Before a person can be inscribed among the Blessed, it is necessary that he or she accomplish at least one miracle, duly recognized by the competent authority. Father Joseph Gérard, O.M.I., who was beatified on September 15, 1988 by Pope John-Paul II, in Lesotho, certainly fulfilled this condition. In his case, the miracle approved by the Church was the instantaneous healing of a young blind girl, Florina Phakelo.
The blind child
Florina lived in a village near Roma, in Lesotho. As a result of an infection in her eyes, which doctors said was incurable, she became completely blind. The intercession of good Father Gérard, whose saintly death had occurred in 1914, was sought. He was called “rame-hiolo”, the father of miracles. A miraculous healing of the little girl’s eyes was obtained. She lived to the age of sixty with perfect vision in both eyes.
This is how Florina described her healing during the apostolic deposition, held in Maseru, in 1955. She was then thirty-three years of age at the time. “I was born here, at Mafefoane, in 1922. At the age of six I became gravely ill and suffered an infection in my eyes. Inside the orbits, excretions like abscesses appeared which collapsed on the outside. I became blind, incapable of distinguishing night from day. My mother took me to Doctor Hertig, who came to Roma once a month. For five months he applied remedies, but on the sixth month he told a child who would be blind for life that she would never be cured. ‘However, if you have some doubts, take her to the Maseru hospital.’
Then my mother went to Father Pennerath, the priest who was in charge of our mission, to explain all the details of my malady and the project of taking me to the hospital. On hearing this, he answered with an energetic denial: ‘No, that child shall not be taken to Maseru; since the doctor was unable to cure her, we will look in the direction of Father Gérard.’ On the following day, Father Pennerath came to see me, prayed over me, and placed Father Gérard’s stole in my hand. I already wore on my neck a small bag containing soil from his grave.
During the night, at some point in the novena, an unknown priest appeared to me, placed his hand on my eyes while saying: ‘You will heal, my child, and you will recover your sight.’ The following morning, as I rose, my mother wanted to help me dress, as she does every day. I refused, saying: ‘Mother, I don’t need you to help me. From now on, I’ll dress by myself, because now, I have recovered my sight.’ In fact, I was cured; the tissue fluids no longer emerged and disappeared completely. I could even distinguish the different colors of the corn grains: white or red.
I then asked my mother to bring me to the mission to meet the priest who had visited me during the night, when I was still blind. The priests were there, on retreat. But I could not find the one I was looking for among them. Father Pennerath brought six pictures of priests. Not one of the five first pictures happened to be the priest I was seeking. At the sixth I cried out: ‘He’s the one.’ And the photograph was that of Father Gérard. Finally, my mother asked Father Pennerath to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving to thank God for my cure.”
As a conclusion to this deposition full of freshness and authenticity, we may add the verdict of the medical commission, gathered in Rome on December 3, 1986. It declared this instantaneous, complete, and lasting healing of Florina to be miraculous. Incidentally, the Basutos have always maintained an extraordinary confidence in this “marvelous dust” of Father Gérard. Florina Phakelo died of natural causes, in Roma, on December 7, 1982.
André DORVAL, OMI