Leap of Faith: The Miracles of Saint Maria
The Mother of Eucharist and Grace seen from the House of Prayer’s main altar.
[Balikbayanmagazine.com] article. It’s my first time to meet a miracle worker. In Balikbayan Magazine’s recent trip to Sta. Maria, Bulacan, we met Bro. Carmelo Cortez, an ordinary man blessed with special gifts from God. It was in June 12, 1991, Bro. Carmelo, then at 21, first witnessed manifestations of rose petals with religious images, and healing. He saw the Mother of Eucharist and Grace, a young lady dressed in white and bathed in brilliant light. Her heart was visible with the Eucharist at the center surrounded by golden stars. She held a rosary on her right hand and a scapular on her left.
I could only imagine how it felt like. Bro. Carmelo said, “I asked why me? There are a lot of better and more blessed people. I know that I am a sinner. But the Mother of Eucharist and Grace said that she looks at how pure is the heart.”
It is not surprising that Bro. Carmelo felt fear and confusion. “I thought I was losing my sanity. And so I consulted a priest to find out what’s happening to me, and what these visions meant,” he said.
The Mother of the Eucharist and Grace had three wishes, that through Bro. Carmelo, the people would go back to the Roman Catholic Church; that the people should receive the body and blood of Christ; and the need for prayer for the priests.
“The church received these manifestations negatively. They questioned the need to pray for the priests,” Bro. Carmelo said. Moreover, he said that when he had the privilege to speak to the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, even they believed that the priests need prayer.
It was through the decree of the Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos that the devotion to the Mother of the Eucharist and Grace was permitted. Bishop Cirilo Almario was the head of the Diocese of Malolos back then, and he himself witnessed the miracle of healing through Bro. Carmelo. He was supposed to undergo a bypass operation in 1991 but through the grace of the Mother of Eucharist and Grace, he was healed.
Bro. Carmelo was able to build the Shrine in honor of the Mother of Eucharist and Grace, which is also the first replica of the Holy Land Nativity here in the Philippines and the whole of Asia. Through the collective efforts of different individuals from all over the Philippines, they were able to build the House of Prayer, which is the aim of Bro. Carmelo. The shrine together with the chapel forms an L-shape, which for him means love.
The Holy Land replica must be some form of coincidence, or both a miracle and a blessing. “I prayed that I would be able to go to the Holy Land. A month after, my prayers were heard. When I got there, I asked, how would I be able to bring this Holy Land to the Philippines,” Bro. Carmelo said.
When they were doing the excavation, the high grounds collapsed and they discovered caves. They saw human bones, old utensils and metals, which they buried under the main altar of the chapel. “In return, we received a greater treasure from God, which is faith,” Bro. Carmelo said.
The Shrine is house to relics, documents and other replicas which came from the Holy Land. A part of the grounds of the Shrine also has soil from the Holy Land. It means a lot to a Catholic like me to be able to set foot on holy grounds. And it is indeed a blessing that we have the Shrine here in the Philippines. Through this, we become closer to our devotion and faith.
Bro. Carmelo wants to show the people that solitude, prayer and God are free for everyone. Thus, in the Shrine of the Mother of Eucharist and Grace, they removed all forms of collections for donations from the people. Moreover, the collections done during masses are given to the seminaries for them to be able to help in the education of the less fortunate.
A look inside the replica of the Holy Land Nativity.
In his mission to help the people, Bro. Carmelo makes sure that for every rich hospital he visits, he would also go to three poor hospitals. Sometimes he would receive gifts like fruits from those he was able to help, thus, he shares these fruits to the less fortunate. Bro. Carmelo’s parents taught him not to ask for anything in return from the people he helps.
Through the replica of the Holy Land he is able to bring the people closer to the Eucharist and the Eucharist closer to the people. His aim is to build little shrines in the hearts of the people. This is similar to the Catholic teaching that the church is not just a structure but rather the collective faith of all the people.
“A true miracle is to be able to continue breathing each day. It is a miracle that you wouldn’t have to go through dialysis. It is a miracle that you are able to eat everyday. And most especially, it is a miracle from God that you have a complete family,” Bro. Carmelo said.
Apart from his mission to serve God, he is also busy managing the Bayad Center, which is under Meralco. He also has a program at the Radyo Veritas every Sunday. And as a family man, he fulfills his obligations as a husband to his wife and a father to his three children, one of whom is about to be ordained this year.
As a father, he makes sure that he is able to instill a sense of responsibility to his children. “Ang baon nila depende sa dami ng isinulat nila sa notebook. I do a random check of my children’s notebooks to make sure that they study well in school. When I see something wrong, I do deductions from their allowance,” he said.
Their house may be open 25 hours a day to all the people who need help. Moreover, Bro. Carmelo knows the value of privacy. He is more of the unpopular healer. He believes that privacy gives him time to stop and pray.
Bro. Carmelo admitted that if he was able to choose, he would want a simpler and normal life. Nevertheless, he is thankful to God that he has a family who believes in him. And this must be the greatest gift for Bro. Carmelo that he has a source of strength which is the love and support coming from his family and friends.
I wondered if there were people who didn’t experience a miracle and blamed Bro. Carmelo. Thus, he said, “Even if I wasn’t able to cure some of the people, at least I was able to bring faith and hope to their hearts. And that is what’s important.” He believes that faith can move a mountain. For him, sickness is not a form of punishment but, it’s a purification of the body.
With his gift, he can’t avoid criticisms. However, Bro. Carmelo receives them with gratitude. He knows that through these criticisms, he would be able to make amends and change.
Manifestation of the Image of St. Therese of the Child Jesus on a rose petal.
We were graced with the opportunity to witness the manifestations of images on rose petals. At first, I felt nervous. Deep within, there was a feeling of doubt that an image would appear on the rose petal.
Bro. Carmelo took the rose I brought to him, and put its petals to my chest, laid his hand on my head and prayed. Then he told me to raise the petal to the light, and there I saw a clear image of a woman with a veil. Bro. Carmelo told me that it must be St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Coincidentally, St. Therese is also one of my patrons because she is the patron saint of one of my former schools.
Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the true miracle happens when the people’s faith strengthen that’s why Bro. Carmelo is able to perform healing. “We don’t want the people to focus on manifestations but rather to the sacrament. The miracle is not in the petals, not in the laying of hands; the true miracle is in our hearts,” he said. -end-