Some time ago, at this time of year, in December of 1991, I traveled to the remarkable site of Betania in Venezuela and first encountered Maria Esperanza and her equally amazing husband, Geo.
The initial meeting had to take place in the waiting room at a maternity ward in Caracas, for Maria was there at the bedside of a daughter who had just given birth. So gracious was the famous mystic that she took the time to sit down with me at the hospital. Upon greeting me, she immediately told me things about myself that she could not have naturally known. The feeling around her was immensely powerful, and soon after, I went to her beautiful home overlooking Caracas (Geo was a very successful businessman), where her large family was always around, along with frequent visitors who came and left through what amounted to a wondrous revolving door.
For those who doubt her prophetic abilities, below is a headline in the early days of Spirit Daily — in December of 2000, months before 9/11:
There was a chapel in the house, and one of her sons-in-law recounted to me how one time, when he was first married and staying there with his new wife — Maria’s daughter — he would awaken in the middle of the night, and passing the chapel, glimpse Maria inside, lost in profound prayer, oblivious, a detectable aura of light around her. The stories about her are endless. I recall Geo describing to me how, again in that chapel, he looked to his wife during Mass one day and her face had transmogrified into that of Padre Pio. They learned soon after that Saint Pio, whom Maria knew, had died at that hour. While at her house, Maria had them bring her one of the stigmatic gloves Pio had worn, which was temporarily kept at her house, and blessed me with it. You can imagine the feeling. While there, the odor of sanctity was obvious, and it was fascinating to hear and see how her gifts were not just supernatural ones, but manifested in the mundane world: Her son-in-law Carlos described, for example, how Maria could bake like no one he had ever met and made the most extraordinary meals, no doubt in constant prayer. This is something to keep in mind during Christmas dinner preparation.
They also told me that Maria was predicting a major event that would occur in a few days — on December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception. They didn’t know what it would be but urged me to stay and be at the shrine of Betania for whatever might happen.
I instantly knew it was the truth — believed something major would indeed occur — but there had been major problems with getting a flight home (the carrier that had gotten me there announced it was closing due to bankruptcy, and I was clinging to an alternate flight that my agent had secured). And besides, I had experienced enough to carry me forth as it was, including a major sun miracle at Betania (during which I clearly saw a figure of the Virgin formed in the sun with rays of grace streaming down from her).
I left, and soon after learned that the predicted event did occur a couple days later. It turned out to be a Eucharistic miracle at the shrine. As recounted by a magazine, “The Marian shrine’s custodian, Father Otto Ossa Avistizabel, was saying Holy Mass to a large group of pilgrims at the conclusion of the vigil leading up to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, he broke the large host into four parts. One of these, he consumed, and then noticed that one of the other parts had begun to bleed profusely.
“So as not to cause an unnecessary sensation, a special commission was convened by the bishop — who had issued a formal approval of Betania, declaring it “sacred ground” — and after a series of scientific tests, including a laboratory analysis of the blood at Caracas, the incident was determined to be scientifically inexplicable.
“The blood flowing from the Host was real human blood of the AB group,” said the magazine. “This is a very rare blood group, which only 5% of the population share. Noteworthy is the fact that this is the same blood group as found by scientists on the Shroud of Turin, the linen sheet that wound the dead body of Jesus. The same blood group has been identified in the sacred species of the Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano in Italy.”
The bishop, Pio Bello Ricardo, told me he had no doubt about Maria’s authenticity — he often had dinner at her house, and celebrated Mass in her chapel, which was allowed to have the Blessed Sacrament — and that he wished he had her level of spirituality.
A rare admission, that is — and a rare approval — in this era when so many modern clerics look askance at the wonders and hints, the nudges, that especially this month, Christ sends to us.
[resources: book about Maria: The Bridge To Heaven]