The New Lourdes: Betania - Refuge of Reconciliation
Take Refuge in My Immaculate Heart
Our Lady has also been speaking to many about refuges - spiritual and
physical in recent tines, and she affirms this in an earlier message to
visionary Maria Esperanza de Bianchini: "I come to direct all who wish to take refuge in my maternal heart; it is for that, that I have taken possession of you. I hope to lead you
and that you will call my children to this place of the holy waters of my
hopes and that it will become a place of harmony, refreshment, and peace
for those who come in search of this Mother, the shepherdess of souls. I
have come, too, to lighten the burdens of my priestly sons because it is
they, the ones who responding to my call, will have to make of my place,
chosen for these times of great calamities for humanity, the sacred
enclosure where all my children will find refuge, to rebuild the walls of
the triumphant New Jerusalem where all have to be saved by the faith, love,
and truth of a people crying out for justice."
The Blessed Virgin also concentrates on her priest-sons and religious and
the vital need to adore her Son Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, confirming what
she has been imparting to Father Don Stefano Gobbi, when she says to Maria: "Now, meditate
in silence and submit to prayer that you may comprehend and accept my
presence among you. I say especially to religious, my consecrated priests
and missionary sisters - that they may enter wholeheartedly into prayer and
contemplation which is so necessary in this hour so decisive for humanity.
Action and work are the axis but without prayer, works are ruined. It is
important, even necessary, to consider your vows. Pastors take your flocks
and form of them one big human family. Behold here pastors who are blessed
with good possibilities in their flocks, it is a beautiful apostolate and
it needs prayer to keep them united to my Son. It is for this that I beg
you, my children, do not stop adoring; you cannot stray from my Maternal
heart. You are consecrated religious and receive orders from your
superiors - you must remain faithful, persevering in your apostolic work
for the benefit of God's people.
"I, my children, will remain faithful until the end, following in the
footsteps of my Divine Son. You have a great responsibility. You know
that will power and good intention is the basis. Jesus is there with
sacrifice and He reveals Himself in the silence of the temple of each heart
of His ministers. In adoration, He becomes present; it is the proper
surrender to Christ, my Divine Son. But in the strength of the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit, it will become true in you in an exceptional way - you
will be one alone with Him. Lo! The beauty and grandeur of what it means
to be a priest."
Eucharistic Miracle Confirms Apparitions
Those last words brought much meaning to one priest in particular - Father
Otty Ossa Aristizabal, Maria's spiritual director and chaplain to Betania.
For in his very hands the Sacred Host of Our Lord bled, manifesting a true
Eucharist Miracle at Betania on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in
1991. It was a heavenly sign of God's everlasting presence here and a
confirmation of the Church's approval of the apparitions. As is the custom
on all major Marian feast days, pilgrims begin an all night vigil at 6 pm
the night before the feast. Fr. Otty was saying the midnight mass in the
open air chapel just to the right of the grotto. Just after the Agnus Dei
he broke the large host placing a small piece of the Host in the chalice
while three other pieces remained on the paten. Caught up in prayerful
contemplation before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, Fr. Otty did
not notice the small drop of blood that began oozing from one of the pieces
that had been separated. A nun who was nearby saw it and immediately
alerted Fr. Otty. When he looked down he was amazed and humbled. He spent
longer in gazing upon it and in prayerful thanksgiving for this sign, but,
according to Bishop Pio Ricardo Bello, Fr. Otty thought "better not to reveal it at
this time to the massive crowd for fear of a stampede towards the altar to
witness this miracle of Our Lord's precious Blood." Thus, he continued his
normal pace of distributing Holy Communion. After the Mass he quietly
reposed the miraculous host in a nearby tabernacle until the next morning
when he made it public, explaining to all the events that had occurred and
then placed it in a reliquary monstrance for all to venerate and adore.
Fr. Otty explained what had happened, "I broke the Host into four parts.
When I looked down on the plate I could not believe my eyes. I saw the red
stain forming on the Host and from it a red substance was beginning to
emanate similar to the way blood spurts out in a puncture. After the
Consecration (Mass) I took the Host and protected it in the Sanctuary. The
next day at six in the morning I observed the Host and I found that the
blood was still fresh and had trickled down."
For three days the Blood was fluid and then began to dry, however to this
day it still looks fresh. Amazingly, the Blood is only on one side, not
bleeding through the exceedingly thin Host. That in itself is a miracle
for blood normally seeps through. As Sr. Margaret states in her book, "The
importance is not in the miracle itself, but in the sign. It is a sign
that our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist. In the miracles of the
Bible it is not the miracle, but the sign - the sign of Our Lord's Mercy
and Love for His children." Yes, it is a true sign of the Transubstantiation."
It presently is kept in a small reliquary in the tabernacle in the chapel
at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph, which is also the Bishop's
residence. There are plans in the future to move it to a special place in
the Cathedral at Los Teques. For now, it affords the best opportunity to
see it up close and to kiss the glass where the Sacred Host resides. The
Convent of Los Teques, seat of the diocese, is about an hour's drive
southwest of Caracas whereas Betania is an hour and a half to two hour
drive due south of Caracas.
Bishop Bello was immediately notified of the Eucharistic Miracle by Fr.
Otty and as he told us, "because I believe in Fr. Otty and trust him, I
knew it had to be authentic." However, in keeping with Church norms he had
the Sacred Host undergo a series of careful testing and analysis in
Caracas. The findings turned out to be as expected - human blood, type AB
as in Lanciano - Christ's Own blood-type!
In the next installment we will delve into why Betania was chosen and why God allowed
a Eucharistic Miracle to take place with part seven of this feature on Betania.