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Nov 02, 2020 300 Juliana Elarde,
Encounter

Never Stop Looking Up

In a debilitating condition for nearly nine years, JULIANA ELARDE struggled to find meaning in the pain and suffering, until a pilgrimage to Lourdes changed her life!

It was a day like any other when Juliana stepped into the elevator. She felt healthy, strong and independent, but her life was about to change forever. Stabbing pain suddenly radiated across her lower back and darted down her right leg. She collapsed onto the floor in agony. Despite tests and treatments, her condition continued to deteriorate until she was completely debilitated. Doctors could give it a name—Complex Regional Pain Syndrome—but around fifty medical specialists in eight and a half years could offer no effective treatment or pain relief and certainly no hope for a cure. Again and again, she tried complicated, expensive treatments in the hope that something would make a difference, but to no avail.

Excruciating Pain

She felt hopeless and helpless. From the knee down to the toes, her right leg was grossly swollen, turning purple from lack of circulation as gangrene threatened. Her toes were twisted and purple while a painful, open sore oozed for years without healing. The constant load on her arms from the walking frame resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome which sent pain shooting through her wrists, making it hard to do the smallest things for herself. Even taking a shower was excruciatingly painful. The water felt like nails piercing through the leg and the slightest abrasion felt like a knife scraping through the skin.

Every night, Juliana lay awake in such excruciating pain those 2 hours of uneasy dozing was all she could hope for. “I thought my life had ended. My independence had been taken away. I was so angry with God. I blamed him and I could see no meaning in this pain—emotionally, spiritually, physically—I was a complete mess.”

World of Happiness

Even though Juliana had been brought up in a devout Croatian Catholic family who prayed the Rosary every night, she had abandoned the practice of her faith when she was only 19, occasionally turning up for Easter and Christmas Masses. She had wanted to be in charge of her own life, so she didn’t want God in it. But the more she had sought happiness out in the world, the lonelier and more unsettled she had become. She did not understand the concept of offering up her suffering to Jesus, as someone had advised after her malady began. However, when she was given a prayer card, she started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. “Although I had no feeling in my heart, I felt compelled to do it.”

Since Juliana had no devotion to Mary, she was surprised when a friend suggested that she could also ask Mary to intercede for her. A pilgrimage to Lourdes was even recommended in the hope of receiving a miraculous cure. “If Jesus wants to heal you, He can.” Juliana felt like a hypocrite. How could she ask Mary to help her when she had no devotion to her and even feared Mary? But she decided that she had nothing to lose, so humbly started to ask Mary to pray for her.

Peace Like a River

Not knowing anything about its significance, she attended a special Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. On that day, she made a General Confession of all the sins she could recall over her whole life. Everything changed spiritually for her from then on. She started praying for an hour, three times a day and fulfilled a promise to spend a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every Monday from 4 to 5pm. Her seven-year-old daughter loved spending that time there with her.

Once she understood the meaning of her pain and suffering and united them to Our Lord in His Divine Mercy, she was able to surrender her will to God’s Will, and trust in His great plan for her life. She learned to deal with pain and suffering by praising and thanking God every moment of the day. He knew when the perfect time to travel to Lourdes would come, so she was at peace.

With the help of her mother and her daughter, Juliana was finally able to join Harvest Pilgrimages on their journey to Lourdes in 2008 for the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s visions to Saint Bernadette. Paul, the leader of the group was very helpful to her and she felt encouraged by the strength of his devotion to Our Lady.

Waiting for her turn at the baths, Juliana felt very nervous. Since she had been told that the water was freezing cold, she feared it would cause spasms and increase her pain. Before she stepped into the bath, she gazed at a statue of Mary and requested her to warm up the water. To her delighted surprise, when the attendants gently lowered her into the water, it was completely warm. She was overcome with emotion that this simple prayer had been answered so completely, but more was to come.

When they returned her to the wheelchair, Juliana’s daughter noticed with excitement that the dark purple skin on her toes was fading. They were turning pinker. As they wheeled her out of the cubicle, she felt a sensation like cool, flowing water passing over the top of her foot. She kept asking her mother and daughter if her foot was wet, but it wasn’t. The pain in her wrists had also disappeared.

The next day, she went to the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction in the underground basilica. As she waited in her wheelchair in the front row, gazing at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, she asked Him, “If it’s Your Holy Will, could you please heal me spiritually, as well as physically, so that I can be a mother to my child in the way I’ve always wanted to be.”

When the priest lifted the monstrance in Benediction, she felt a tremendous jolt from her waist down to her toes in both legs. It felt like she was being electrocuted. Such intense pain, on top of her usual agony, made her want to scream, but she gripped the arms of the wheelchair tightly and held the suffering deep inside. As the priest placed Jesus on the altar and began the Divine Praises, the pain started disappearing, from her waist down to her legs, section by section.

Mystical Moment

At that moment, she knew that something had taken place, but what? She was still in pain, but her right leg felt very light. She felt in her heart that Jesus was calling her to go to the Grotto right away, so that she could pray the Rosary in the place where Mary had appeared to Saint Bernadette.

As they prayed the Rosary at the Grotto, she experienced a very special, mystical moment with Our Lady. Although, the sun was shining on her right she saw a tiny light in the sky ahead of her. She had a deep sense that Mary was behind this light and heard Mary’s voice in her heart saying, “Julie don’t worry, everything will be all right. Just trust!”

Immediately Juliana felt deep, tender, motherly love from Mary, and love for Mary spontaneously burst from Juliana’s heart in return. Without judgement or fear, Juliana felt she could really trust Mary. Only then, did the Lord allow the completion of her physical healing.

Her toes, which had been so twisted and mangled, felt like they were being stretched out. She started crying, “My toes, my toes!” When her mother removed her slipper, the toes were wiggling. The pain in her lower back and leg had totally disappeared and she could even touch her leg without wincing, which had been impossible for the last eight and a half years.

“I think I can stand up!” she exclaimed. As Paul and her mother lifted her out of the wheelchair, she rejoiced at being able to stand without any pain at all. “I think I can walk!” she declared, feeling as if she were gliding on a cloud, as she moved toward the beautiful statue marking the spot where Saint Bernadette had seen Our Lady. “Wow! Is this really happening?” she thought, astonished at the lack of the pain which had been her constant companion for eight and a half years. Later, she would realize that the day and hour of her healing was that of her usual Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

The open wound on her leg, that had failed to heal for several years, closed up a few days later and healed over permanently. Apart from some initial physiotherapy to strengthen the disused muscles, she has needed no further treatment. She has no more symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome—a condition that she had been told was incurable—or any after effects. The purple, mangled toes returned to normal in Lourdes and have been perfect ever since. The carpal tunnel syndrome, which healed immediately after the Lourdes bath, has also not returned. Her doctor still refers to her today as his “miracle patient.”

Most importantly, at Lourdes she experienced her Heavenly Mother’s love, the moment of Mary, as she calls it. She cherished that moment and nurtured the maternal affection Mary had given her by lovingly praying the Rosary every day. To keep Our Lady with her always, she invites Mary to join her in all the activities of her daily life. She asks Mary to use her as Mary’s little instrument and as a result, “I’ve never been happier in my whole life.”

Our Lady has interceded for her to grant even the hopes she had felt were too much to ask for. Crucially, Mary brought her a loving husband to share her life with and be a wonderful stepfather— modelling Saint Joseph—to her daughter as she entered her teenage years. Even better, he shares her love for Jesus in His Divine Mercy and for Mary. She met him on the pilgrimage to Lourdes—Paul, who cared for her so tenderly and was present when she was healed. Juliana and Paul are looking forward to their pending 10th anniversary.

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Juliana Elarde

©Juliana Elarde ARTICLE is based on Juliana Elarde’s personal testimony, including her interview on the Shalom TV program, Mary my Mother https://www.shalomworld.org/episode/juliana-ellarde

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