Site In Venezuela Accents Mystery Of Why Certain Spots Are Specially
By Michael H. Brown
It is on a hillside an hour from Caracas, Venezuela, in this nation so tormented right now by upheaval -- a little patch of the supernatural where the sun has spun, where dozens have seen the Blessed Mother, where luminosities form holy images, and where there have been miraculous healings. Some say they hear an invisible choir.
It's called "Betania" -- which means "Bethany" -- and this place, which has been officially declared by the Church as "sacred ground, " is one of just a dozen such situations that have gained full ecclesiastic approval in the past 100 years.
Associated with seer Maria Esperanza, who first prophesied events there, and who secured the property as a shrine (but who does not have to be there for phenomena to happen), it brings to mind a number of questions. Why are there such places? What makes God choose a place like Betania -- or Fatima, or Lourdes? And what exactly is occurring?
These of course are difficult questions with no provable answers. We know only that the Lord sanctions certain spots -- often mountains -- as holy places: portals where the membrane between earth and heaven is especially thin.
Such, it appears, is true of Betania, and we'll be exploring this situation a bit in the days ahead as we also take a closer look at Maria Esperanza. Betania is on a hillside as Fatima is on a hillside, as Lourdes is in the Pyrenees mountains, as LaSalette is at a mountaintop -- all of which bring to mind Tabor and Zion and Sinai.
Portals. Holy spots.
Whatever else can be said, I myself experienced an extraordinary event during a visit to Betania in 1991 when, peering up at the sun (which several other visitors said was moving), I suddenly saw the Blessed Mother manifesting in precise detail in the sun's rays -- streaming down in the pose of the Miraculous Medal before drawing back up.
It didn't take much else for me to believe that something extraordinary was occurring here.
Others have seen holy images form in the trees or simply experience a unique feeling of peace. Though much smaller, the sensations are similar in type and potency to what is encountered at more famous sites like Medjugorje.
While the first apparition at Betania was seen only by Esperanza, this changed on Sunday, March 25, 1984, when, as the bishop, Pio Bello Ricardo, noted in his official pastoral letter, "a group of approximately one hundred and fifty people" saw the most Holy Virgin, who first appeared "over and behind" a cascade. "During that same afternoon she appeared seven times, each time for five to ten minutes, except the last at dusk, when she appeared for approximately half an hour," noted the bishop, a trained psychologist who came to his positive judgment only after personally interviewing dozens of the witnesses.
This has been the trend of Betania: apparitions often shaped in clouds or other more ephemeral forms. Perhaps they would be better termed "manifestations." It is a hotspot for the supernatural, with unusual phenomena -- including "glitter" that many claim has fallen from the sky (as also occurred at Fatima) and the appearance, allegedly inexplicable, of a striking blue butterfly said to signal the Blessed Mother's presence.
We still don't know what to make of that. We submit it for discernment. It has been seen by hundreds. "In a message that Maria received from Our Lady, the Blessed Mother told Maria that in Betania, ‘I will make myself be known in the form of a butterfly,’" recalls Maria's husband, Geo. "Sometimes you will see it in the street, as you’re driving on the highway. Whenever she appears we pray the Hail Mary or another prayer because that’s a sign, when you see it in the street, that Our Lady is with you, is protecting you. It appears and disappears in the same way. Not like a pop, but just that you don’t see it anymore. " Many have seen it wing from the grotto at Betania and circle pilgrims at the time of apparitions. Adds a son-in-law, Carlos Marrero Bornn: "The butterfly has played with the kids. She flies around them, at Betania and also at my mother-in-law’s house." On March 25, 1997, a group from Michigan photographed the butterfly, which often seems to come out of nowhere and virtually touches pilgrims. The butterfly has also been reported at Medjugorje [see a note about this] and a center in Massachusetts dedicated to the Betania messages. While blue butterflies are indigenous to Latin America, witnesses have described it as having an unusual radiance and say it has come exactly when Maria has her visions, or when others claim to see Mary.
In addition to the vaporous form of the Virgin have been claims of saintly forms and Jesus. More than two dozen competent witnesses assert that they watched the apparition of a male figure they took to be Christ in February of 1995. They saw the alleged figure with a red, pulsing heart and a sword that seemed to symbolize justice. Four years later Venezuela suffered a tremendous tragedy when torrential rains caused massive mudslides not far from Caracas that took an estimated 30,000 lives -- the worst disaster that nation had seen in at least half a century and one that a local bishop publicly declared as part of God's "judgment."
A freak storm last autumn flooded Betania itself.
"Maria used to say that '[God’s] justice will start in Venezuela, '" notes another son-in-law, Dr. Samir Gebran, a biologist who became convinced of the unusual nature at Betania after his first visit.
"We crossed the river, carried Maria across the river – there wasn’t a bridge back then – and anyway, that day, she started praying the Rosary, and when we approached the grotto, all of a sudden she showed us a light -- how a light from the sun in the woods was forming an image like Our Lady of Guadalupe," Samir recently told Spirit Daily. "I saw it myself in the wood, and I’m a scientist! After that, petals began appearing on Maria’s hands. And she received a message from Our Lady, about praying for the young and drugs. After that she felt from Our Lady that she should approach the river, and pick up a stone, and that’s what she did. I accompanied her to the river and she took a stone, a pretty heavy black stone, right out of the water, and when she took it she felt something on the bottom and was afraid, so she turned it up -- and when she opened her left hand Our Lady of Guadalupe, like we had seen in the wood, was exactly there in like a plastic or ceramic material stuck on the stone, and the smell of roses was very strong."
Crossing the small bridge since built, a group of American pilgrims and a young girl who was ill with diabetes say they saw the Virgin Mary during the March 25, 1997 trip, holding the Child Jesus. "A real person," asserted one witness, Barb Smith. "She was moving. She was faded but like the Queen of Peace. The little girl saw her just as clear as ever and said, 'It's Our Lady, it's Our Lady!' And right then and there about 70 people saw her. Everyone was crying and praying. It lasted about ten minutes."
Remarkably, on December 8, 1991, feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Host began to bleed at Betania as a priest, Father Otty Ossa Aristizabal, was consecrating it. This too was later sanctioned as a miracle by the diocese -- and on subsequent occasions has manifested holy images or seemed to flare with flame.
It's not known if there is a supernatural history to the land. The previous owner, a non-Catholic evangelical, named the site Betania and used to perform baptismal immersions in the river. "He sold sugar cane," notes Geo. "And he gave the name ‘Betania.’ One of the first manifestations of the power of the place, before Our Lady appeared, after we got the land, was a person who was driving from the countryside and passing Betania when suddenly he saw above the land a rosary – a huge rosary. He was a Catholic. The rosary was all lighted, not clouds. A complete rosary in light. He told the experience to the bishop."
The idea of "Bethany" brings to mind the blessings Jesus gave (in apparitional form) at Bethany.
Is this the main message? That Christ will manifest here -- and elsewhere -- with a blessing? Will He come, as Maria prophesies, "in glory with rays of light"? And are the events in Venezuela harbingers of what will happen in other parts of the world?
Let us explore next what the situation in Venezuela may mean for the U.S. and other Western countries...
[resources: Betania: Land of Grace, Marian Apparitions of the 20th Century, The Final Hour, The Day Will Come]
Resource for this article available in the Spiritdaily book store: Betania: Land of Grace, Marian Apparitions of the 20th Century, The Final Hour, The Day Will Come]
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Message From Venezuela And John Paul II Eerily Parallel Prophecy On U.S. Future
By Michael H. Brown
There it was in the e-mail the other day, a photo sent us from South America of the Blessed Mother weeping -- allegedly weeping; oh, yes, always allegedly -- in Caracas.
Tears of blood.
It's a statue known as Rosa Mystica, and dozens of them have wept around the world.
But we were interested because this was in Venezuela. And it occurred just before the first riot-related killing.
That country, of course, is in the midst of tremendous turmoil. Listen here to yesterday's New York Post: "American companies in riot-torn Venezuela are shutting local factories in droves and cutting off investments. The corporate fears escalated yesterday after Microsoft temporarily closed its Caracas offices after 50 days of rioting and vandalism in a national strike. Microsoft says it wants to make sure its 85 employees there aren't in a life-threatening situation over the bloody protests. Ford Motor Co., Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Coca-Cola Co. have shut down operations and offices in wake of a spreading strike to topple President Hugo Chavez."
Schools are closed. So are banks. People are afraid to go to work. The nation has been effectively shut down.
Beyond the economic consequences (Venezuela is one of America's largest suppliers of oil), the chaos in Venezuela may have a prophetic component. It may be a foretaste of what will soon occur elsewhere. This is the country in which the Church-approved apparition site of Betania is located [see yesterday's story], and it reminds us of how apparitions in Rwanda came just before civil chaos there; it recalls how Medjugorje served as a harbinger when Muslims and Christians went to war in the 1990s (as if foretelling global Muslim-Christian tensions).
Is Betania's location likewise prophetic?
The main seer at the site, Maria Esperanza, has warned that what's occuring in her homeland is indeed a bellwether, and we note that the societal chaos in this country has been accompanied by extremely unusual natural disasters. Mudslides after incredibly torrential rain killed tens of thousands in 1999. There have also been quakes and smaller but significant storm-related events. "Maria used to say that '[God’s] justice will start in Venezuela,'" Dr. Samir Gebran, a son-in-law of Maria's and a biologist who became convinced of the unusual nature at Betania after his first visit told us last week.
The warning is that if we don't reform -- if we don't shed our selfishness -- natural disasters, still just revving up, will be joined, in the U.S. and other parts of the West, by societal disarray, if not outright chaos.
This all ties with a prophecy by Dr. Howard Storm -- a former atheist who became a believer after a near-death episode in which he was allegedly dragged toward hell [The Storm Video available in the bookstore ]. Rescued when he cried out to Jesus, Dr. Storm -- now a minister -- claims he was placed in the presence of three angels who warned about America's future, showing him a scenario whereby our nation would be punished for its selfishness and materialism by watching its infrastructure collapse and riots and crime break out over "a cup of gasoline." He claims that unless there is a dramatic turnaround, this complete disintegration will occur over the course of this century.
"People get mad at me for saying it, but God's very unhappy with what we're doing," asserts Storm, once a professor at Northern Kentucky University. "When I came back from the experience, I was almost out of my mind trying to convert people. God wanted a worldwide conversion thousands of years ago. God pulled out all the stops 2,000 years ago with Jesus. From God's view, that was the definitive moment in human history. And the impact of the prophets and teachers and the Messiah has been a big disappointment to God because people have by and large rejected it. And [I was told that] God wants this conversion. And if we don't get on the program fairly soon, God is going to have to intervene in some ways that from a human point of view are going to seem cataclysmic. God's really tired of what we're doing to one another and the planet and to God's Creation. We were put in this world to be stewards and live in harmony with His creation and one another and we don't realize the important spiritual consequences of what we do when we raise a child in a faithless society. And we're doing it all over the world, not just this country."
Storm says he was told no nation has ever been blessed as the U.S. has been blessed but that it was supposed to share those graces (its way of hygiene, its methods of manufacture, technology, water treatment, agriculture, and hardware) with peoples around the globe. If not -- if it chose to horde what it was given, if it did not bring poor nations up to speed, says Dr. Storm -- it would be purified.
Such is consonous with the Pope, who time and again has warned that wanton, out-of-control capitalism -- the frenzy of consumerism -- is as dangerous as socialism. The Pontiff's most recent admonition came on January 13 in an address to representatives from 177 countries. "No to selfishness!" he thundered. "Selfishness is the indifference of prosperous nations towards nations left out in the cold. All peoples are entitled to receive a fair share of the goods of this world and of the know-how of the more advanced countries."
This all causes us to wonder: is God happy with the waste -- with the plastic and metal that we toss away after a single quick use? With the food we waste -- or gorge ourselves with? Is he happy with a nation of Hummer RVs? Is He content with a country that supplies most of the world's pornography?
"I asked how [purification] would come about, and they said it would be simple, that our society is very dependent on a lot of very fragile things -- energy grid, transportation," adds Storm about his conversation with alleged angels. "In each geographical area of the United States people used to be relatively self-sufficient as far as agricultural products. Now, how long would any state survive without the transport of food and energy?
"What would happen is these very complex and delicate grids of our economic system would begin to break down. We've created a society of such cruel and self-centered people that the very nature of civilization would begin to break down. They (the angels) showed me that what would happen is that people would begin robbing the grocery stores, hording goods, and killing one another for gasoline and tires, and as a consequence everything would break down and would end up in chaos."
Is there hope? Yes. When we are being warned -- as with weeping Madonnas -- there is still time; there is still hope. But those who try to twist around religion and pretend that God does not chastise, does not correct us, need to explain why the main miracles we are currently seeing involve tears.
At this point in time, that tells it all.
[Resources: Howard Storm video]
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