Don't know how many tuned in Wednesday night to FOX TV's two-hour special entitled "Signs from God: Science Tests Faith", for the promos tinged on the sensational; but if you did you had to be pleasantly surprised by the reverence with which the program handled private revelation and undeniable mystical phenomena. Here is the network that gave us "Ally McBeal," "Cops," "King of the Hill," "When Animals Attack," "The PJ's," "The Family Guy," "Wildest Police Chase Videos," "Married With Children," "Melrose Place," and other banal viewing not to mention the cultural phenomenon known as "The Simpsons." So to expect a quality program that would do justice to the Church and express reverence throughout would be a stretch but that's exactly what occurred. Aside from the sophomoric commercials promoting upcoming FOX programing, it was an enjoyable and inspiring two hours. In FOX's hunt for the truth, the real credit goes to Trans Media Group and the executive producer Michael Willesee, Sr. who also oversaw the events and reported on the set Wednesday night. What made this so interesting was not only that they were live with both the messengers featured - Katya Rivas from Bolivia and Hermilla Carrazco de Ortiz from Monterrey, Mexico, as well as live with all the appointed experts to help verify or disclaim the miracles that occurred, but also showed taped coverage of the visible Stigmata actually occurring the day after the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. That was mind-boggling and should have reinforced anyone's faith - even the most hardened heart.
The first visionary placed under the "Foxscope" was Katya Rivas, a resident of Cochambamba, Bolivia, who was a fallen-away Catholic, having been married three times. Her faith was the farthest thing from her mind and heart, but through a series of events that the network did not go into, she returned to the Church through a full conversion of heart. She first experienced the visible Stigmata, she claims, during a visit to Conyers and the visionary Nancy Fowler whose experiences with visions on the 13th of each month have since ceased. For many years prior to traveling to Atlanta, she had been receiving locutions from Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, a spiritual phenomena that has been repeated very often in the last few decades throughout the world. But the difference between all the other messengers and Katya is the fact that she is the only one with the visible Stigmata. There have been many who bore the "invisible Stigmata" but the last one to bear the visible Stigmata is now well on his way to sainthood, having been beatified in May by Pope John Paul II. We're speaking, of course, of Blessed Padre Pio. Katya's cause hasn't been introduced yet but what we saw signifies that she is special in God's eyes. She has over nine books of hand-written messges, many in Latin, Greek or Polish and she speaks only Spanish. Add to this that she is a high-school dropout and one gets the sense that this must be supernatural. Add also to this that the Archbishop of the See of Cochabamba, Archbishop Rene Fernandez Apaza has already approved the visionary's experiences in the first stage.
Cochabamba sits high in the Andes in West Central Bolivia and is the country's second largest diocese with 95% of the population of over 330,000 being Catholic. It is a fertile, productive agricultural region where the Rio de la Rocha river flows through and was founded in 1574 as Villa de Oropeza and renamed Cochabamba in 1786. The See was established by a Bull from Pope Pius IX on June 25, 1847. That is an interesting date for June 25th is the date Our Lady first spoke to the visionaries of Medjugorje 134 years later and half way around the world. Once again, God chose a remote spot in the mountains. It follows the pattern of La Salette, Garabandal and Medjugorje to name a few.
The amazing thing is that FOX went in filming, assuming Katya would experience the Stigmata on Good Friday for, after all, that was the day Christ died on the Cross. To their surprise, it was a "no go" but they did not come away disappointed; rather their ambitions were anxious for Katya received a message from Jesus in which He affirmed the Stigmata would occur the day after His Feast of Corpus Christi. It would be further proof of the Mystery of the Eucharist - Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. True to His word, on June 7th this year the cameras were rolling as Katya slowly drifted into a perplexed anxiety and retired to her home chapel to pray, then to her bed where right before the world's eyes the miracle of the visible Stigmata appeared as Katya writhed in reverent agony for hours, often exhibiting signs of being near death. All of this replicated the circumstances Our Savior experienced as He hung on the Cross. Blood began exuding from Katya's forehead first in accordance with what a crown of thorns would do to one's skull. Next her hands and feet began to show a cross and shortly after the cross gave way to larger wounds in which blood flowed from both her hands and feet. A priest and doctor, as well as friends and producer Michael Willesee, Sr. were all in attendance during this miraculous phenomena. What struck us about the entire program was the reverence Mr. Willesee expressed for the event and he was careful to extract on a swab traces of her blood that would be tested and revealed live Wednesday during the program. He had earlier extracted blood samples to know Katya's blood type. The results showed the blood was indeed hers, but what truly amazed Willesee and others was when he visited her the following day on June 8th, she showed hardly any signs of wounds. No medical expert could explain it. All the wounds on her body had miraculously healed.
During his time with Katya in preparing this documentary and showing it last night another miracle happened; this one was with Willesee himself. Call it the miracle of the heart for, in his own words he became a believer. We don't know what his faith is or background. We have attempted to contact him to do a follow-up interview with him which we hope to bring you down the road on his own experiences and conversion of heart, but it was another example of God's graces working through signs and wonders.
The second messenger placed under the network's microscope was Milla Carrazco de Ortiz in Monterrey who is a simple housewife and mother of two children and who, along with her husband, live in the cramped quarters of a two-room house, having to share bathroom and kitchen facilities with four other families. They have no phone, no address even. Literally dirt poor! The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has appeared indelibly in the floor of her home, much in the same manner as the image in Florida on the office building, on a tree in northern California, and so on. There is no mistaking the image of Our Lady embedded larger than life miraculously in the terrazo surface. In addition rose petals placed in the bible and prayer books develop images of Jesus and Mary and saints that cannot be copied under normal circumstances. This same phenomena has occurred in the Philippines in Manila and Dick Polak of Denver had a collection of the "miraculous rose petals" which we have seen first-hand. He since lost them on a pilgrimage to Garabandal when his suitcase was lost in flight, but he at least still has photos of the miraculous petals.
Both women expressed a simplicity and pious faith found in so many Hispanic women and the filming crew and reporters showed a tremendous respect for their piety. The producers were smart to send reporters that were bilingual as well and their handling of the entire series of events and the two hour program were beyond reproach. They covered all angles, calling in various experts including Dr. Richard Castanon of Bolivia who was once an atheist and whose sole purpose in life was to debunk supernatural phenomena. He has written numerous books on his global investigations of many claims, proving fraud in several and has even been employed as a "Devil's Advocate" by the Vatican for some investigations, but through his experiences with Katya his perspective was entirely changed and he came across as a believer live on FOX. Other secular experts were Michael Reid, Professor of Environmental Horticulture at UC-Davis who examined the structure of the petals and could find no process added to them to indicate tampering. The same for Will Shank, an art conservator who tried to show that by pressing a coin image against the petals one could reproduce the same image and therefore debunk the credibility of the authenticity of the miraculous rose petals, but the image he pressed could not measure up to the detail of the miraculous rose petals and he would not turn the petal he pressed over to see if it had the same clear image on the back which the process of pressing could not fully do. His findings were, to say the least, inconclusive and deceiving. The other secular expert was Lisa Calandro, a Forensic Anaylitical Lab biologist who tested the DNA of the blood of both Katya's Stigmata and the blood that miraculously flows from a bust of Christ in Milla's home. The findings were surprising for they were not Our Lord's blood type nor Milla's but that of a woman and it was Michael Willasee who pointed out that it could very well be the blood of the Blessed Virgin Mary for it was her blood that gave life to her Divine Son in her womb through the mystical insemination of the Holy Spirit. Willasee's comments were truly profound.
The lone "expert" representing the Church was not the Archbishop of Cochabamba but Father Peter Stravinskas, the well-respected editor of "The Catholic Answer" who is an excellent writer and has written volumes on spirituality and the Church. But he was visibly uncomfortable in front of the FOX cameras and it showed as he stuttered his way through, never saying anything definitive and mouthing the Church's conservative viewpoint on private revelation. It was interesting that he still expressed skepticism after the Archbishop had already proclaimed belief in the first stage. He was questioned on this by the two FOX moderators and he hemmed and hawed his way through an embarrasing few minutes in which he defended his stance by calling on that time-worn refrain that Catholics don't have to believe private revelation. That is true, but the way he delivered his comments, in essence poured cold water on the hearts of many viewers that might have otherwise been on fire through these signs and wonders. In short, he came up short in explaining the Church's stance and contradicted the Magisterium of the Church in light of Archbishop Apaza's findings.
But even Father Peter's unfamiliarity with the camera and awkwardness couldn't dampen the spirits of so many who were so touched by the reverence shown for Catholic beliefs and the miraculous phenomena that science, as a whole, could not refute. In conclusion, we leave you with Christ's Own words in Luke 13: 32 when the Pharisees informed Our Lord that Herod wanted to kill Him, Jesus said, "Go and say to that fox, 'Behold I cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am to end My course. Nevertheless, I must go My way today and tomorrow and the next day, for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside Jerusalem.'" Our Lord continues to cast out devils and perform cures today through these wondrous Heavenly signs that man may believe and it cannot be that a true prophet perish outside Jerusalem for God will protect those truly chosen as His messengers no matter what science or skeptics say. For once, FOX has exceeded everyone's expectations with that excellent two hours Wednesday night. To borrow from Tobias' words in Esdras 4: 3, "Let them build. If a fox go up, he will leap over their stone wall." The FOX Network has built up many walls preventing true Christian morals in its programming, but, in giving the devil his due, this time FOX truly has lept over the wall of division and immorality by bringing us programming that produced excellence in depth and devotion. In other words, given the network's track record, it was a remarkable FOX hunt for the truth!