DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     October 14, 1998     vol. 9, no. 201


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE & SECTION TWO
          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."

          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 two

Chosen and destined by God

          A chronological background of the visionary Maria Bianchini Esperanza's life is imperative to realize why this humble, but vibrant lady was chosen to present God's message to the world in these latter days of the twentieth century. Born November 22, 1928 in the border city of Barrancas in the far southeastern corner of the State or Province of Managas, Venezuela (just northeast of the world's highest waterfalls - the famous Angel Falls), the traditional Catholic values were instilled upon Maria and her four brothers. At two years old her father died and the family moved to Cuidad Bolivar on Venezuela's Orinoco River.

          From an early age Maria Esperanza, whose maiden name means "hope" in Spanish, realized she had been chosen for a very special mission. When she was five she experienced her first mystical encounter. Bidding adieu as her mother was embarking on a journey, Maria witnessed the Little Flower of Jesus, Saint Therese who surfaced from the Orinoco River and tossed her a rose which miraculously materialized in Maria's hand.

          Our Blessed Mother first appeared to Maria seven years later while Maria lay ill with bronchial pneumonia in Caracas where her family had moved when she was ten. At 14, Maria encountered heart problems and all expected she would not live. Even at this age, her faith sustained her as she asked Jesus to give her a happy death or completely hear her if it was the Father's Will. Immediately the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to her, assuring her she would be healed instantly. This miraculous cure astonished her physicians.

          It's interesting to note here that this little heart, which was so in love with Jesus, His Blessed Mother and the saints, was not only healed but has become a special source of grace and miraculous phenomena - for fifteen times or more an actual rose has emerged from Maria's heart through her chest and entwined around her, emitting a fragrance that is not of this earth. The rose petals have been documented to have produced cures.

          The rose proved to be pivotal in her life when St. Therese again appeared to Maria two days after the Little Flower's feast day on October 3, 1954. This time Maria, then 26, had been in deep prayer hopeful of discernment as to her calling in life, having entered the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Maid in Los Andes in the western section of Venezuela. Again, the little saint tossed her a rose, which materialized before Maria. As she reached out to clutch it, one of the thorns caught her hand and bled a little. This was a sign to Maria not only that she was to become wife and mother rather than a religious, but also would suffer much as a victim soul and had also been chosen for the stigmata, which she undergoes every Good Friday.

          After leaving the convent, Maria was instructed to go to Rome where she would receive the blessings of Pope Pius XII. On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7th, 1954) Our Lady appeared with the message: "Besides the daily communion, fasting, prayer, and penance, you must remain in great seclusion, because I will come back on the twelfth of October (feast of Our Lady of Pilar in Zaragoza) to prepare your heart as spiritual mother of souls, which will remain sealed forever as such. Besides you will be mother of seven children: six roses and one bud."

          Shortly after that, she moved to Rome in 1955. There in front of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome which had been built by Saint John Bosco, a prophecy was fulfilled which St. John Bosco himself had related to Maria four years earlier in a vision. The message he conveyed to her was that on the feast of All Saints she would meet her husband-to-be and he would have a sword. It was here she met her fiancÚ Geo Bianchini Giani, who had been employed in the Vatican and was, at the time of their rendezvous, a member of the President of the Republic's Guard who, as was their custom, carried swords. Since that time Geo has been her strongest ally through all of the suffering and blessings. As a further cementing of their love and total commitment to the Roman Catholic Church they were privileged to be wed inside St. Peter's Basilica on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1956 in the very Chapel of the same name where Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception one hundred and two years earlier. Fittingly, it was the very first nuptial mass to be said in the chapel!

          Their marriage has been most fruitful, producing one son Giovanni (one bud), and six daughters (six roses) - Maria Immaculada, Maria Esperanza, Maria Gracia, Maria Coromoto, Maria Auxiliadora, and Maria del Carmen. All are now married providing Maria and Geo many, many grandchildren and many fruits of joy!

          Under the musical direction of Maria's daughter Maria Auxiliadora, an accomplished musician, the families have gathered friends to form a choir that numbers close to 40 as part of Foundation Betania so that they could present concerts in Venezuela and around the world bringing the message of Love, Peace and Reconciliation in song to all.

          In the next installment we shall examine how the mission began.

October 14, 1998       volume 9, no. 201


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