Father Chris da Sousa was blind until a pilgrimage to Fatima brought him a miracle and that wasn’t the last miracle she obtained for his family.
My devotion to Our Blessed Mother started right from my earliest days. I’m Australian born, but my parents are Portuguese immigrants, so we’ve always had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. We would pray the Holy Rosary in front of her altar in our home daily, so I developed a great trust in her intercession.
I was born legally blind in my right eye and afflicted with a pathological condition in my left eye which caused my vision to deteriorate each and every year. As I grew up, my parents determinedly took me from one specialist to another, hoping for a cure, but always receiving the same news. There was no real treatment and by adulthood I would become completely blind.
By the time I entered early adulthood, no vision remained in my left eye, so my study of Law was severely hampered. My parents were distressed by witnessing my struggles to read big law books with my severely limited vision. So, in my second last year, they went on a pilgrimage to Fatima to plead for Our Lady’s intercession to restore their son’s vision. I remained to undertake my final year. When they returned with strengthened faith and trust in Our Lady’s intercession, they found a specialist who had learned a new procedure in Belgium that might help me. Although an appointment with this specialist was almost unobtainable, they asked Our Lady to help and I was unexpectedly called in for a consultation. Although I was resigned to my lack of eyesight, I couldn’t disappoint my parents after all their efforts.
Immediately after assessing my vision, the specialist said that he wasn’t sure if this procedure would help me. It was also very risky and, because it didn’t have government approval, it would be very expensive. However, my parents had such a great trust in Our Lady’s intercession that they immediately agreed to put up the money and urged me to go ahead. I was apprehensive, but assented, consigning myself into Our Lady’s loving care.
They started with my right eye—he legally blind eye. The surgeon had said that it may take some months before you see any real improvement, so I wasn’t expecting any immediate difference. But within 15 to 20 minutes after the operation, I could see clearly for the first time in my legally blind eye. Colours and definition I had never seen before!
I came running out of that operation exalting God, praising Him and thanking Our Blessed Mother for her guidance and intercession. As I joyfully embraced my parents, the specialist, who wasn’t a believer, hailed it as a miracle. He was unable to explain this immediate gift of clear vision, after the procedure, in an eye that had never had clear vision.
One month later, he operated on the other eye, my left eye. A repeat of the miracle seemed too much to hope for, but God’s blessing are abundant. Once more, within 15 to 20 minutes, I could see clearly in my left eye. Complete vision had been restored. Thanks to Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and my parents’ great faith and trust, I was able to kickstart life as an advocate.
I had always desired to be a lawyer, but I also opened myself to the Lord. What was He asking of me? I knew that this miracle was a free gift that didn’t need to be earned, but together with Our Blessed Mother, I would ask Him, “Lord what is it that you want from me? Why have you restored my vision when so many others remain blind?” This commenced a period of discernment, as I started working. Even though I felt fulfilled as a lawyer and projected a life of marriage and family, I received a calling in my heart to religious life and the priesthood during a World Youth Day pilgrimage.
I felt overwhelmed with fear and it took me several months to come to terms with my calling. On the 13th of May, during Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in my hometown, I asked Our Blessed Mother, “If this is what your Son wants from me, help me to see this just as clearly as you helped me to see.” It was like a veil was lifted from my eyes. I knew that her Son was calling me to religious life. Her Son was calling me to the priesthood. Entrusting myself into her maternal hands, I eventually discerned that I should give my life to the Lord, with the Somascan Fathers.
Following an ancient tradition in our religious order, when I professed my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, I also consecrated myself to Our Lady and added her name, Maria, to mine. Our founder, Saint Jerome Emiliani, had been miraculously liberated by Our Blessed Mother when he was a prisoner of war 500 years ago, enabling him to care for the sick, hungry and orphaned. I was miraculously liberated from my blindness, through her intercession, enabling me to give my life entirely to her Son.
When I was in Rome, preparing for my final Theology exams, my father became very ill with blood cancer. As he prepared to receive treatment, I went on pilgrimage to Fatima to entrust the health of my father to Our Lady’s care and to thank her for obtaining the miracle of my restored vision. On the same day that I walked on my knees to the place where she had appeared to the children 100 years earlier, my father’s specialist discovered that the cancer had completely disappeared from his blood. Once more, Our Blessed Mother’s intercession had miraculously restored another family member to health.
Following years of mission in India, Sri Lanka and Mozambique, I returned to Australia to prepare myself for my solemn vows and priestly ordination. My ordination took place in Mary’s month, May, on a Saturday, in her honor. I entrusted my entire priesthood into her maternal hands. The next day, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 13th May, I celebrated my first Mass. It was succeeded by a beautiful, candlelit procession, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, through the streets of Fremantle.
Our cup had runneth over until, at the apex of our joy, my mother fell gravely ill and was taken to hospital immediately in an ambulance. I followed quickly so that I could give her the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick – the sacrament of healing. She was the first person that I anointed with this sacrament. It strengthened my priesthood so much to be able to minister to her, not only as her son, but as a priest. The doctors thought she had suffered a heart attack and were giving her medication to thin out her blood. In fact, she had an aneurysm and was haemorrhaging internally.
They only realized this after several days of treatment with blood thinners. Their treatment was actually causing her to bleed more and more internally. She was rushed into an emergency operation, not expected to survive, but God blessed us once again with a miracle, thanks to the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, The doctors were unable to explain how my mother could still be alive after bleeding internally for so many days. My mother explained to them that Our Lady had interceded for her. “My son has consecrated himself to her and, as a priest, he’s been offering the Holy Mass for me every day. That is why I am healed, that is why this miracle has taken place.”
These profound experiences have deepened my devotion to Our Blessed Mother. I encourage you to entrust your lives to her heavenly intercession. I can bear witness to the miracles that occur when she intercedes for us to her Son. She, who is immaculately conceived, received the graces, gained by her son on the Cross, from her conception. She was able to say “Yes” to being the Mother of God, preceding Our Lord’s assent to His Passion and Death on the Cross. Our Blessed Mother’s desire to help the couple at Cana brought about Our Lord’s first miracle. Our Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced with sorrow (Luke 2:35) foreshadowing Our Lord’s Heart being pierced with a lance on the Cross (John 19:34). So, she shows us how to follow Jesus, in all our joys and sufferings, entrusting them to her.
Father Chris da Sousa
© is the first Australian priest in the Company of the Servants of the Poor – the Somascan Fathers. This article is based on the Shalom World TV program : Mary My Mother https://shalomworld.org/episode/i-was-blind-but-now-isee- fr-christopher-john-maria-de-sousacrs.
Did you know you have an ever-present father? Read on if you are longing for his love. When you turn back Sixteen years ago I was facilitating a catechist class at Folsom Prison, a maximum security prison in California, preparing some of the inmates for Confirmation. An inmate named Juan, was telling his story. He shared that his biological father had abandoned his family when he was an infant and that his stepfather was aloof and abusive. In so many words, he said that his connectedness to a father of any kind was “messed up”. That might be the reason, he said, why he is drawn to his childhood faith--he is still seeking his father. I said, “Juan, God IS your Father and Jesus invites you to call him ‘Abba’.” “What does ‘Abba’ mean?” he asked. “It means ‘Dad’, ‘Papa.’ Jesus gives you permission to call God ‘Papa’,” I said. With tears welling in his eyes, Juan slowly and reverently recited the Our Father. He said it with such power and conviction that it seemed like he was saying it for the first time. The simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer and our own familiarity with it can mask what a phenomenal breakthrough it was in the history of religion. Jesus doesn’t address God as ‘Judge,’ or ‘Omniscient One,’ or ‘Great Power in the Sky’, or some other title that that would point to God’s transcendence. Instead, Jesus calls God ‘Father’ which evokes a sense of familiarity, reminding us how a child turns towards his or her father, trusting that they are loved by him. Filling the void If some experience their fathers as absent, judgmental, or harsh, it is possible they may project these qualities onto God. If they have grown to expect little of their fathers, they may also expect little or nothing of God. If their father was generally non-communicative, they may project that onto God. But Jesus taught us to call God “Abba” which means “my father” and evokes a sense of intimacy, of warmth, safety, and love. Such an understanding of God as loving parent can be found in the prophet Hosea, who captures this intimate Father-child relationship that Jesus invites us to: When Israel was a child, I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, With bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. (Hosea 11:1-4). What a tender image of our loving God as one “who raises an infant to his cheeks.” That’s the image that melted the heart of a prisoner named Juan and filled his eyes with tears. Many people go through life seeking their father. But Jesus tells us we have a father who loves us more than any earthly parent ever could. We simply have to come before him and with the simplicity of childhood say, “Abba!” Heavenly Father I surrender myself completely into Your hands just like a child, and I trust in Your Divine providence. Each day let me feel those invisible bands of love which draw me close to You. Amen.
In 1926, as the Cristero war began, Mexicans had suffered religious persecution for many years. Churches were confiscated and closed. Religious education and gatherings were banned. Religious and priests were forced into hiding. One night, plainclothes policemen staked out a home where they suspected people were gathering to receive Communion. A man approached and quickly flipped the lapel of his suit jacket, as if to show a lieutenant’s badge. “What’s going on?” he asked. “We think a priest is inside,” they replied. “Wait here while I check,” he commanded. They kept watch as he went in to boldly distribute Holy Communion to the faithful waiting inside. Father Miguel Pro was famous for his impersonations. Using a variety of clever disguises, and often in the dead of night, he bravely ventured out to baptize infants, bless marriages, celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick and distribute Holy Communion. On more than one occasion, he penetrated a jail disguised as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to Catholics awaiting execution. Dressed as a stylish businessman, he even frequented the neighbourhoods of his greatest enemies to collect for the poor. Arm in arm with a young lady, or dressed in the rags of a beggar, he cheerfully brought spiritual and material relief to beleaguered Mexican Catholics at the risk of his life. Renowned for his ready wit, he laughed in the face of death, “If I meet any long-faced saints in Heaven, I will cheer them up with a Mexican hat dance.” After little more than a year of this clandestine ministry, his enemies were desperate to eradicate his influence. Falsely accusing him of an assassination attempt, he was sentenced to death without trial, immediately after capture. President Calles invited world media to witness his execution, expecting Father Pro to break down and deny his faith in front of the firing squad. Instead their photos captured him peacefully forgiving and praying for his executioners, refusing a blindfold and welcoming the bullets with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!)
Want to be the best version of you? Take the first step! Missing Link My testimony is not about a powerful conversion, a life changing moment or a miraculous healing. It is a journey of small steps—a journey where I continually stumbled and fell, but God always picked me up and walked with me. I was born and raised Catholic. However, as many people could attest, this does not always amount to much. I participated in the Sacraments and went to Church regularly, but a personal relationship with Jesus was lacking. During my university life, whenever I encountered difficulties, I turned to God for comfort. He was always there for me, but I was not always there for Him. I put God in a compartment and I turned to Him only when I needed. He was certainly a part of my life, since I continued to go to Church on Sundays and pray frequently, but He was not central to my life. My own interests and desires were at the forefront of my mind. I never really paused to think about God’s will. Six months before graduation, my whole world turned upside down. I went through a really deep depression and for a long time, there was only darkness. The despair and hopelessness I felt is hard to convey in words, but I think that many of you reading this will have felt it at some point. When it happens, we go one way or another. We run towards God seeking refuge in Him or run away from Him in anger. Sadly, I chose the latter. I could not understand why God would put me through something so horrific if He loved me. For the best part of a year, I completely isolated myself. I stopped attending Church. I stopped going anywhere at all. I was caught up in feelings of shame and worthlessness. Thoughts like ‘you’re a burden’ and ‘everyone would be so much better off without you’ constantly invaded my head. My mind was like a prison that I just could not escape from. Thankfully, that was not the end of my story. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose”. This reassures us that, whatever may happen in our lives, God will work it out for our good. It also lovingly reminds us that we have been chosen by Him and we have a purpose through Him. This became evident in my life when I slowly returned to the faith with the help of various people and incidents that God surely orchestrated. Baby Steps This time, it was different. I attended daily Mass and retreats as I truly sought God’s love. However, my mental health struggles kept recurring. There was not any progression or recovery, so my future looked bleak. I was fed up with life constantly. The hope and peace Jesus promised seemed far away. As I said before, there was not a magical moment when things turned around for me as I would have liked. I had to wait for God’s timing. Nevertheless, some small steps helped me progress to a more positive state. My family is my biggest blessing. They have stood by me through the darkest times and I am truly grateful to God for them. About two years ago, we started reading the Bible for thirty minutes daily—something we continue to do. Even though it can be arduous, especially when delving into some of the Old Testament, it is definitely worth persevering. When we appreciate that the Bible is the living Word of God, we realize that there is an answer in there for everything. “Satan’s target is your mind and his weapons are lies. So fill your mind with the Word of God”—Greg Locke. This quote emphasizes how the devil uses lies against us as weapons. My struggles were mainly with my mind and I felt trapped. I wrestled with many sins that kept coming up again and again. The devil told me that I was unloved, broken and worthless when in actual fact, I am a child of God, who is infinitely loved. These are a few affirmations that the Word of God gives each of us: “I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) “The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me.” (1 John 4:4) “I am chosen by God who called me out of the darkness of sin and into the light and life of Christ so I can proclaim the excellence and greatness of who He is.” (1 Peter 2:9) Flawless Love One of my favorite things about the Catholic faith is the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation). Being able to run to Confession and pour out my heart to Jesus has been immensely valuable. Receiving His forgiveness frees us from the guilt and shame which the devil condemns us to. The Holy Spirit helps us realize when we are on the wrong path, needing to repent and turn back to God. As long as we do this, there is nothing to worry about, although we may have to do it over and over again. The further we have strayed from God, the more He rejoices when we come back, just as the father celebrated when the prodigal son returned. This took me a while to realize and I still have not grasped it fully; I do not need to do anything at all to earn God’s love. It is an unconditional gift that He pours out on us. His love is not dependent on me or my flawed self. It is dependent on His nature which is all loving and merciful. Even through my darkest times and yours, this love gives us hope. In the book of the prophet Hosea, God proclaims that He will “transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope” (Hosea 2:15). This beautifully portrays what happened in my life. Through His love, God transformed my troubles into an opportunity to have hope and share that hope with you. Step by Step In hindsight, my pain led me to ultimately get closer to God. He is the only one who has truly been there for me through everything. He is not only the majestic, all powerful God, He is my comforter and friend. I have learned to be more accepting of God’s will and His timing. My life definitely didn’t pan out the way I planned, but that is not a bad thing because God’s ways are higher than my ways. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Many small factors contributed over time to increasing my faith. It led me to a deeper appreciation and understanding of God. I also truly believe that the power of prayer has helped me survive life’s many challenges. I humbly request that you keep me in your prayers and that we all adopt a mentality of praying for each other. As my testimony shows, we do not necessarily have to do ‘big’ things to get closer to God. Small steps are all it takes. I hope you are able to take a small step towards God today. He is waiting lovingly with open arms. Dear God, I firmly believe and hope in You. Each day I rise up to take one more step closer to You. All I ask is for the grace to know You and love You. Let me be enfolded in Your loving arms. Amen
On August 18, 1996, when Mass concluded in the Church of Santa Maria y Caballito Almagro, a woman reported that a consecrated Host had been abandoned on a dusty candle holder at the back of the Church. Since it was not in a fit condition to be consumed, the priest followed normal protocols by placing the Host in water and storing it in the tabernacle. The following Monday, when the tabernacle was opened, the Host appeared to be suffused with a bloody substance. This was reported to Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis, at that time auxiliary bishop and soon to be archbishop of Buenos Aires). The Host was then moved to a secure location where the appearance of the Host continued to change until it was flesh alone. Archbishop Bergoglio led an investigation into the miracle after the host-turned-bloody was miraculously preserved for several years. On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Archbishop’s representatives, a scientist took a sample of the fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. The origin of the sample was not revealed to the scientists. Dr. Frederic Zugiba, a well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA taken from the heart of a living person who had been tortured. He testified that “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle which is responsible for the contraction of the heart. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
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