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Jim Wahlberg on new film and powerful conversion: Mother Teresa ‘was sent there for me’ 

Jim Wahlberg speaks to CNA in an interview ahead of the premiere of the new film "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" in Orange County, California. / Credit: Alexis Walkenstein

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist” is a new film that takes viewers on a journey to rediscover the importance of the Eucharist. Through dialogue with notable Catholic figures who explore the biblical origins of the Eucharist and share personal stories, one of the film’s producers, Jim Wahlberg, said he hopes to revive faith in the Eucharist.

In addition to Wahlberg — the brother of actor Mark Wahlberg — several well-known Catholics make an appearance in the film, including Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota; Father Donald Calloway, MIC; Father Robert Spitzer, SJ; Scott Hahn; Curtis Martin; and Chris Stefanick.

The film will be shown in theaters nationwide June 4, 5, and 6 distributed by Fathom Events.

Wahlberg spoke with CNA at the premiere of the film at Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California, about why he believes this movie is so important, and he also shared some of his own powerful testimony. 

“We got a big problem in our Church,” Wahlberg said. “When the report is 70% think that the Eucharist is a symbol or that they don’t believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist … that’s a real problem.”

A 2019 Pew Research study found that only a third of Catholics in the U.S. believed in the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist. Nearly 70% of those in the study said they saw the body and blood of Christ as a symbol. This inspired the filmmakers behind “Jesus Thirsts” to do something about that.

Wahlberg shared that it was a true “journey” for everyone involved and served as a means of “reinvigorating our own faith journeys.”

Jim Wahlberg on the red carpet for "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" in Orange County, California. Credit: Francesca Pollio Fenton/CNA
Jim Wahlberg on the red carpet for "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" in Orange County, California. Credit: Francesca Pollio Fenton/CNA

The Catholic filmmaker explained that when he encounters someone who sees the Eucharist as a symbol, he shares the stories of Eucharistic miracles and encourages them to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament. 

“Just get in his presence as quickly, as fast, as you can, and as often as you can, and you won’t need somebody else to prove to you where you are,” he said.

He added: “If there is no God, if Jesus Christ is not real, I have absolutely no explanation for my life and the journey that I took in my life, the redemption that I experienced, the grace that I experienced. I have no explanation for it. It’s not possible to get here from where I came from. It’s not possible without a loving God.”

Wahlberg has been vocal about his personal story of being incarcerated due to substance abuse and the powerful conversion he had after hearing St. Teresa of Calcutta speak when he was in prison.

Mother Teresa visits

Wahlberg shared that he grew up in a family that had “no real faith.”

“We were Catholics by tradition,” he said. “I never went to church with my parents. I never heard anybody invoke the name of Jesus Christ in my home — unless it was in a very angry way.”

Despite having eight brothers and sisters, he still felt alone. Wahlberg attended a different school every year from the first to the seventh grade and was introduced to alcohol at a young age.

“When you find alcohol and drugs and you’re a broken person and all of a sudden — just for that time while you’re under the influence — you don’t feel the shame and the guilt and the remorse and you don’t feel any of that, you’re numb from it, and so you chase that numbing feeling, and that’s what I did,” he said.

“While under the influence I was a dangerous person. I’d rob and steal from people that loved me, kind of just as a way to push them away. I felt like I didn’t deserve their love.”

Wahlberg ended up in the juvenile justice system, and by the time he was 17 years old he was on his way to serve a five-year sentence in state prison. After completing his sentence, he picked up a drink again on his first day out.

“It’s like being dropped off on another planet,” he recalled. “I didn’t understand the world anymore. I understood prison.”

He lasted six months on the streets before he was arrested again and received a six- to nine-year prison sentence. Knowing he would be older than 30 years old if he spent nine years in prison, Wahlberg tried “to create an illusion that I’m trying to become rehabilitated” in an effort to be released early.

“The only person going for it was the Catholic priest, Father Jim Freitas, the greatest man I’ve ever met in my life,” Wahlberg said. 

“He approached me and he said, ‘Hey, I hear good things. I hear you’re trying to change your life. I have a job opening in the chapel,’” he shared. “Gives me a job in the chapel and within weeks tells me excitedly that Mother Teresa was coming to the prison. And I’m like, ‘Fantastic! That’s so great! Who’s Mother Teresa?’”

Wahlberg said that he now knows, at 58, that “she was sent there for me.”

“Without a doubt in my mind,” he said. “I believe that there were breadcrumbs along the way in my life that I just never saw and I just kept running in the other direction away from God because I was raised with the ‘God’s going to get you’ [mentality] — that’s what I was raised on. Nobody ever told me God loved me, that Jesus died for me, nobody ever told me that. She gets up and says that God loves you. That Jesus Christ died for you. And there was a moment when she was speaking that it was just me and her.”

After this profound experience, Wahlberg recalled spending the night tossing and turning thinking about her words. The next morning he ran to Freitas and told him that he wanted to know more about this God that Mother Teresa spoke of — a God who loved him.

From that moment, Freitas began to catechize Wahlberg in preparation for his confirmation. 

“He started to teach me lovingly about our faith and about our Jesus,” he said.

A few months later, Wahlberg received the news that he was transferring prisons. He ran to Freitas concerned.

Wahlberg recalled: “He picked the phone and he called the priest at the other prison and he said, ‘Hey Father, Father Freitas here. I got a special delivery FedEx package that’s coming to you. His name is Jim Wahlberg and this is where we are in the journey.’”

“These [were] loving reflections of Jesus Christ, these men of God, one at a time, the three of them that passed me off until the day I made my confirmation in prison.”

Jim Wahlberg signs posters at the premiere of "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" in Orange County, California. Credit: Alexis Walkenstein
Jim Wahlberg signs posters at the premiere of "Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist" in Orange County, California. Credit: Alexis Walkenstein

A powerful conversion, but still a process

Wahlberg admitted that he still faced challenges after getting out of prison. He fell from the faith and got caught up in the things of the world. His wife and daughter encouraged him to attend a Catholic retreat, and it was there that he felt Jesus’ “arms around me again.”

After this experience, he began to dive back into the Mass and his faith.

“I started participating in my faith and putting effort into this relationship with Jesus, that I profess to love, and that all for me starts on my knees,” he said. 

Now, Wahlberg visits prisons and speaks to the inmates about his testimony and his faith. He called these experiences “one of the greatest honors of my life.”

As for what he hopes people will take away from this movie? “An intimate encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.

“My hope and my prayer is that it will cause folks to do more investigation and to spend a little time with the Eucharist, spend a little time with the Blessed Sacrament, spend a little more time with your family, and a little more time talking about our beautiful faith.”

Nearly one-third of U.S. states now require age verification for porn sites

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

After two years of efforts by child safety advocates around the country, nearly one-third of all U.S. states have passed legislation to protect children from explicit sexual content online. 

A total of 16 U.S. states have passed and/or will soon enact laws that order porn websites to verify that their users are over 18 years of age. 

AlabamaArkansasFloridaGeorgiaIdahoIndianaKansasLouisianaMississippiMontanaNebraskaNorth CarolinaOklahomaTexasUtah, and Virginia have all enacted statutes to enforce age verification for porn laws. 

Several other states, including ArizonaOklahoma, and Alaska, have considered or are considering similar legislation. 

The porn industry has pushed back against the regulations. Pornhub, one of the world’s most-visited pornography websites, has in some cases responded to the laws by disabling access to its website in those states.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a pornography trade association, has asked courts to strike down laws requiring porn sites to confirm users are over 18 years old. The Supreme Court earlier this month struck down a plea from FSC asking for an injunction against Texas’ law. 

The porn group asked a U.S. district court last week to strike down Montana’s law, with the group claiming it is “fully committed to fighting these attacks on free speech.”

‘I would consider it a success’

Louisiana State Rep. Laurie Schlegel told CNA that her state helped lead the current ongoing effort to require age verification for porn. Louisiana was the first state in the country to require age verification for porn websites. 

Schlegel was the chief sponsor of that legislation. “I would consider it a success,” she said, “because after I passed it in 2022 and it became enacted in January 2023, many states followed our lead and passed age verification in their states.”  

In addition to the numerous states that have already enacted their own laws, there are “many more [with] pending legislation,” Schlegel said.

“The porn industry is fighting against the age-verification laws,” she said, citing the lawsuits in Texas and Montana. The Free Speech Coalition also sued Louisiana over its law, although a judge ultimately tossed that suit out.

“I will continue to pass legislation around protecting kids online,” Schlegel said. “Each year since being elected I have passed laws to address child online safety.”

She pointed to a law she spearheaded, which was recently signed by Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, ordering that “no interactive computer service shall enter into a contract, including the creation of an online account, with a minor without obtaining the consent of the legal representative of the minor.”

Texas state Rep. Matt Shaheen, who sponsored that state’s age verification law, told CNA he was “very pleased with the results” of the measure. 

“Several porn sites now block access to their sites rather than follow the law,” he said. “I’m also extremely pleased the bill has been upheld by the Supreme Court.” 

“A coalition of porn distributors unsuccessfully sued to block the requirement that porn sites perform age verification and now Texas children are safer from their filth,” he said. “I will continue to fight to protect children from being sexualized.”

Mike Stabile, a spokesman for FSC, told CNA that the organization supports efforts to keep kids from accessing sexual content online.

“At the end of the day, we don’t oppose efforts to keep kids from accessing adult content,” he said. “We don’t want kids on our sites any more than their parents do.”

But these laws do very little to keep kids from accessing adult content, he argued, citing overseas websites that might not follow U.S. law as well as the presence of adult content on social media websites. 

Most users won’t comply with age-verification rules, he said, meaning porn sites that do comply with the laws see their traffic drop by upwards of 90% or more. 

“We know our industry and we know the internet, and we tried to explain to legislators why this wouldn’t work,” Stabile said. “We think it’s an example of a law that sounds very good, that sounds common sense, but otherwise doesn’t have much effect other than punishing sites that comply.”

If the goal is to push the adult industry underground, these laws are effective, Stabile said. But they’re a “failure” at protecting kids, he claimed.

Device-level protocols — such as parental locks and controls on computers and mobile devices — are more effective at keeping kids from accessing unsafe material, Stabile argued.

Porn websites rank consistently among the most-visited sites in the world. Church leaders have been warning about the dangers of pornography for years. 

In 2022 Pope Francis called pornography “a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women,” arguing that it “is not only a matter of protecting children — an urgent task of the authorities and all of us — but also of declaring pornography a threat to public health.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, has called pornography “a grave offense against God and his gifts to men and women” that offers “a means of selfish, lustful gratification” and “attacks sexual desire and the conjugal act itself.”

In 2020, Catholic anti-porn advocates launched a new online discussion and prayer platform called SOS Porn Deliverance, which offers “the opportunity for those affected by [porn addiction] to chat confidentially with an e-missionary trained in this mission.”

And they’re off! National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes begin with Holy Spirit-powered send-offs

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, blesses the crowd with the Eucharist in a monstrance during an outdoor Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 19, 2024, in Bemidji, Minnesota. The Mass at the headwaters of the Mississippi River marked the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, a four-route trek consisting of Eucharistic processions, community service, and other events that culminates in July at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianpolis. / Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA

Bemidji, Minnesota, May 19, 2024 / 21:47 pm (CNA).

At the start of Mass Sunday at one of the launch sites of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Bishop Andrew Cozzens remarked that although he had his hiking shoes on, the journey ahead would need something more than natural support to reach its intended destination.

“In order to make this pilgrimage fruitful, we need the Holy Spirit,” said the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, bishop.

If that’s the case, then the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is off to a fantastic start. 

The pilgrimage’s four routes, which will crisscross the country over the next two months, began May 19 with Pentecost Sunday liturgies, processions of the Blessed Sacrament, and fervent prayers for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to renew Eucharistic devotion throughout the United States.

“It’s perfect that we’re launching this on Pentecost because Pentecost was a revival,” Cozzens said during his homily, emphasizing that a revival is the work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of believers, which leads ordinary people to seek extraordinary holiness.

Four routes, one pilgrimage

Joined by brother bishops, clergy, and lay faithful from Minnesota and beyond — some 2,000 people in total — Cozzens presided over an outdoor Mass at Itasca State Park, the starting point of both the Mississippi River but also the northern Marian Route, which will lead to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July.

The Mass was followed by a mile-long Eucharistic procession and benediction. Then, along the shores of Lake Itasca, Cozzens blessed the small cadre of “perpetual pilgrims” who will travel the whole route, and they set off along a dirt path through the woods. 

Meanwhile, Eucharistic pilgrimage routes were also underway in the country’s east, west, and south. 

In New Haven, Connecticut, the faithful began the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route with a Pentecost Vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Christopher Coyne at St. Mary’s Church, where Blessed Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus and is entombed today, before a Sunday morning procession and a Eucharistic pilgrimage boat ride through the Long Island Sound.

The St. Juan Diego Route kicked off in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, with Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Daniel Flores, before pilgrims braved 90-degree heat to join the Eucharistic Lord for the route’s opening procession.

And in San Francisco, following Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the faithful processed with the Eucharist across the 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge to kick off the St. Junipero Serra Route.

The Marian, Seton, Juan Diego, and Serra Routes will eventually converge in Indianapolis for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Cozzens has served as the U.S. bishops’ leader of the wider National Eucharistic Revival, which began in 2022 and includes the pilgrimage and congress. At the Mass in Minnesota, he asked rhetorically what would happen if the bishops of the United States called for a Eucharistic revival, including two years of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and a cross-country pilgrimage that asked the Lord to pour out his Holy Spirit upon the whole country.

“What would happen if the bishops did that?” said Cozzens, who will join pilgrims in a 12-mile walk to Walker, Minnesota, in the Diocese of Duluth on Monday. “Well, we’re about to find out.”

Come Holy Spirit

Cozzens told those gathered that, just like the first Pentecost led to Christianity’s spread throughout the Roman Empire, the Holy Spirit could act through the National Eucharistic Revival to start a fire of divine love that would engulf the nation.

But if that was going to happen, it would require those gathered to embrace repentance, prayer, and the pursuit of holiness, so that the Lord can “enkindle in our hearts his fire so that we can be the saints he’s calling us to be.”

“Brothers and sisters, would you like to see a revival in our country? Then it has to begin with you and me.”

Jennifer Torres (in red and orange jacket), one of the "perpetual pilgrims" who has pledged to complete the entire Marian route, prays during the Pentecost Mass on Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Bemidji, Minnesota, at the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA
Jennifer Torres (in red and orange jacket), one of the "perpetual pilgrims" who has pledged to complete the entire Marian route, prays during the Pentecost Mass on Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Bemidji, Minnesota, at the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA

The thousands gathered in the grassy field for Mass included several families with young children who had brought lawn chairs from home in lieu of pews.

Instead of the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites mentioned in the Mass readings’ account of the original descent of the Holy Spirit, “out-of-towners” present for the Minnesota Pentecost liturgy included Iowans, Dakotans, and Wisconsinites, some of whom had made lengthy journeys to take part in the historic occasion.

Doug and Stephanie Carder and their four young children, ages 8 years to 4 months, came all the way from Clear Lake, Iowa, about six hours away by car. The family camped the night before in the state park and were drawn by the chance to gather outdoors with other Catholics on Pentecost, the feast of the birth of the Church, and give thanks.

“We wanted to give thanksgiving for Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and to ask that others come to know him that way and love him that way through this pilgrimage,” Stephanie Carder said.

Sunoh and Jenna Choe came from the Twin Cities to take part in the Marian Route’s start, and both shared their hopes for how the Holy Spirit would work through the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the wider revival.

“I’m just really hopeful about the Eucharistic revival, and how this is going to change parishes and inspire people to evangelize,” Sunoh Choe said.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, blesses the crowd with the Eucharist in a monstrance at the headwaters of the Mississippi River on May 19, 2024, during the kickoff of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, blesses the crowd with the Eucharist in a monstrance at the headwaters of the Mississippi River on May 19, 2024, during the kickoff of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA

Mass intentions asked God to renew Eucharistic faith across the country, to bring those who had fallen away back to the Church, and to draw the nation to Jesus through the pilgrimage routes about to embark across the country. The eight perpetual pilgrims who will travel the entire Marian Route were also invited forward to receive a special blessing from Cozzens.

When Mass concluded, those gathered joined the Eucharist in a one-mile procession to the headwaters visitor center, crossing through dense pine forests and across a bridge over the Mississippi River in fledgling form.

At the front of the procession, between the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, were about 20 father and son members of the Troop of St. George, a Catholic scouting group. Tom Schulzetenberg of Blaine, Minnesota, said he had told the participating scouts that they were taking part in a “historic moment, that they’d probably never get to do again in their lifetime.” 

Pilgrims walk in a Eucharistic procession in Bemidji, Minnesota, on May 19, 2024, at the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA
Pilgrims walk in a Eucharistic procession in Bemidji, Minnesota, on May 19, 2024, at the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA

“I wanted my two sons and all of these other fathers and sons to be a part of that, to show that public expressions of our faith are important,” Schulzetenberg said.

Father Paul Shovelain, pastor of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, Minnesota, came with about 50 of his parishioners to participate in the Marian Route’s launch. He said he was excited to see how the pilgrimage could be a witness to many that “the Lord is staying with us” — including people like the park rangers and state park visitors, many of whom looked on the Eucharistic procession with curiosity, asking participants what was going on.

Jim Louden, a knight of the Holy Sepulcher and lawyer in the Twin Cities, said he was grateful for the opportunity for spiritual formation at the Marian Route’s start, including the two-day Star of the North Eucharistic Congress that had taken place in nearby Bemidji the day before, featuring talks from renowned catechists such as Bishop Robert Barron and Father Mike Schmitz. He said he hoped the event would “help light a spark in the world so that others can follow Christ.”

“We’re just hoping and praying that this can be the beginning.”

Over 1,000 attend Washington, D.C., Eucharistic procession despite rain

More than 1,000 Catholics attend the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., on May 18, 2024, to celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph / Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2024 / 07:30 am (CNA).

A crowd of more than 1,000 Catholics processed with the Eucharist through the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on Saturday morning in spite of scattered rainfall throughout the event.

The Catholic Information Center’s (CIC) second annual Eucharistic procession — which took place just blocks from the White House — drew participation from priests, nuns, and laypeople from the area. The May 18 procession was nearly twice the size of last year’s procession on May 20. 

More than 1,000 Catholics attend a Eucharistic procession on May 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph. Tyler Arnold
More than 1,000 Catholics attend a Eucharistic procession on May 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph. Tyler Arnold

“People have shown their love for the Eucharist [by] showing up in this rainy weather,” Father Charles Trullols, the director of CIC, told CNA after the procession.

Trullols said he “wasn’t certain” whether the weather would reduce attendance, but surpassing last year’s turnout was “even more incredible because of the rain.” He added that bystanders who saw the procession appeared “so impressed” with the “beauty of the procession” and “the reverence of everyone praying.”

“[This procession] impacted so many souls,” Trullols added.

The event began with Mass inside CIC’s chapel, although a large portion of attendees viewed the Mass on a video displayed on a truck outside of the building as the whole crowd was not able to fit inside. 

Massgoers at the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera
Massgoers at the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera

This was followed by the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament on K Street and a recitation of the Litany of St. Joseph before the procession began down the road. 

The Blessed Sacrament is seen at the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera
The Blessed Sacrament is seen at the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera

At the lead of the procession were the crossbearer and candle-bearers, followed by religious sisters. After the sisters were children who have recently received their first Communion and then the Blessed Sacrament itself inside of a monstrance and under a processional canopy. Behind the Eucharist were the priests, the choir, and the lay faithful. 

Throughout the procession, attendees said prayers, including the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The faithful also sang various hymns and stopped at three stations to kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where Trullols would read from the Gospel. 

One of the attendees, Joseph Duncan from McLean, Virginia, told CNA the procession was “amazing” and noted the importance of a procession near the White House during an election year: “[It can] bring a lot of grace to the country.”

The faithful kneel during the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera
The faithful kneel during the Eucharistic procession in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on May 18, 2024. Credit: Christina Herrera

Brittany Baldwin of Houston told CNA the procession was “incredibly moving” and that she “choked up” during the procession, and “watching people’s reactions was equally moving.” 

Baldwin, who said she also attended CIC’s procession last year, noted the growth in attendees and added: “I’m sure there would have been a lot more if it wasn’t for the rain.”

The CIC offers daily Mass on weekdays and regularly hosts informational events on Catholic theology and other Catholic issues. The organization also has a bookstore.

What is the Holy Spirit like?

Holy Spirit stained glass in St. Peter's Basilica. / Credit: Alexey Gotovskyi/CNA

National Catholic Register, May 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Sunday, May 19, is Pentecost Sunday, and the Mass readings — Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; and John 20:19-23 present a number of symbols of the Holy Spirit: strong, driving wind; tongues of fire; races united; and breath of Jesus on the apostles.

The Holy Spirit is like a strong driving wind, because the Holy Spirit has a clear direction and wants to take everyone there with it. A wind is an unseen force that refreshes; so is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a tongue of fire; not a wildfire that destroys, not a stationary fire that we have to huddle next to, but a fire bestowed on us, which transforms what it touches.

The Holy Spirit unites people and breaks down barriers. When St. Peter speaks after receiving the Holy Spirit, he speaks with boldness, decisiveness, but also attractiveness, drawing many to the faith. He doesn’t condemn, insult, and disperse the people because of their weakness; he challenges them and calls them to greatness, each in his or her own language.

The Holy Spirit is the breath of God in us. He breathes on his apostles and gives them the ability to forgive sins. He breathes on us, too, and we also become his representatives. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit,” as the second reading says.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Nos. 694–700) mentions other symbols of the Holy Spirit worth considering:

The Holy Spirit is like water. Water fills all things; it is gentle like dew or strong like a flood; it seeps into what will let it, bringing life, and pushes aside what will not.

The Holy Spirit is an anointing, a sacramental seal. The Spirit marks us as God’s, incorporates us into his family, and connects us with his company of saints.

The Holy Spirit is like a cloud and light. The Spirit is like a cloud because God is a mystery and like light because “mystery” means he is too brilliant for us to fully comprehend.

The Holy Spirit is like a hand or a finger. He is a hand that works, reaches out, heals, and blesses.

The Holy Spirit is like a dove. A dove can fly high or walk lightly, and its beauty is subtle and calming.

You can also hear all of these symbols echoed powerfully in the 13th-century British prayer that St. John Paul II prayed when he visited Great Britain:

Wash what is unclean.

Water what is parched.

Heal what is diseased.

Bend what is rigid.

Warm what is cold.

Straighten what is crooked.

This story was originally published in the National Catholic Register, CNA's sister news partner, on May 15, 2016, and has been updated and adapted by CNA.

Hospice and palliative care: A look at ‘absolutely vital’ end-of-life support

null / Credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 19, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

As assisted suicide and euthanasia continue to grow more common throughout much of the developed world, services like palliative and hospice care serve as a vital counterweight to those trends, offering what one provider calls care for “the whole person” that’s respectful of both a patient’s life — and death. 

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legalized in countries such as Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, and in multiple U.S. states, permitting patients to take their own lives or allowing doctors to kill them outright. 

In contrast, services such as palliative care and end-of-life hospice care seek to uphold the dignity of each human life, especially as it nears its end.

What is palliative care? What about hospice?

Dian Backoff told CNA that both palliative and hospice providers are trained to minister to the “psychosocial, spiritual, and financial needs” of patients facing debilitating or terminal illnesses. 

Backoff, the executive director of Catholic Hospice for Catholic Health Services in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told CNA that palliative care is meant to address “what the whole patient wants during the treatment of an illness,” whether or not the patient is terminally ill or dealing with a long-term affliction. 

Oftentimes a patient suffering from a severe illness has multiple doctors from multiple disciplines, such as neuroscientists and cardiac experts, Backoff pointed out.

“Palliative care has someone bring all that specialty work together so that we don’t forget there’s a person behind the brain, behind the liver, behind the heart,” she said.

Backoff said hospice is a part of palliative care, one that arises at the end of a patient’s life. A significant part of hospice service, she said, involves ensuring that dying patients have medication to alleviate any pain or suffering they may have as death nears. 

But, she noted, “all of the services that are applied to the patient, other than clinical, are also applied to the family.” 

“How are you going to cope with the death? Is there anticipatory grief? Is there complicated grief pending because there are unresolved family issues?” she said.

Hospice workers “make sure coping mechanisms are appropriate” and that family members are “grieving appropriately instead of dealing with something years down the road.”

Hospice ‘absolutely vital,’ in line with Catholic teaching

Joe Zalot, an ethicist and the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that hospice, when done right, is “very, very important” for both dying patients and families.

“Hospice, when done correctly, is proper accompaniment at the end of life,” Zalot said. “It’s palliating symptoms, it’s providing spiritual care, it’s helping people live the most full possible life that they can given the limitations of their illness. It’s helping them and their family prepare well for death.”

“When done well, it’s absolutely vital and very much in line with Catholic teaching,” he said. 

Zalot warned, however, that there are “not-so-good” hospice practices on the market as well. 

“We get calls on our consult line and we hear horror stories, from families and doctors, where people go in and they’re medicated for whatever reason, there’s questions about nutrition and hydration, any number of different things,” he said. 

Zalot said the best hospice workers are those who support the family unobtrusively. “If you don’t know what they did, they probably did their job correctly,” he said. 

Among the best practices of hospice, he said, are symptom management, relief from pain and nausea, and relief from complications that arise from one’s pain, conditions, or treatments.

“Another essential element is to help family members and support them as they journey with their loved ones,” he said. 

“Specifically from a Catholic perspective, a very good-quality hospice is one that provides spiritual care and access to the sacraments, through chaplains,” Zalot noted. 

Backoff said their patients are split between home and hospital settings, with the majority in the former. “We have 750 patients, and all but about 120 are at home,” she said. “The rest are in nursing homes or in our hospice facility.”

“The average length of stay for us is about 70 days,” she said. “That’s average for us, and probably it’s fairly consistent around the country.”

Zalot said the Church’s opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide is because those procedures are quite literally homicide. “You’re killing people,” he said. 

“It’s sort of like abortion,” Zalot said. “We have all of these euphemisms — ’reproductive rights,’ et cetera. It’s the same thing with assisted suicide and euthanasia: ‘Death with dignity,’ ‘medical aid in dying.’” 

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are killing people,” he said. “They are actions that kill people. And the Fifth Commandment says that thou shalt not kill. And that’s the bottom line.”

Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Tagle as special envoy to National Eucharistic Congress 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 9, 2015. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, May 18, 2024 / 10:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as his special envoy to the National Eucharistic Congress in the United States, which will be celebrated in Indianapolis July 17–21. The announcement was made Saturday by the Vatican.

Tagle will celebrate the closing Mass of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

Calling the appointment “a gift to the Eucharistic Congress,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said that Tagle’s “deep passion for apostolic mission rooted in the Eucharist is sure to have an inspirational impact for everyone attending the Congress,” according to a USCCB press release. Broglio also pointed out that Tagle knows the U.S. well as he earned a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of America in 1991. 

This will be the first National Eucharistic Congress in over half a century and a pivotal event in the three-year National Eucharistic Revival, leading into the final year of the revival — the Year of Missionary Sending. 

“The congress will give public witness to the Church’s core identity rooted in the Eucharist, and we pray that it will inspire a renewed sense of mission as we live out the gifts of unity and charity,” Broglio said in the USCCB statement. “May it be the catalyst for a continued deepening of our faith in the Real Presence.” 

This weekend marks the beginning of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages, consisting of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the Congress in July. Collectively the four pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

More information on the Eucharistic Revival, Pilgrimage, and Congress can be found at https://www.eucharisticrevival.org.

Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Verona emphasizes call to be peacemakers  

Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2024 / 09:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ one-day pastoral visit to the northern Italian city of Verona on Saturday centered on a message of peace, offering an alternative to the current social paradigm. While the city is home to just over 250,000 residents, the pope’s message was global in scope.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives in Verona, Italy, for a pastoral visit on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives in Verona, Italy, for a pastoral visit on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

“Peace will never be the result of mistrust, of walls, of weapons pointed at each other,” the pope said at the end of his address at the “Justice and Peace They Shall Kiss” meeting held at the Verona Arena.

“Everyone will reap what they sow,” he said, quoting from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. “Let’s not sow death, destruction, fear. Let’s sow hope! 

“This is what you are doing too, in this arena of peace. Don’t stop. Don’t be discouraged. Do not become spectators of the so-called ‘inevitable’ war.’”

Pope Francis arrives at the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis arrives at the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The apex of the event came when the pope embraced Maoz Inon, an Israeli whose parents were killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023, attack, and Aziz Sarah, a Palestinian, whose brother was killed in the war.

Calling them “brothers,” Francis proceeded to hug each, calling the embrace “a project for the future.” This was met by a thunderous standing vocation but followed by a moment of silence for the victims of the war. 

The Holy Father arrived in Verona by helicopter at 8 a.m. at the Bentegodi Stadium and was greeted by the bishop of Verona, Domenico Pompili, the president of the Veneto Region Luca Zaia, as well as the prefect and mayor of the city. 

Pope Francis meets with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis meets with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The first encounter of the day was in the Romanesque Basilica of San Zeno, where the pope addressed priests and consecrated religious. Speaking on the importance of their vocation, Francis reminded them that it is predicated upon “the audacity of testimony” and “the joy of an active faith in charity, the resourcefulness of a Church that knows how to grasp the signs of our time and respond to the needs of those who struggle most.”

“At the origin of consecrated life and priestly life,” the pontiff added, “there is not us, our gifts or some special merit, but there is the surprising call of the Lord, his merciful gaze that bent over us and chose us to this ministry, although we are no better than others, we are sinners like others.” 

After the address, Pope Francis made his way into the adjacent piazza, brimming with over 5,000 people, where he was warmly greeted by children and young people. 

In a brief question-and-answer exchange with three different children, the Holy Father highlighted the importance of the day’s overarching theme of peace. 

“There are many wars, many wars, both in Ukraine and in the Holy Land, in Africa, in Myanmar... Many, many wars,” the pope said. 

“Does Jesus preach war or peace?” the pope asked the children. Answering in a booming and unified voice, they shouted: “Peace!”

Pope Francis speaks to young people gathered in San Zeno Square in Verona, Italy, after a meeting with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis speaks to young people gathered in San Zeno Square in Verona, Italy, after a meeting with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

After his address to the young people, Pope Francis arrived at Verona’s first-century Roman amphitheater after 10 a.m and was greeted with a standing ovation by the over 10,000 spectators in attendance.

Much like the arena itself, the event was rich in symbolism, reflecting the overarching themes of justice, peace, and social inclusion.

Pope Francis took his place at the center of the stage and sat in a high-back wooden armchair — constructed by inmates — responding to a series of questions on ecology, migration, and just economic development, all of which were subsumed under the urgent call for peace.

Responding to a question, fielded by an Afghani woman, on how to make peace work, the pope warned against a culture “marked by individualism,” as this runs the risk of “making the dimension of the community disappear.”

Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

“The dimension of the community disappears, the dimension of the vital bonds that support us and make us advance. And it inevitably also produces consequences on the way in which authority is understood.”

“And this,” the pontiff continued, “is perhaps the root of dictatorships.” 

The Holy Father proceeded to the next event, a meeting with the inmates at Verona’s Montorio prison where he expressed his closeness and reminded them: “God forgives everything and he always forgives.” 

The pope also addressed the conditions of the prison, one of the most overcrowded in Italy, and expressed his “pain” that some inmates have committed suicide. 

“Life is always worth living, always,” the pope declared. 

“Our existence,” he continued, “is a unique gift for us and for others, for everyone, and above all for God, who never abandons us, and who actually knows how to listen, rejoice, and cry with us, and always forgive.” 

The longest and grandest of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages: A look at the Serra Route

A map of a few of the largest cities that will be traversed by the Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages. / Credit: EWTN News in Depth

CNA Staff, May 18, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

This weekend marks the beginning of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages, an unprecedented effort to walk with the Eucharist thousands of miles across the United States as a public witness to the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body of Jesus Christ. 

A group of two dozen young people, dubbed “perpetual pilgrims,” will walk the entire way, 6,500 miles in total across the four routes. All are welcome to participate in Eucharistic processions and other prayer-filled events taking place across the country over the next two months.

The longest and arguably the most challenging of the four routes, the Junipero Serra Route, begins in San Francisco and ends in Indianapolis at the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21. The Serra Route pilgrims will walk over 2,000 miles — across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and the Midwest’s Great Plains. 

The Serra Route is named after “The Apostle of California,” St. Junipero Serra, whom Pope Francis canonized during a visit to the United States in 2015. Serra was an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary who founded mission churches all along the California coast, many of which are still in operation as Catholic churches today.

Here are some highlights to expect during this historic pilgrimage.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge — May 19

The Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
The Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

There will be a special blessing of the perpetual pilgrims before they begin their journey at Mission Dolores, which was founded in 1776 and remains the oldest intact building in San Francisco. Soon after the commencement of the pilgrimage following Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco, the procession will move to the Golden Gate Bridge and cross its iconic 1.7-mile span. Those wanting to join for this portion can register here.

Sailing on the Sacramento River — May 22

The Sacramento River. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
The Sacramento River. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

After arriving in Sacramento — California’s capital, which is named for the Blessed Sacrament — by boat, the procession will proceed to a homeless shelter for Eucharistic adoration. Later, the pilgrims will visit inmates at Folsom Prison. Catholic leaders in Sacramento say they have arranged for the events in Sacramento to serve and celebrate the city’s marginalized: the unhoused, prisoners, migrants, mothers in need, and farm workers. (Register here.)

Boating across Lake Tahoe — May 24

Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

At South Lake Tahoe near the California-Nevada border, the procession will take to the water once again and sail across the lake, which is world-renowned for its scenery and recreation opportunities. (Register to join here.)

Traversing the Rocky Mountains — roughly May 26 to June 6

The Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Credit: Jonah McKeown
The Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Credit: Jonah McKeown

Between Lake Tahoe and Denver, there will be numerous opportunities for participants to join the procession as it goes through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery in Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah. 

This portion of the route will take the pilgrims across the Great Basin desert and then through the rugged and awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains, which inspired St. John Paul II when, as pope, he came to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. (In case you’re wondering, not everything on the route will be done on foot; specially designed vans will transport the Eucharist and the pilgrims over certain portions of all four routes.)

Jesus on the plains of Nebraska — June 21

Bishop James Conley leads a Eucharistic procession outside Lincoln's Cathedral of the Risen Christ. Credit: Diocese of Lincoln
Bishop James Conley leads a Eucharistic procession outside Lincoln's Cathedral of the Risen Christ. Credit: Diocese of Lincoln

In a joint event between the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Lincoln, the procession will begin outside on the grounds of the Cloisters on the Platte (a well-known Ignatian retreat center) and process about five miles with the Blessed Sacrament to the picturesque Holy Family Shrine. (Register here.)

A stop at Benedictine College — June 25-26

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

The procession will go through Atchison, Kansas, home of Benedictine College. Overnight adoration will take place June 25, followed the next morning by the Liturgy of the Hours and Benediction, the celebration of Mass, and a Eucharistic procession around campus on June 26. (Register here.)

A walk through the ‘Rome of the West’ — July 5-7

The St. Louis Arch. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
The St. Louis Arch. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

In early July the procession will make its way through St. Louis, which is sometimes called the “Rome of the West” for its many beautiful Catholic churches. The procession will stop at several shrines, including the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a French missionary saint who brought Catholic education to the Missouri frontier in the early 19th century. (Register here.)

How life has changed for the girl who recovered her sight at 2023 World Youth Day

A view of the crowd and nearby waterfront at the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 1, 2023. / Credit: Arlindo Homem/JMJ Lisboa 2023

ACI Prensa Staff, May 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Jimena, the young woman who regained her sight after receiving Communion at a Mass during World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, about how she experienced that moment, her return home, and the details of a special meeting she had with Pope Francis during a pilgrimage she made with her family to Rome to thank the Virgin for that “miracle.”

For two and a half years, Jimena suffered from a loss of sight due to a myopia problem that left her with a 95% vision loss.

She traveled to Lisbon from Madrid with a group from Opus Dei. During the days prior, relatives and acquaintances of the young woman organized a novena to pray to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day is commemorated Aug. 5, the same day she recovered her sight.

Time seemed to stop in that Madrid cafeteria where Jimena and her father spoke with ACI Prensa. With the simplicity of a 17-year-old girl and an expression full of light and hope, Jimena remembered in detail what she felt on that day last year when she was cured.

‘I cried from a sense of peace’

“When we came back from Communion I sat down in the pew and then all the nervousness I had felt suddenly disappeared. I had been shaking with nervousness, and when we got down on our knees after taking Communion, I closed my eyes, and I felt a lot of peace, and then I stopped shaking.”

After receiving the body of Christ in a church in Évora de Alcobaça, a town north of Lisbon, the young woman said she felt the need to cry, but it was not a normal cry: “I began to cry from a sense of peace, it had never happened to me before; I didn’t know that you could cry for feeling at peace.”

“I was like super peaceful, as if inside I already knew what had happened, without opening my eyes. And then I opened them, I dried my tears, and I could see the altar, the tabernacle perfectly...”

‘God’s plans are much bigger than ours’

She also recalled recognizing her friends, who began to celebrate with her over what had happened. “When the Mass was over, for thanksgiving, I went up to read the prayer of the Virgin of the Snows to give thanks.”

From that moment on, Jimena has been grateful every day for the “miracle” that made her understand “that you have to let yourself fall a little into the arms of God, because his plans are much bigger than ours. It’s more about trusting than trying to take our life of faith wherever we want.”

‘Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway’

Her father recalled that just prior to the healing, Jimena was going to undergo emergency surgery in the operating room. “She prayed a lot to the Virgin that night, and the next day the convergence in her eye was cured,” so there was no need to operate, he said.

For her father, this first healing of his daughter had been a sign: “If you have a previous healing from the Virgin, then your faith is sustained by that. That is to say, Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway, and she was not going to abandon us at that time.”

After some time after that “sign,” during a walk on the Rincón de la Victoria beach in Málaga, Spain, on the way to stop and pray before an image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel that is among the rocks, father and daughter decided to abandon themselves completely to the Virgin.

“It was on that walk on the beach where we remembered a very important thing, which I believe is essential in this entire process, and that is to let God act, not to put God in our plans, but to be part of his. So, you change the way you pray. It’s not about praying for God to do what you want, but about praying to understand what God wants you to do.”

Jimena’s father explained that it was then “when we understood that we had to put together a novena for Aug. 5.”

The doctors’ opinion after ‘the miracle’

Upon returning from Portugal, Jimena visited the doctor who had followed her case in recent years and who due to her illness she didn’t know by face. “I couldn’t explain it to her, I was very emotional. And then a doctor also said that no matter at what point I might have been cured, it would never have been instantaneous,” the young woman related.

“Yes,” her father said, “she basically told us that she had no logical explanation; that within the medical possibilities, Jimena could have been cured little by little by the time she was 40 or 45 years old. So there was that possibility, but of course, at 16 years of age and so suddenly there are no previous cases — there are none.”

The young woman’s father said it was a very nice appointment with the doctor and that “all the nurses were excited to see her and gave her hugs. They did all the tests again and the condition was completely gone.”

Pope Francis encouraged pilgrimage to St. Mary Major

Upon returning from World Youth Day, Jimena wrote a letter to Pope Francis to tell him about her experience.

The Holy Father did not take long to respond and encouraged her and her family to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as St. Mary of the Snows, one of the most important basilicas in Rome dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows and for which the pontiff has a special love.

What Pope Francis did not know is that providentially the family had already planned — a year ago — a trip to Rome to spend the end of the year there.

“I got the tickets in January of last year, months before Jimena had been cured. We assumed that we would go to Rome with Jimena being blind, but look…” her father said, becoming emotional.

A special meeting with Pope Francis

During their trip to the Eternal City, which became a pilgrimage in gratitude to the Virgin, the family had a private meeting with the Holy Father and also participated in the Mass he offered on Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Jimena’s father recalled that everyone was “captivated” by Pope Francis, who received them for more than an hour in the Vatican’s St. Martha House with his typical closeness and familiarity.

Jimena’s father told ACI Prensa that the pope gave them a lot of advice and encouraged them “to put down all of Jimena’s testimony in writing and to contact our bishop in Madrid.” 

Following the pontiff’s advice, they are currently working on writing up Jimena’s testimony and are awaiting a response from the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal José Cobo Cano, whom they tried to contact a few months ago.

Regarding the doctors’ reaction, he said the Holy Father “stressed that this type of medical comment is admitted as valid in their process for miracles and so on. Because, as he told him, it’s very difficult for a doctor to manage to pronounce the word ‘miracle’ with all of their scientific knowledge.”

Jimena and the Virgin Mary

Jimena, who during this time has shared her testimony to small groups in Madrid, said she now has “a great deal of devotion” to Our Lady of the Snows but confesses that she has always had a bond with the Virgin Mary: “I feel her close every day.”

She also said that she has “a special affection for her, because in the end, in everything that has happened to me, I have always relied a lot on the Virgin, especially because it seemed easier for me to hold on to the rosary.”

“The Virgin, in the end, since she is an intercessor, that relationship that she has as a mother with us seemed easier to me. I see her as the mother that she is and that she appears, not physically, but she has little signs or things in which she shows us all that she is already here.”

Her father emphasized that Jimena has been able to understand that “she is not the protagonist of all this, but that she had a gift far above other people and that it is her responsibility to be generous and give it. But the protagonist in the end is the Virgin.”

“Since the miracle of Aug. 5 last year, they ask us to join novenas for healing people, and we join them all. But we do it anonymously, because I think it would be bad for people to think that Jimena has power. Another thing is that Jimena may have an extraordinary faith and a very great interior life, but that belongs to her private life,” her father noted.

He emphasized that “it’s a mistake to think that, suddenly, someone has power because they have received a gift. They are two very different things, and mixing them is a mistake. I believe that one of the beautiful things, which is also a grace of the Virgin, is being able to share her experience in personal and in-person testimonies so that other people come closer to the Lord. And that’s it. And the rest is pure superstition.”

The young woman’s father noted that there are many miracles in the Gospel whose recipients are people whose name is never known. Also, he stressed that today there are many miracles and that “Jimena’s has been more notable because the Virgin wanted it.”

“You have to leave it to her. She [the Virgin Mary] is the one who takes us to all corners [of the world]. It’s impossible for us to have planned with a large publicity budget to get to where this story has reached,” he pointed out.

‘The Eucharist is a much greater miracle’

For Jimena, “the Eucharist, in the end, is a much bigger miracle because it seems like it is hidden because it does not have — what do I know — lightning bolts falling from the sky or anything, but in the end it is God, who is the one who has allowed me to recover my sight and for us to all be here, the one who who comes down from heaven to put that in a piece of bread and that we receive it.”

“It seems to me that it is the moment in which we are closest to heaven here on earth, because in the end we are in union with God. So, I try to go to Mass whenever I can.”

A ‘new normal’

Jimena said with a smile that, before recovering her sight, she “had a list of books that I wanted read to me. The return to normal life has been a new normal in which I have done many things,” she said.

The young woman added that in a few days she will make a pilgrimage again to Rome with the group of her friends who were with her during World Youth Day.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.