By Fr. Timothy Byerley
On the feast of the Queenship of Mary, August 22, 1954, a young Venezuelan woman named Maria Esperanza invited some friends to pray the Rosary at her home in Caracas. She was nearly twenty-six at the time, single, working and living in Caracas with her mother. The practice of gathering friends for a Friday night Rosary and faith sharing was a weekly custom of Maria Esperanza.
That night something remarkable occurred. In the midst of the Rosary, Maria Esperanza fell on the floor semiconscious and in a state of ecstasy. She spent the next week in bed in a kind of stupor, feeling intense pain in her heart, yet she suffered no injury discernable by medicine.
Recalling the incident years later Maria Esperanza told General Jose Luis Tarre Murzi, that as she was concluding the Rosary with a group of young girls in her home on that night in 1954, a flash of light suddenly fell from the ceiling, “like a bulb, like a blue light, like a star.” The light pierced her heart and she lay between life and death for seven days. Doctors were unable to diagnose her condition. Maria Esperanza explained that it was a spiritual event. Divine grace had pierced her heart with a purifying fire that generated its effect on her soul over the period of one week. For Maria Esperanza, this purification symbolized the configuration of her heart with the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
This mystical experience is known as “transverberation” according to the Doctors and theologians of the Church. St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Teresa of Avila, among others, recounted a similar experience. This mystical wounding is accompanied by the physical sensation of a piercing or penetration of the heart. It marks the complete union of the soul with God. In Maria Esperanza’s case, there is a very strong Marian aspect to her union with Christ.
Countless Mystical Graces
This event is only one of countless mystical experiences, beginning at a young age, that have been recorded in the life of the Venezuelan Servant of God, Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchini. These mystical graces culminated in the apparitions of the Mother of God in a sanctuary called Betania, located in a tropical mountain region about forty miles from the City of Caracas. There Our Lady appeared there under the title, “Reconciler of all peoples and Nations,” with a message for the whole world. These apparitions were determined to be “authentic and of supernatural character” on November, 21, 1987, by Bishop Pio Bello Ricardo, the Ordinary of Los Teques, the Diocese in which Betania is situated. Bishop Pio Bella arrived at this decision after intense study, assiduous prayer and frequent consultation with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI).
Simply said, the objective of the Blessed Virgin’s visits to Betania is to inspire a spiritual movement aimed at achieving the unity of the human family in Christ: that is, the reconciliation of all peoples and nations! Maria Esperanza, who eventually married and had seven children, became the ambassador of Our Lady of Betania. She declared, “This is the mission: the reconciliation of all peoples and nations. It is hard; I know it is tough, very difficult but the Lord knows what he is doing and why he is doing it. And if He has allowed Our Lady to come – and she has – it is because it is the time of the awakening of the consciences of all men on earth.”
The divisions of mankind at every level are destroying the human race: national, ethnic, social, economic, political, ideological and religious discord; wars, terrorism, the trampling of human freedom and essential rights, human slavery, torture, and the unjust distribution of the world’s resources have reached epic magnitudes. How are these open wounds of hostility and division to be healed? Is this not an impossible prospect to conceive?
Healing of the Family – The Solution
Mary came to Betania not merely to highlight the crisis we face but to offer a heavenly solution. Maria Esperanza taught us that the answer lies in the family. Society can only be healed one family at a time, and Our Lady has come with all her love and grace to help us in this challenge. This is the message: the practical way to achieve the unity of mankind is through the healing of the family. Society passes by way of the family. When the family is broken, society is broken. When the family is healthy, society is healthy. As Maria Esperanza proclaimed, “Only the family will achieve the stability of all peoples by…putting into effect the doctrine that Jesus bequeathed to us.”
The Mother of Christ wants to heal our families and thus heal the human family. We must invite her into our own families so that she may renew them in Christ. One of the most effective ways to invite Mary into our homes is through the family Rosary. The Servant of God told everyone, “I wish for all of you to get together and pray the holy Rosary with your family, because then you will see a complete change…Your family will receive special graces, infinite graces from heaven with the kindness of an immense, omnipotent God.” She said that, “the Blessed Mother wishes to turn each family that prays together into a paradise.” Similarly, Maria Esperanza believed that true sharing and fraternity must return to the home. Families “should get together at home and pray the holy Rosary, and everyone should sit at table and share bread.” This critical dimension of shared family meals has virtually disappeared from the familial landscape.
An Avalanche of Grace
Because of her Son’s mercy, the Holy Mother assures us that we are living in a time of great hope. Family unity and fraternal reconciliation are coming to our planet and nothing can stop this avalanche of grace. Although Maria Esperanza warned of difficult times ahead, she was certain that Jesus and Mary will intervene in dramatic ways. The Servant of God prophesied, “The world will go on – many investigations, much wisdom on behalf of men, great inventions, great things, great cures; in short, something very beautiful. But the biggest and most exceptional thing of all is the healing of a Mother [Mary] who with her presence in each family will cure her children, soothe their worries and grant them peace, family peace.” The Servant of God promises us that the “conversion of the world will come. It will take a little more time, not much…But the radiant light of a Sun of Truth and Justice will shine in the world and love will grow.”
This great prophet of our times passed away on August 7, 2004, in Long Beach Island, New Jersey surrounded by her beloved family. Her beatification cause was opened on January 31, 2010, in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey with two bishops, forty priests and 1,100 faithful in attendance. The cause has recently gained new traction in Caracas, Venezuela. Maria Esperanza’s fame of sanctity and intercession continues to spread around the world.
Servant of God Maria Esperanza, pray for us and our families!