DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     November 11, 1998     vol. 9, no. 221

THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE & SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          In the lush South American country of Venezuela that the Blessed Virgin Mary calls her "land of grace," which is bordered by the Carribean Sea to the north, the Andes Mountains to the southwest and the Amazon Jungle in the south, Our Lady has been appearing for centuries. And ever since 1976, she has been coming to a tiny, remote, tropical farm in Betania, Venezuela to establish a special Refuge for all her children as the New Ark of Salvation under the special title "Mary, Virgin and Mother of Reconciliation for all people and nations." She calls Betania the "New Lourdes" offering the same healing waters to all who will take refuge in her Immaculate Heart. God has chosen Maria Esperanza de Bianchini as His special visionary with many mystical graces to convey His Mother's messages to all His children as she beckons us all to become her "Ambassadors of Reconciliation" while effecting a very special Eucharistic Miracle intricately linked with Betania.

          No matter the age, Our Lady has been imparting the same message: "Pray! Pray! Pray!" It is only through constant prayer, taken as a bouquet in loving, motherly intercession before the Throne of God, that the hearts of mankind will eventually be softened and all her little ones brought into accord with the Will of God. This continuing in-depth series on the grace-filled mystical phenomena of Our Lady's appearances through the ages and the meaning of her messages will open eyes and hearts because she is the mother of us all and her words of wisdom and warnings must be taken seriously...very seriously!

The New Lourdes: Betania - Refuge of Reconciliation
part six

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.


November 11, 1998       volume 9, no. 221
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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