This past weekend I was in Louisiana for Mike Church’s wonderful Congress, “The Fellowship of the Clans.”
The event was located in Grand Couteau, in the Cajun part of the state. When my mother found out that I would be there, she informed me that my great aunt, who was a Madame of the Sacred Heart, is buried there. This is the congregation founded by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat and brought to America by Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. They are more commonly known today as the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Society of the Sacred Heart.
At the time when my great aunt joined, so I am told, each of the religious was known as “Mother” and her last name. As the good Mother Villarrubia died when I was but a year old, I never knew her. I decided to try to find her grave, pray there, and ask her for prayers.
After first going to the wrong cemetery (which has probably hundreds of Jesuits in it), I found the Madames’ resting place at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. It was a lovely day, and I was able to kneel down and pray as I had hoped to. I also snapped a photo of her grave with my phone.
While trying to find out more about the place, I discovered that a miracle happened there in 1866. Mary Wilson was a convert to Catholicism from New London, Ontario. She was received into the Church on May 2, 1862, and four years later joined the Madames of the Sacred Heart. Sent to Louisiana for her health, she became quite ill and lay in the convent’s infirmary dying. That was when the miracle happened through the intercession of then Blessed and now Saint John Berchmans. This miracle was the one the Church accepted for Saint John’s canonization.
In the words of Mother Wilson’s diary (source):
On the 19th of October I was obliged to report to the infirmary, and I did not leave it until the 15th of December, the day after the one on which God was pleased to manifest His Power and Mercy in my behalf. During all this time I was dangerously ill, vomiting blood two and three times a day, with constant fever and violent headaches the greater part of the time; and still the pain in my side continued.
I do not think I had eaten an ounce of food for about forty days. During that time I had taken nothing but a little coffee or tea, which for a week before I recovered I could no longer take. And for two weeks no medicine had been administered. The doctor said it was useless to torture me more. So, he stopped giving me any. The last two days I was unable to take even a drop of water.
I endured the pangs of death. My body was drawn up with pain; my hands and feet were cramped and as cold as death. All my sickness had turned to inflammation of the stomach and throat. My tongue was raw and swollen. I was not able to speak for two days. At each attempt to utter a word, the blood would gush from my mouth.
Being unable to speak, I said in my heart: “Lord, Thou Who seest how I suffer, if it be for your honor and glory and the salvation of my soul, I ask through the intercession of Blessed Berchmans a little relief and health. Otherwise give me patience to the end. I am resigned.” Then, placing the image of Blessed Berchmans on my mouth, I said: “if it be true that you can work miracles, I wish you would do something for me. If not, I will not believe in you.”
I can say without scruple of fear of offending God: I heard a voice whisper, “Open your mouth.” I did so as well as I could. I felt someone, as if put their finger on my tongue, and immediately I was relieved. I then heard a voice say in a distinct and loud tone: “Sister, you will get the desired habit. Be faithful. Have confidence. Fear not.”
I had not yet opened my eyes. I did not know who was by my bedside. I turned round and said aloud: “But, Mother Moran, I am well!”
Then, standing by my bedside, I saw a figure, He held in his hands a cup, and there were some lights near him, at this beautiful sight I was afraid. I closed my eyes and asked: “Is it Blessed Berchmans?” He answered: “Yes, I come by the order of God. Your sufferings are over. Fear not!”
For the glory of Blessed John Berchmans, whose name be ever blessed! I deem it my duty to declare here, that from the moment of the cure I never experienced the slightest return of my former ailments. My flesh and strength returned instantaneously, I was able to follow all the exercises of community life from that moment. So that, after two months of cruel suffering and great attenuation of bodily strength from the want of food, I was in an instant restored to perfect health without a moment’s convalescence and could eat of everything indiscriminately, I who for thirty-eight days previous could not support a drop of water.
The doctor called to see me that evening, and what was his surprise to see me meet him at the door. He was so overcome that he almost fainted, and Mother, perceiving it, said: ‘It is you, doctor, who needs a chair!’
Doctor examined the condition of my mouth and tongue, testified to their being well and that my appearance was that of a person in perfect health. The good doctor next inquired if I had eaten anything, and when the waiter containing remnants of my dinner was brought to him, he expressed anew his surprise, and once more declared that no human means could have ever produced such an effect.
The story is told with more details here and also in the embedded YouTube video below: