National Catholic broadcaster relates miracle with Maria Esperanza

        A former CBS radio broadcaster who now airs a national Catholic show was eyewitness to a miracle with famed mystic Maria Esperanza that is truly hard to fathom.

      John Marion, once a newscaster in Boston and Philadelphia and now host of the spiritual show Nightflight with wife Barbaranne, says that on August 15, 1995, he was at the Church-approved apparition site of Betania, Venezuela, when what can only be described as an inconceivable event occurred.

        As has happened with saints at rare times in history, an actual flower -- a rose -- came out of Maria's chest, says John and other witnesses contacted by Spirit Daily.

       It's something said to have occurred with Maria on 15 occasions, as if to represent the Rosary. That they are roses may also be connected with her lifelong devotion to St. Therese the Little Flower. The phenomena first began on January 18, 1986, and while many believe they are at an end, that 1995 was the last, no one -- including Maria -- is sure. "We could never know for sure if it's the last one," Maria told us. "Only God knows. Maybe Our Lord is being more gentle with me. Whenever I remember the pain, it makes me feel very scared."

       Those who have observed say it looks like she is having the palpitations of a heart attack or giving birth. The rose opens as in slow-motion photography with little sparkles of water, according to a son-in-law who was also there in 1995.

       Among those who have also seen the phenomenon are Carolina Fuenmayor, a television newswoman for Venevision in Caracas at the time; many of Maria's relatives; and at least two Latin American medical doctors, Dr. Chebly and Dr. Alfonso Gutierrez Burgos. Fuenmayor shot a videotape of one of the events but at Maria's insistence will not release it until the seer's death.

        The idea of a rose coming from someone's body stretches the most open of minds, but John Marion -- who himself is now known for charismatic gifts --  says there is no doubt about it, and both the current bishop of the diocese and his predecessor have lent formal approval to Betania and have expressed deep respect for Esperanza, who many believe is the greatest mystic since Padre Pio (whom she knew).

       Her mysticism is especially pertinent at this time of the year because December 8 is the anniversary of another event that involved Betania -- a miracle in which a Communion Host began to bleed in 1991 while handled by a priest, Father Otty Ossa Aristizabal, during Mass at the site of apparitions (see below). 

       But let's focus here on the rose, which is perhaps the most remarkable single phenomenon claimed by a mystic in decades. 

        "My travel agent and I were down there on business, a hot summer night, and it was close to one o'clock in the morning," says Marion, one of the elder statesmen of both the charismatic and Marian movements. "We were seated in the compound area at the shrine site. We were wondering why Maria had kept us waiting so long. We had been waiting four to five hours. During that period a group of American pilgrims had also arrived wanting to see Maria. While we were waiting there we hear a cry from Maria's son-in-law. 'John, John, hurry! Come over here!' What they had done was set a chair in the compound area for Maria and helped by some family members, they placed her in the chair. They told me to keep looking. I couldn't imagine what would happen. She was experiencing some kind of pain. She was very uncomfortable in the chair. 

       "All of a sudden Maria sort of parted the blouse she was wearing and a red spot began to appear. I stared. It kept getting bigger and bigger and Maria was really in pain. Then this red spot began to take a shape and I recognized the shape as that of a rose -- a deep red rose, first budlike as she continued to force it out right through her body, causing great pain -- until finally it was through and fully in bloom. There was this big red beautiful rose. 

       "I couldn't believe it. I turned to my agent in amazement. He said, `I know, I know. I see it!' After the rose cleared Maria's body, you could see this stem, about two inches of stem, and Maria broke it off, then she handed a petal first to a priest, three nuns, and then she called me over and gave me a piece. 

       "The next day I was told she passed the rest of the stem, with thorns on it.  It was like she was giving birth -- the same expression and same kind of pain and couldn't wait to get it out, then she held it lovingly in her hands. If you went into a florist shop for a single long-stemmed red rose in full bloom, that was what it looked like. It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn't believe my eyes -- it was such a phenomenon."

       Marion has himself become the focus of supernatural claims. Heard each weekday night from 9 p.m. to 12 (EST) in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and other cities (see list of stations), he began religious broadcasting in 1975 but has recently gone national and has been flooded with calls of those claiming that his prayers have cured everything from emotional disorders to cancer. 

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