NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part III: A Personal Testimony of Signal Graces Received

In this final blog about my April trip to Mexico - Part III of the 3-part series - I want to testify to the power of prayer and the remarkable favors granted through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe during this pilgrimage.

I have to first say that when I was initially told about this pilgrimage back in August 2022, my soul seemed to leap with joy; a spontaneous reaction that was totally unexpected.  Seeing St. Juan Diego's Tilma, in-person, had been on my bucket list for over 25 years, and despite having a couple of opportunities to join past pilgrimages, I never pursued it.  This time around it was different - it seemed that Our Lady was telling me, "Now is the time to go."... so I signed up sensing that our Holy Mother had special things planned.  It turned out to be a perfect pilgrimage; an experience of a lifetime that also included many signs.

To start, "small miracles" were a daily occurrence - these are just a few examples:

🌹 There were unexpected, but favorable itinerary changes that occurred, i.e. instead of 1 scheduled visit to the Basilica, we got to go 5 times to see and pray before Our Lady's Tilma; on a couple days when Mass wasn't scheduled, opportunities came up that allowed us to attend Mass so we received Holy Communion daily, which was a priority for me; we were able to squeeze in an unscheduled stop in Puebla to see the incorrupt body of Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio, etc.

🌹 Tepeyac Hill where the Virgin produced the miraculous roses is dotted with fenced gardens of rose bushes, but picking the flowers is not allowed.  Nonetheless, I prayed to Our Lady for a single rose petal as a unique souvenir of Tepeyac, after which almost immediately a lovely young female "gardener" showed up out of nowhere inside the enclosure where I was standing outside.  I asked her for a single rose petal, and after briefly hesitating, she broke off an entire red rose from a bush and put it in the paper bag I was carrying! (I later gave others in our pilgrimage a petal from the rose).

🌹 Despite chronic chest pains that won't allow me to make prolonged steep climbs, I was able to make lengthy hikes up to two hilltop sanctuaries we visited in Cholula and Ocotlan, without any pain, after I asked our Blessed Mother for the favor of seeing these shrines to honor her!

🌹 While wandering the Basilica Plaza alone to pray, I had a sudden desire to go to confession.  I asked a security guard if there were English-speaking priests hearing confessions, but he only led me to the lone open confessional and explained that it wasn't a guarantee the priest spoke/understood English.

The confession line was long and slow-moving, too... so I left and went over to the conveyor belt below the Tilma where I begged our Blessed Mother to provide me with a confessor I could communicate with.  Amazingly, about 20 seconds later I heard a familiar "Hello" behind me and when I turned around, it was our group's pilgrimage priest!  He immediately heard my confession in the Basilica.

🌹 At the Basilica and other holy sites there were occasions when several of us smelled the sweet fragrance of roses although there were none in our immediate vicinity.

Now if the above stories are not amazing enough, there were also visible signs that I managed to capture on camera:

🌹 While praying the Rosary Prayer in my hotel room on the 2nd day of our pilgrimage, I noticed a strange shadow or stain on my closet wall.  It struck me as resembling a silhouette of the Virgin Mary but I dismissed it.  The next morning when I again did my prayers, the image was still present but more distinct; the veil was even a bluish color that was similar to the color seen on (of all things) Our Lady's veil on the Tilma.

I took a photo of the image and showed it to a front desk personnel who informed me that it was the first time he had ever seen anything like it in their hotel.  When I asked him what he saw, the man replied, "La Madrecita" (an affectionate nickname for the Virgin used by the locals).  I also invited my prayer group members into my room to see the image and all said the same - shades of Guadalupe!  Here's the photo...

🌹 After our group's very first visit to the Basilica ended, our bus headed out to a restaurant for our scheduled lunch.  About 15 minutes into our drive, I glanced out the window and saw a clear image of the Holy Virgin amongst the clouds above us.  I quickly informed the people around me and all of us in the back of the vehicle observed the figure for a couple of minutes.  We all agreed it was Our Lady, covered in her trademark veil, leaning forward towards our bus with her hands together in prayer... and she had a crown on her head.  I managed to take a few photos of which the two below are the best (alas, they don't do justice to what we saw in-person)...


🌹 I don't recall taking this next photo but I found it mixed-in with a series of pics I took in a side chapel in the Basilica, where our pilgrimage group was allowed to celebrate a private Mass.  I'm not saying for certain that it's a definite sign because it could've been the result of an accidental button-press... but, still, it's enigmatic and has me baffled because I can't recall anything in that chapel that could've caused the unusual forms in this photo. 

Plus, it may just be me, but I see human-like figures in this pic that seem to be ascending from a dark opening at the bottom of the pic.  In prayer the immediate impression I got was that the figures are souls from Purgatory being released through the Mass and our prayers; there's even a white figure to the upper-right that resembles a classic silhouette of the Holy Virgin, as though she is guiding the souls out... which actually makes a lot of sense since we were at a sanctuary dedicated to her.

Whatever the case, I included this photo for my readers' discernment because it is unusual... and if, indeed, it does show the release of Poor Souls from Purgatory, what a crowd!  It all just goes to show how effectively powerful the Mass truly is for our faithful departed - may they rest in peace!

🌹 And finally, I took the photo below from the Basilica.  I had been praying on my own in the plaza when I discerned the voice of Jesus saying to me, "Look at the sun."  Thinking it was about another visible sign He wanted to grant, I replied, "No need, Lord, I already believe."

After a few moments, the Lord repeated his request to which I again said, "No need, Jesus, I don't need to see anything else."  His immediate response was, "Just look at the sun."

After that third time, I paused my prayer to look up at the sun, which I assumed would be dimmed and dancing.  Instead, it was too bright to stare at for a few seconds until a cloud quickly drifted in front of it forming a massive heart all aglow with flames bursting at the top!  It was evidently a representation of His Sacred Heart aflame with Divine Love.

The imagery also closely corresponded with my FIAT Prayer Group's logo, of which 5 of our members were on this pilgrimage.  I understood the Lord was affirming and blessing our FIAT Group's efforts in a special way, as well as, inviting each of us to live with hearts on fire with Love, which the logo represents.

A heart aflame above the Basilica
and the FIAT Prayer Group logo...

In closing this series of three blogs, I wouldn't be alone amongst my pilgrimage group in stating that this trip far exceeded our expectations.  Jesus and Our Lady anticipated our every need and desire, making for a spiritually enriching experience... and we are grateful.

If I had to say what the most important thing is that I got out of this Mexico Pilgrimage, it wasn't so much the signs listed above - rather, this is what I would testify to others: If ever possible, visit Mexico and go to the Basilica, as we have a loving Mother in Our Lady of Guadalupe awaiting us there.  Acknowledge her, as such, and surrender completely to her maternal embrace and guidance - in return, she will be a true MOM, lovingly providing for your every need and leading you closer to Her Divine Son - our brother, Jesus Christ - who is the ultimate source of all the good we could ever want!  So what are you waiting for?

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part I (Apparitions), click here

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part II (Relics), click here

Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part II: Relics and Other Wonders

In this blog - Part II of my 3-part series about my Mexican pilgrimage - I will focus on sacred relics and other miraculous images I saw on this trip.  Let us begin...


The outside of Santiago Tlatelolco and
the baptismal font where St. Juan Diego
and other converts were baptized.

This site is technically not a relic or a miracle, but it is a special place closely connected to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego.  This Franciscan church, built on a dismantled Aztec temple, and its adjacent monastery was the center of the Faith in Mexico at the time of the apparitions.   In fact, this is where Juan Diego received religious instruction and was baptized in a large stone basin still found within the church; he was on his way here when the Virgin appeared.  And, according to our tour guide, the Saint also opened his Tilma to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga at this location, revealing the miraculous roses and the image of Our Lady.

So, being a die-hard devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe, this place took on a profound personal significance.  The site made the Guadalupe Apparitions story more real and alive for me and, in a strange but good way, I felt I was part of the Tilma's history during the time we spent in this church.  For other Guadalupanas out there, it's a place definitely worth visiting.


Another object of devotion found in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a large bronze crucifix in a display case in the right wing of the church (shown below).  The crucifix is considered special because of an event that occurred on November 14, 1921.

On that fateful day, anti-clerical government agents conspired to destroy the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe by planting a bomb in a vase directly under the holy image when it was enshrined in the old basilica.  The bomb went off, blowing out windows in the basilica; destroying parts of the altar and sanctuary; and bending backwards the crucifix that stood near the altar through the sheer force of the explosion.  The Tilma, however, was miraculously untouched; its glass covering remaining intact.

After the bombing, many attributed the inexplicable preservation of the Tilma to the crucifix; suggesting that our Lord, through the crucifix, "absorbed" the impact of the explosion to protect his mother's image.  It's been venerated ever since with pilgrims leaving written petitions beside it in the new basilica, as shown in the above-photo.


Although the major portion of his bodily relics are conserved in Sahuayo, Michoacan, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe there can also be found a reliquary with a large bone fragment from the remains of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio.  It is located in a display case mounted on a wall in the right wing of the basilica.

In front of St. Jose's reliquary

For those not familiar with his life, St. Jose was a devout youth who fought on the side of the rebels against the anti-clerical Mexican Government during the Cristero War.  He was captured on the battlefield after giving up his own horse to another soldier so the man could escape.   Jose was subsequently threatened then tortured by his jailers in an effort to force him to renounce the Catholic Faith, but the boy heroically remained steadfast.  Instead, he prayed constantly during his captivity and wrote to his mother expressing his willingness and resignation to die for Christ.

Jose was shot to death on February 10, 1928, at the young age of 14.  Recognized as an official Martyr of the Church, Jose was Canonized on October 16, 2016.  Devotion to him has since spread throughout the globe, making him a role-model of faith and courage for Catholics of all ages.


Upon entering the grand Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, one will see to the immediate left, a section railed off from the rest of the church, but still accessible to the public through a designated opening.  At the front of this area is a striking, near-life-sized black crucifix, which gave me a sense of the supernatural as soon as I looked at it.  So I asked our local tour guide, Vero, about it and she explained that the crucifix was considered miraculous and revered in the city because it once used to be pale in color but mysteriously turned black.

I did some quick googling and found additional details about the image... and what I learned was fascinating!

The crucifix is called by two names:  El Cristo Negro (the Black Christ) or El Senor del Veneno (the Lord of the Venom/Poison) and it was handcrafted sometime in the 17th century by an indigenous craftsman.  The statue was originally installed in the Chapel of Porta Coelli (Gate of Heaven), where it was venerated by the chapel's Dominican custodians.  In particular, there was a priest who was highly devoted to the crucifix, and who made it a point to pray daily before it then, afterwards, kissing the foot of the corpus.

On a certain day, a penitent came to confess to the same priest but was refused absolution until he had made reparation for his criminal actions.  Angered, the man smeared a poison on the statue's feet in an attempt to murder his confessor.  Sure enough, in keeping with his daily routine, the priest said his prayers before the crucifix and, as he approached to kiss the foot of the corpus, the statue miraculously shifted to avoid his lips while also changing to the shiny black color it is today.  Needless to say, the priest was saved and the statue became a popular object of public devotion once word of the wonder spread.

Two other views of the miraculous
crucifix at the Altar of Forgiveness.

In 1935, during the Cristero War, the Chapel of Porta Coelli was closed and the crucifix was transferred to the cathedral to ensure its safety.  It has remained there ever since, behind the "Altar of Forgiveness", where it is visited by devotees because of the many signal graces reportedly obtained in its presence.

During my time in the cathedral, I was able to stay a length of time before the sacred crucifix in reflection and prayer... and observed the steady coming and goings of locals who venerated the image.  The affection for El Senor del Veneno was apparent and inspiring.


While on a side trip to the city of Puebla, I had the opportunity to venerate the incorrupt body of Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio who died in there on February 25, 1600.  The visit to the church was not part of our itinerary, but because I was aware of it, I asked our guide to squeeze a visit to the relic into our schedule, which she did - Praise the Lord!  It turned out to be one of several highlights of this trip for me, and for other pilgrims in our group.  The presence of God was in that chapel.

For those not familiar with the life of this Blessed, here's a summary:  Sebastian de Aparicio was actually born in Spain in January 1502, from a poor but devout peasant family.  Highly pious himself, Sebastian was prayerful and hardworking, supporting himself by working odd jobs before sailing to Mexico in 1533.  In Puebla, he slowly built a life as a successful farmer and rancher, and became  a very wealthy man.

The body of Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio

Seeing the challenges experienced by the indiginous workers in their backbreaking transport of his products, Sebastian's wealth and influence were instrumental in having wheeled carts introduced in Mexico and paved roads built between the Puebla and Veracruz trade routes.  He also gave generously to the poor, which earned him further respect from the people, who nicknamed him the "Angel of Mexico".

Sebastian was married twice in his middle age and widowed both times after living chastely with his late wives.  When he fell seriously ill and recovered, he sold his business and gave away his possessions to the poor to join the Franciscan Order.  As a Lay-Brother, the Blessed was assigned the task of collecting alms, which afforded him contact with the local populace, who benefited from miracles he worked through his prayers.  

Sebastian de Aparicio died at the age of 98 and his funeral was a triumph with many already considering him a Saint.  His body was discovered mysteriously incorrupt 6 months after its burial and remains in the same condition in its silver urn within the Church of St. Francis.  His Beatification was celebrated on May 17, 1789.  May Bl. Sebastian pray for us all.


While on a side trip to the city of Coyoacan we visited the Church of San Juan Bautista steps away from the city's main square.  While wandering inside, I discovered a shrine at the back of the church that held the ossuary of the Servant of God, Maria de la Luz Camacho, a Martyr who died outside the main entrance of the same church.  I had read her bio many years ago and recall being impressed by her heroism... so, unexpectedly coming upon her tomb was a pleasant surprise.  I offered a prayer and told several others in our group about the ossuary and who Maria was - all were glad to learn about her and the presence of her relics.  So who was this courageous woman of faith?

Maria was born on May 17, 1907, to a prominent and pious family.  In her brief lifetime, she displayed a high degree of personal sanctity, working in her parish as a trusted Catechist, Secretary, and Treasurer.  In addition, she was active in the Catholic Action association and was a professed Third Order Franciscan; it was apparent to all who knew her that Maria was serious about her Catholic Faith and was an excellent role model in practicing it.

Under a red metal grill one could see the
wooden box enclosing the Martyr's bones.

At the time that she lived, there were Socialist revolutionaries - "Red Shirts" - who were intent on destroying the Church in Mexico.  On December 30, 1934, a group of them arrived in Coyoacan with the intent of rallying support and desecrating the parish church of San Juan Bautista.

On learning of the planned sacrilege, Maria along with a small group of parishioners, rushed to the front steps of the church to defend it from the Red Shirts.  The confrontation that ensued quickly escalated leading to the revolutionaries firing at the unarmed group at the entrance to the church.  Maria was hit several times in the chest and succumbed to her wounds shortly after the priest administered the Last Rites.

Maria de la Luz Camacho was immediately acclaimed a Martyr by the people, and her funeral was a massive event in the city.  She was only 27 when she gave her life for Jesus while shouting, "Viva Cristo Rey!"

Before closing this blog, I just want to add how impressed I was by the many wondrous things/places I saw in a short while in Mexico; it almost seemed as though every town we went to had its own miracle... and the joy and faith I witnessed in the Catholics there encouraged and uplifted me for which I am forever grateful.

Click on the link below to read Part III, which is my personal testimony about the signal graces and signs experienced during this pilgrimage.

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part III (Signs), click here

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part I (Apparitions), click here

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part I: Apparition Shrines

Viva Cristo Rey!  Viva la Virgen Maria!  This author just had the most blessed opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to several holy sites in Mexico (my first trip since the pandemic started in 2020).  In fact, I just returned to Hawaii earlier this afternoon.  Before continuing any further, I want to first give shout-outs to the following:

* The country of Mexico - its scenic beauty; culture (i.e., architecture, art, customs, food, and music); people... all impressed me deeply, adding to the unforgettable experience I had on this trip .

* Our local tour guide, Veronica ("Vero" from the Catholic Pilgrim Office, Inc.- her knowledge of history/culture; warmth and humor; and flexibility in accommodating our requests all contributed positively to our group's overall experience of her country.

Now going back to the topic of this blog - my pilgrimage experiencce - this trip was primarily a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG), which this lay-ministry is named after, given this writer's history of personal devotion to OLG and the many signal graces received from our Heavenly Mother's intercession, under this popular title.  As such, this trip was on my Bucket List for long while now and took on an extra-special personal significance for me.

Our pilgrimage itinerary, however, included other places in Mexico that are known for miraculous sightings and sacred relics of veneration, which I wanted to especially highlight and share my impressions about; smaller shrines that I personally feel are no less holy than OLG and deserve more recognition.  Given the large amount of information I intend to share, I am drafting 3 separate blogs, of which this is Part I, dealing specifically about apparition shrines; Part II will be about holy relics/objects; then a Part III will follow, as a testimony to remarkable graces received from Our Lady on this pilgrimage.  So let's begin...


Most Catholics are already aware of the story of the 1531 apparitions of OLG, so I won't write much about it - those not familiar with the story can click here.

In the centuries following her appearances on Tepeyac Hill, chapels and two grand basilicas were constructed to house the focal point of the OLG Devotion - the Virgin's miraculous image imprinted on St. Juan Diego's Tilma (a cactus fiber cloak).

On the very first day our Hawaii group arrived in Mexico, two of my fellow prayer group members and myself made it a point to visit the shrine although it wasn't in our official schedule... and, as soon as I stepped foot into the shrine plaza, I was immediately struck by the awesome sanctity of the place - it is holy ground!

The basilica complex is HUGE and encompasses a vast plaza on Tepeyac Hill on which sits the modern basilica, steps away from the original, smaller baroque-style basilica, which is still in use.  Smaller chapels also dot the site commemorating St. Juan Diego's hermitage; a well of water discovered on the hill (considered healing); a chapel atop Tepeyac where OLG caused roses to miraculously appear; and other chapels for various purposes.  I had the pleasure of visiting not just the two basilicas but these other chapels, too, during my week-long pilgrimage.

Of course, the center of the entire shrine is the enigmatic Tilma of St. Juan Diego, which is situated behind and above the main altar, in a gold and silver frame, covered by bulletproof glass. OLG's image - a "perpetual apparition" - is magnificent... and radiates a tangible aura of maternal love.  For me, it's as though I came home and there's Mom joyfully awaiting and welcoming me; a sensation of both reverence and comforting familiarity swirled in my heart while tears of joy flowed freely from my eyes.

A couple of pics taken in the Basilica
(I wept tears of joy!)...

A great innovation implemented by the basilica is a conveyor belt behind the sanctuary directly under the miraculous image.  One can stand on this short moving track to get a closer view of the Sacred Tilma, which I estimate to be only about 35 feet above the pilgrims.  One can go on the conveyor belt as often as desired, and I must have done so at least 20 times during the 5 visits I made to the basilica since the crowd moved along quickly.  It wasn't uncommon to see other pilgrims weeping in the Tilma's presence.

The view from the conveyor belt
under the miraculous Tilma.

Now I've been to 11 Marian apparition sites and OLG Basilica ranks among my Top 4 favorites, which include Montichiari-Fontanelle (Rosa Mystica revelations, Italy), Lipa (Mediatrix of All Grace apparitions, Philippines), and Tre Fontane (Virgin of the Revelation apparitions, Italy).  The ground literally emanates divine power and sanctity, and I highly recommend that Catholics (and non-Catholics, too) visit this hallowed shrine at least once in their lifetimes, if at all possible.


This Church-approved apparition is celebrated in Mexico but seems little-known outside of that country, which sort of puzzles me - it's story is an interesting blend of OLG and Lourdes... plus, the Virgin left behind two lasting signs - gifts to us - in the form of a healing spring of water and a remarkable statue that both still exist!   Yet, I've never heard of this place until a few years ago.  To summarize its history - in 1541 (just 10 years after the OLG apparitions), an Aztec convert named Juan Diego Bernardino (no relation to St. Juan Diego of Guadalupe fame), experienced a single apparition of the Virgin Mary in a grove.

A mural at the site of the blessed well
showing Our Lady's appearance in Ocotlan
in 1541.  Note the stone basin under it.

At the time 0f an epidemic that was decimating the local populace, including the seer's family, Juan Diego went to the river to fetch water.  On his way back through a grove of ocote trees, he was surprised by Our Lady's sudden appearance.  In a nutshell, the Virgin led the man to a spring of water where there was none before, and instructed him to have the sick drink the water for healing purposes.  The words she spoke were full of maternal concern:

  “My heart always desires to help those who are suffering.  My heart cannot bear to see so much pain and anguish among people without healing them.  Drink as much water as you desire.  Upon drinking just one drop, the sick will not only be cured, but they will receive perfect health!”

Furthermore, the Blessed Virgin directed Juan to have the Franciscan missionaries return to the site to retrieve a statue of herself that she wanted venerated in their Chapel of San Lorenzo.  She then disappeared.

The visionary wasted no time collecting the spring water and administering it to his sick relatives who all recovered.  He then relayed the Virgin's message to the friars who went with the seer to the site of the visitation.  It was already evening when they arrived with a crowd of onlookers, and the group was greeted by a curious sight - a single ocote tree covered in flames!  Unable locate the statue, the crowd left but returned the following morning to find the tree burnt to a crisp.  In a hallow cavity of its trunk was discovered a large, unscathed, and beautiful statue of the Holy Virgin dressed in regal robes and carrying a scepter.

A mural depicting the miraculous finding
of Our Lady's statue and the statue as
seen today in its place in the basilica.

The statue was reverently carried to the chapel of San Lorenzo where a cathedral later rose to enshrine the miraculous image.  Although it could possibly be a statue carved in Spain, how it got into the burning tree is deemed a mystery.  Favors through the veneration of this particular statue and the use of the water continue be reported up to our present time.  In fact, an Aunt of mine in our group was suffering from chronic knee pain but claims the pain almost immediately dissipated after she rubbed the blessed water on it, making it possible for her to walk with little discomfort!

During our visit to the Basilica of Ocotlan, we had the opportunity to pray before the sacred statue, which is displayed behind and above the main altar in a glass case. We also took a 15 minute walk down a steep road to the Chapel of the Little Well that was constructed over the original spring revealed by the Virgin.  Inside the small hexagonal chapel, along its walls, are several stone fonts with spigots.  The well itself is in the center covered with plexiglass to protect the water source from debris and foreign objects.

The Chapel of the Little Well... the
actual well shown to the right covered
by plexiglass for protection.

Two elderly custodians of the chapel patiently filled our plastic water bottles, which everyone immediately drank with no ill effects.  In fact, the water was cool and tasted very similar to Hawaii's fresh, volcanic rock-filtered water - it was refreshing, especially in the warm climate of Mexico.  We then refilled our bottles to take home before hiking back up to the cathedral.

Again, this is a sacred place I would encourage others to visit should one ever be in Mexico.  It's well-worth the time!


A depiction of the miracle of St. Michael

Just about 10 minutes from Ocotlan is another obscure sacred spot of heavenly visitations, this time from St. Michael the Archangel.  It's also Church-approved and given my devotion to this Archangel, and my membership in the Cohort of St. Michael the Archangel Prayer Group in my parish, this shrine was also personally meaningful to me.

To summarize the history of this place... on April 25, 1631 (nearly 100 years after OLG), in the midst of a smallpox epidemic, the Faithful in Tlaxcala held a procession to invoke Divine Help.  During the event, a 17-year-old local named Diego Lazaro was recipient to an apparition of St. Michael who told him about a spring of water that would alleviate the sickness.  The boy, however, decided to keep quiet for fear of being ridiculed after he realized that he was the only witness to the appearance.

Not long after, the Archangel revisited Diego to admonish him for his lack of obedience and to warn him that, because of it, he would be subjected to the illness; the visionary was soon infected by the smallpox.

The young man's condition worsened to the point of death, when unexpectedly St. Michael reappeared in a brilliant flash of lightning that was seen by his family, causing them to flee.  The Archangel then transported the teen to a nearby locale where a luminous ray from Heaven beamed down on a certain spot marked by a large boulder; St. Michael's subsequent words were powerful:

  "This light that you have seen descend from Heaven is the virtue that God in His Divine Providence gives in this spring for the health and relief of the sick and needy.  Make this known at once to everyone.  That they may believe your testimony, I promise to work a great prodigy through you."

Significantly, Diego also reported that he heard a terrible clamor of storm winds and growls after the light streamed down, which St. Michael explained was the sound of demons being exorcised from the area because of the immense sanctity God was pouring down over the site!

The youth was then returned home completely cured and he immediately went to the Franciscans to report his experience.  They referred him to the local governor but the Spanish official dismissed him.  Undaunted, he led a group of villagers to the site of the boulder shown to him by St. Michael.  All attempts by the people to move the massive rock proved futile until Diego remembered the angel's promise.

Ordering everyone to stand aside, the seer invoked the Archangel and was instantly granted the strength to single-handedly push aside the boulder after which the spring beneath began to flow.  All were then firmly convinced of the truth of Diego's experiences and news slowly spread about the healing waters.

Inside the Santuario de San Miguel
del Milagro in Tlaxcala.

Later in November of the same year, St. Michael appeared for the fourth and final time to Diego Lazaro, to urge him to step up his efforts to make the spring known.  In response, the young man hand-delivered a jug of the miraculous water to the bishop and urged him to spread word of the spring throughout all Mexico, per the Archangel's express command.  Sensing the truth, the bishop had the water dispensed to the sick and, when cures were effected, he authorized an official investigation, which concluded in favor of the apparitions; a chapel was constructed at the site of the spring.

Today, a sanctuary dedicated to the great Archangel stands in this town named after the miracle.  Our group visited the shrine on the day prior to the festival commemorating St. Michael's first appearance to Diego.  I found the place to be highly edifying and was profoundly moved as I prayed in front of the small chapel of the holy well and in the main sanctuary.  We were also provided with blessed spring water by the custodians of the shrine.

At the altar of St. Michael's
Sanctuary, Tlaxcala

As with the two Marian shrines I visited, I felt the holiness of the site, particularly the distinct presence of St. Michael.  This is another place I recommend to readers to visit, if one is ever in Mexico.  In fact, kill two birds with one stone - go to both Ocotlan and to San Miguel del Milagro!  You won't regret it.

One last thing - at every shrine we visited there was the hustle and bustle of street vendors outside the shrine complex.  Some may find this annoying but I actually didn't mind because they do serve a practical and valid purpose - they help the locals to make an honest living for themselves and are convenient places to purchase devotional items and other souvenirs.  Plus, they were generally much cheaper than the official shops within the shrine complexes.  I'm all for supporting the local indiginous community.

With the above being shared, I close Part I of my 3-part Mexican Pilgrimage Blogs - click on the link below to read Part II about certain relics I saw/venerated in Mexico.

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part II (Relics), click here

* * To view Mexico Pilgrimage, April 2023 - Part III (Signs), click here

Monthly Message from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: April 25th, 2023


Message given to Marija on April 25th, 2023:

  “Dear Children!  I am calling all of you to be carriers of the peace and joy of the risen Jesus for all those who are far from prayer; that the love of Jesus, through your lives, may transform them to a new life of conversion and holiness.  Thank you for having responded to my call. ”

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Saint of the Month - April 2023: Blessed Savina Petrilli

Bl. Savina Petrilli

An advocate for the Poor

Memorial: April 18th


As a child of 10-years-old, this Beata read a book - a biography of St. Catherine of Siena – which, from henceforth, sparked a life-long devotion to the great saint and also set her on a path to becoming holy, herself.


Born on August 29, 1851, Savina Petrilli was born to a family of modest means living in Siena, Italy.  Sickly from her early childhood, she was reported to have actually died at one point and found mysteriously “revived” several hours later.  After the incident with the book, she developed a devout disposition, which was only boosted by her First Holy Communion at the age of 12, of which she wrote: “As soon as I received Jesus, I felt as if I was immersed in Him.  My heart was beating so strongly that it seemed to me that it would burst from the fullness of the joy I felt!”


At 15, Savina joined a local pious association called the Figlie di Maria (Daughters of Mary), whose members dedicated themselves to the Holy Virgin through prayer and charitable works.  It was as a member of this Marian sodality that Savina felt herself called to a complete consecration of herself to God through a private vow of virginity, which she professed at the age of 17.  The following year, while participating in a private audience with Bl. Pope Pius IX, the Pontiff, without any prompting from the girl, unexpectedly remarked to Savina that she should follow in the footsteps of her beloved patroness, St. Catherine.  This encounter with the saintly Pope proved to be another pivotal moment in the Beata’s life, as it was at that point she began to seriously ponder a way to make a greater, positive impact in the lives of her less fortunate neighbors.


“With God’s help I will make every

effort to become a Saint…”


After much prayer and discernment, the inspiration that came to Savina was to establish a new religious congregation to specifically address the social and spiritual issues she saw around her.  She confided this to her like-minded sister, Emilia, who she highly respected and was urged by the latter to proceed with her plan.  Emilia, at the time, was dying from a terminal illness and she promised Savina her prayers and support from Heaven, which further assured her.


At age 22, with the support and approval of her bishop and, in the presence of her confessor, Savina and 5 companions from the Daughters of Mary pronounced vows of Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty.  The date was August 15, 1873 - the auspicious Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin - and motivated by the words of Bl. Pius IX just a few years before, the new community of nuns called itself the Sisters of the Poor of St. Catherine of Siena; they received papal approbation in 1877 and approval for their constitution in 1906.


“Everything through Love!”


The new congregation, which humbly began in a small rented apartment in Siena, started its active mission almost immediately by taking in an abandoned baby girl.  As the sisters actively reached out to the poor in their community, demand for their ministry grew and so did public support - they set up a charitable center for the needy to be fed, clothed, and educated… and they took in more abandoned/homeless children and youth.  It wasn’t long after that a larger home was needed and one was opened in nearby Viterbo, after which 20+ homes followed throughout Italy.  As their ministry prospered and their reputation spread, invitations from other prelates arrived leading to the eventual expansion of the Sisters of the Poor to other countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Paraguay, the Philippines, and the United States.

Mother Savina at work

Behind the congregation’s rapid growth was Mother Savina, who like her spiritual mentor, St. Catherine, was a tireless and determined woman, animated by a burning love for Jesus, to whom she personally vowed to never deny Him anything and to live completely abandoned to the Divine Will of the Heavenly Father.  As a result, the foundress was able to successfully guide her congregation through the many rough spots it encountered in its formative years, while also exemplifying to her spiritual daughters the Christ-like qualities she believed were essential to be true “Sisters of the Poor”.


“Whoever looks at us must
see Jesus in us.”


Beginning in 1890, Savina was diagnosed with cancer, which slowly spread throughout her body.  Despite the threat of the disease, she continued in her role as superior until her final years, which were marked by suffering endured with heroic patience and peaceful resignation; she finally succumbed to the cancer on April 18, 1923 at the age of 71.

Mother Savina Petrilli’s legacy of love did not end with her passing.  As mentioned earlier, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Catherine of Siena are quite active to this day, thriving and serving in multiple countries.  Their founder’s sanctity was officially recognized by the Church during her Beatification in Rome on April 24, 1988; a second confirmed miracle is still needed to raise her to Sainthood - may God see fit to grant one soon for His greater glory and the edification of the Church.

The tomb of Bl. Savina in the Church
of the Visitation, Siena.

Bl. Savina Petrilli, pray for us!