having pain in my hands for awhile and I thought it was my carpel tunnel coming back. I was frightened and I went out to the living room to show my wife and she was afraid I had fallen and asked me how I cut myself. I honestly cannot remember what happened after that. A week later, I began to bleed from my feet, side, and forehead. There were two separate times that I had whip marks on my back."

For your discernment!

It is how stigmata allegedly often starts, and Alex developed what appeared to be a full-blown case: wound not only on his hands but also on his limbs, his side, and his head. Stigmata are representations of the wounds of Christ, of course, and date back at least to St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

During recent decades, there have been many reported cases, the most famous of which was that of St. Padre Pio of Italy -- whose wounds, present for five decades, disappeared upon his death.

We offer it all for your personal discernment (warning always to pray and fast before visiting mystics). In the case of Alex, pinpricks of blood seemed to represent the Crown of Thorns and a cross appeared -- and still does appear -- on his forehead.

According to Alex, at the behest of his bishop, George H. Niederauer -- now archbishop of San Francisco -- and under the direction of his pastor, a priest named Monsignor Victor G. Bonnell, of St. Rose of Lima Church in Layton, he was psychologically, psychiatrically, and physically examined, with no proof of what was going on and at the same time no sign of mental aberration.

"Father Bonnell sent me to a psychologist for some testing. In addition to the testing, I received some counseling from this physician and he told me how to distinguish between a good angel and a bad angel. He told me that I came out of the testing normal or as my wife says as 'normal as a man can.'

"Father Bonnell then sent me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist reacted very negatively.

"He looked at my hands and asked me if I had done that to myself. Of course I said no and the dermatologist said 'I think you did.'

"He then told me to rinse the blood off of my hands and forehead and told me that I looked ridiculous. He was very debasing. It took me a little bit of time to get the blood off and I had to soak my hands to do it and scrub very hard."

When the dermatologist came back into the room, relates Alex, his hands were bleeding and, painfully, he scrubbed one of the wounds. The doctor then put a salve on them and wrapped them in white cottony gloves, sealed them with tape, and told him to leave them on for one week.

"By the end of the day, they were already saturated with blood," recalls Alex. "This made it very difficult to do anything. By the Friday after the Wednesday visit, they were so bloody and dirty that I couldnít do anything with them. Also, my hands had swelled up from the lack of air and made deep marks on my wrists from the gloves.

"When they (Monsignor Bonnell and a deacon) removed the gloves, the wounds were still open and fresh with no sign of closing at all. Where the gloves had been taped on my wrists, were marks because of the swelling."

When the bandages were unwrapped, recalls the Utah engineer, there were "two perfectly formed crosses."

This is quite a case but attempts to elicit comment from the diocese have not yet borne fruit. Monsignor Bonnell told Spirit Daily that Alex is a "good person" and "I think he is probably sincere" -- that Alex believes the phenomenon is happening -- but that it's "very difficult" to analyze.

"I don't put an awful lot of credence in it," said the priest,  who is generally skeptical of mystical phenomena and declined to discuss the psychological testing, which was "confidential."

Alex's current spiritual director, Father Javier G. Virgen of  Saints Peter and Paul on the west side of Salt Lake, is far more enthusiastic. He says he has seen no evidence of deception. "It's authentic as far as I can tell," he states. "But we must be prudent, and follow the directions of bishops."

Indeed!

Alex says that at his last meeting with Archbishop Niederauer, the prelate was open but cautious. "When I went to see him he said, 'let's wait for the fruits,' gave me his blessing, and asked for my prayers," recalls the stigmatic -- who before the phenomenon worked for an oil firm called Triple J.

The pain is always present and especially intense in his hands on Tuesdays and Fridays, Alex informs inquirers. In fact, so severe is the pain in his feet that it cost him his job. "Sometimes I can't walk because of it," he says, explaining that the cross on his forehead and other marks are often very vague but "open up" and bleed on occasion.

On First Fridays of the months, all the wounds exude, he asserts. It reminds us of Padre Pio.

And on the 13th of each month, he claims to see the Virgin Mary -- who supposedly has granted him messages and first was known to Alex, who had so little of Mary, as "the Lady in white."

He says she has requested to be known as "Our Lady of Ute" -- a reference to the local Indians.

Again, we submit it all for consideration. Alex is now deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother and strongly renounces Mormonism. Such is not to besmirch those of other faiths; there are many good Mormons, he points out. "But the religion is fake and based on a lie," he says.

"It is not about Alex, but about Jesus," says the alleged seer, adding: "Our Blessed Mother comes with green eyes, black hair, a white mantle, and the edge of her mantle is a dark blue color."

Messages?

"Times are bad; the cup is full and spilling on the table," he quotes Mary as saying. "You have to make others understand that if you are not prepared, you will have a great chastisement because you lack trust.

"My Son came to earth to restore the covenant between God and man. If you are not looking for what is right in imitating Jesus the signs will stop. You have to understand the signs will stop. You must preach. It is time to stop offending God!

"The chastisement is upon the world. For you who believe, those who do not need any miracles, I leave you with the Lordís Peace. Repent and convert others to understand and believe. Continue praying the Rosary no less than three times a day, because that is your weapon against the evil. Why did the picture of Mary of Medjugorje weep? Fasting and prayer will bring the power of the Holy Spirit. I will ask my Son to help you. The Church is ignoring the warnings. Therefore they will fall first, unless they turn their heart to my Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Tell others to go to confession at least once a month."

If these messages sound slightly disjointed, it's because we have formed them as excerpts in a composite. Odd is how they so often mention the seer by name -- admonishing those who don't believe in him. "My Dear Children, rejoice because many blessings are coming upon you," she has allegedly told the Utah man. "Thank you in receiving my son [Alex]. I have come to you because you have opened your hearts to receive the message that my son [Alex] has for you all. Why are you so scared? Do not be scared. I am with you all of the time. What you have seen in my son, [it] is necessary for others to see. The biggest miracle will be the coming of the Lord. Those who do not see Him will not think He is coming."

These are composites. You get the message.

We face challenging times -- how many reputed mystics have stated this! -- that can be altered only with a unified effort at prayer and fasting. Alex has statues, he says, that have also exuded blood. During some of his experiences, especially when he "sees" the Passion, he has been under attack by the devil, who appears as a dark angel that has caused him actual bruises. So marked are some of the phenomena, he adds, especially the statues, that his wife also has also converted from a Mormon background ("and is more devout than I am").

It is a time, says Alex, to "prepare." How to do that? "Practice the habit of going to Adoration at least one hour a week," he quotes Mary as saying. "Meditate on your blessings."

First spiritually. But also physically.

Protect yourselves with fasting and the Eucharist.

"If we prepare," says the former Mormon, in some real words of advice, "we don't have to worry."

04/05/06 

Death Of A Stigmatic: Demise Of Utah Man Puts Focus On Complexity Of Phenomena    

Second story

The death of an alleged stigmatic, Alex Avendano, of Layton, Utah, is raising new questions about the nature -- and perhaps dangers -- of the phenomenon.

According to his wife and a priest who served as his spiritual director, Avendano, who was just 40, slipped into a coma-like sleep on October 18 and was pronounced dead shortly after telling those around him that he needed prayers because he was under an intense attack by the devil.

The spiritual director, Father Javier Virgen, of West Valley City, said he is not sure exactly what transpired in the way of such an "attack" but Avendano's wife, Carol, said it occurred while she was at work -- sometime after five p.m. -- and that two friends were with him praying the Rosary when the attack intensified.

When she returned home from work at about 8:30 p.m., says Carol, she found her husband in a "deep sleep," and after a while she noticed that he stopped breathing. She called 911 and they worked on him for 45 minutes to no avail.

Alex's wife, family, and friends were completely in shock.

He is survived by his wife; two sons from a previous marriage, Alexander and Alexees of Shertz, Texas; his parents, Alfredo Avendano and Amelia Boscan of Venezuela; one sister and two brothers of Venezuela; and his in-laws, Bill and Joan Burnside of West Jordan.

Born March 16, 1966, in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Alex moved to Utah in 1990, obtained a doctorate in electrical engineering, and had been employed at Franquelin Enterprises before the development of stigmata prevented him from work. "He was a member of the Holy Family Catholic Church for the past three years," notes an obituary. "He spoke five languages fluently, loved computers, his cats, his family, Jesus and His Blessed Mother."

By all accounts a devout man, Avendano was born Catholic (baptized on December 25); converted to Mormonism; spent 23 years in that esoteric religion; and then reverted back upon moving to the U.S. and learning what he calls "the truth" about the Church of the Latter Day Saints -- and Catholicism (as we previously reported).

"In April 2003, I began praying for a sign that I was on the right path and on April 24th, I received my answer." It was an excruciating one. "I was in the bathroom and my hands began to bleed on the backs of my hands," he recalled in a bio. "I had been having pain in my hands for awhile and I thought it was my carpel tunnel coming back. I was frightened and I went out to the living room to show my wife and she was afraid I had fallen and asked me how I cut myself. I honestly cannot remember what happened after that. A week later, I began to bleed from my feet, side, and forehead. There were two separate times that I had whip marks on my back."

Avendano then developed what appeared to be a full-blown case: wounds not only on his hands but also on his limbs, his side, and his head. Stigmata are representations of the wounds of Christ, of course, and date back at least to St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

During recent decades, there have been many reported cases, the most famous of which was that of St. Padre Pio of Italy -- whose wounds, present for five decades, disappeared upon his death.

While many have automatically assumed a heavenly origin for such sufferings -- which indeed can be the case -- stigmata is proving to present more of a mix of forces than most have recognized.

There were those who encountered both delightful heavenly phenomena around Avendano, and others who claimed at times to experience an unpleasant, sulfur-like odor. Reports are that a strange voice and even curses were heard to issue from him while he was under attack before he died, events that are confirmed by his wife, who said there was also the tossing around of furniture.

"He was attacked physically," says his wife. "It was almost like he was taken over. He had such attacks at times and we were told it was for his purification. When he came out of one, he was more humble. He was a very holy man. I have no doubt that he's in Heaven."

According to the literature, exorcists have recorded cases in which victim souls -- including stigmatics -- have encountered both the good side and the evil one -- as if their bodies are battlefields. Carol believes that the attack itself did not kill Avendano, but that it was "simply his time" and his heart stopped. In July, the stigmatic had been tested after experiencing chest pains, but was given a clean bill of health.

Because he was often known to lapse into a deep sleep after an attack, or following visions, his wife was not alarmed until she noticed he was no longer breathing. She said he had also encountered an attack by the devil a month before his death.

Father Javier said he too considered it a suffering that was sent as a purification and that Avendano had a solid life of devotion and prayer.

In other cases, however, questions have been raised about the very origin of stigmata, with some mystics displaying manifestations that appear diabolical. In fact, the forces swirling around stigmatics not only makes their phenomena especially difficult to discern but also more potent than the forces behind alleged seers, healers, and locutonists who do not have actual physical wounds .

Controversy recently swirled around a stigmatic from Europe who was requiring $5,000 and expenses to appear in the U.S. -- a sign that most priests would take as indicating falsehood. Other stigmatics have likewise proven to be a "mix" -- exhibiting supernatural phenomena but leaving the difficult question of where the phenomena are from.

In some cases, the manifestations have taken the form of unsightly bleeding from the eyes or elsewhere on the body -- leading to further questions. Holy possession or simply possession, period?

"According to the constant confessions of the demons it is the Blessed Virgin who leads the suffering souls against the demons and forces them to battle with the victim souls until they are overpowered," wrote an 18-century exorcist in a booklet called Mary Crushes the Serpent. "It is a worldwide battle between the ferocity of the demon and the victim souls' love for the Cross. The victim souls endure bodily sufferings as well as attacks directed against the sensitive powers of the soul."

"The Blessed Virgin ties the infernal spirits in groups to the victim soul in regular order," says the booklet.  "They are enclosed in the victim as if they were locked in a prison. They are forced to combat with her until one or the other is conquered. The conquered demons are then forced back into hell."

The exorcist asserted that he saw cases where a victim soul was unconscious "with a diabolical expression upon her face," but upon departure of the demon "passed into the presence of the Master and the Blessed Virgin."

"It would be unreasonable to believe that God, after permitting the demons to crucify these victim souls, would not also on His part extend them supernatural help," wrote the priest, saying that among the gifts were "inner voices, ecstatic visions, ecstasies, heavenly odor," the latter emitted when the mystic is "united with God."

"The charismatic graces, speeches, visions, ecstasies, which [were] regularly observed in these same persons besides the demonical influences, confirmed [the exorcist] in his conclusion," noted the editor. 

Still, in other cases, the origin of all such "gifts" has been set to question. We do not pretend to be able to discern them.

"I bring some very sad news," said an initial e-mail from a Florida woman named Becky Murphy upon learning of Alex's death. "Our friend, Alex Joseph Avendano, died last night. I do not have many details of his death but I thought you would all like to know. Please pray for him that his soul rests in heaven with God the Father. I believe that by the suffering that he endured here on earth that he is in heaven, but that is not ours to know. We must pray for his soul.

"I have peace because I know where he is. He touched many lives. His 'yes' to the Blessed Virgin brought the spiritual realm alive for us. What we must take on faith he was blessed to know for fact.  We will never know the pain and suffering that he underwent every single day to do this for us, both emotionally and physically. His 'yes' brought many of us closer to Jesus Christ through Our Blessed Mother and through an increased desire for prayer. Alex loved Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother. He spread that love by teaching others to pray the Rosary, to honor our priests, to live simply, to opening our heart to others and to stop offending God. He tried his best to live the life that God willed for him. As he prayed for us, please keep him in yours."

[see also: Victims In Exorcisms Shows Power Of Sacraments And Holy Objects]

11/9/06

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