"Miracle Hunter" Michael O'Neill Interviews Sister Angela Coelho, vice-postulator of the shepherd children of Fatima
Listen to the interview (go to 27:22) - The Miracle Hunter® on Relevant Radio®
MO: People know that I've been so excited about this 100 year centenary of Fatima where Pope Francis will be celebrating with the rest of the world how the three shepherd children of Fatima experienced the greatest Marian apparition of all time, Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, happening in the year 1917.
We're all excited that a miracle was recently approved - the details have not been released yet. There's been a lot of speculation about what the miracle was and what happened in the process and what it means going forward if Pope Francis will decide with the cardinals at the consistory of April 20th if in fact the canonization will go forward as planned.
We're so excited today to have as our guest on the program Sister Angela Coelho. She's the vice postulator for those children of Fatima and she's joining us all the way from Portugal. Welcome to the show today, Sister Angela!
AC: Thank you very much it is a
pleasure to be on your show today and talking to all the people who are listening to the show.
MO: There's such a great deal of love and interest in Our Lady of Fatima here in the United States. Everywhere we look Catholic television shows and radio stations are all getting ready for the 100th anniversary of Fatima. It's got the potential of being even more special doesn't it? ...with the potenial canonization of Jacinta and Francisco. It is exciting news that a miracle was just validated by Pope Francis. Tell us a little bit tell us what you can - I know its under wraps - tell us what you can share about the miracle.
AC: Pope Francis on March 23rd approved the miracle through the intercession of
Bl. Francisco and Bl. Jacinta, this is the miracle that will lead them to canoization although we don't know exactly when it wis going to be. Th thing I can share with you - I cannot share many details because of the new regulations of the Congregation of the Congregation of Saints asks the postulators and the authors of the causes to remain in silence, especially if the person who is cured is less than 18, which is the case. Nevertheless, I can share with you that this happened with a little boy in Brazil four years ago.
MO: Wonderful. That's an exciting detail and of course we'll be excited to hear more when that becomes available.
Do you imagine that April 20th will be the big day
when the date of the canonization will be announced? Will news of the miracle be announced then as well?
AC: April 20th wll be
the day when Pope Francis will let the world know - all the Catholic Church - the date that it will be and where the canonization is going to be. Conernng the miracle, only the family can really share with us what happened. I beleive they will not have a problem - but it is up to them, especially since it is a child. We haveto protect the identity. Privacy policies (are to be considered here) at this point. But yes all of us are so excited and I can let you know that it is a beautiful miracle. Sorry if I am making our interest more acure, but this is all I can tell you!
MO: Thank you - of course you're on the Miracle Hunter radio show roday so we're always looking for miracles. This is one of great miracles that we have all been praying for, leading to the canonization of the two shepherd children. We're talking today with Sister Angela Coelho, the vice postulator for the future saints, the children of Fatima.
As far as I understand this is a little bit of a history item: these will be two of the youngest saints canonized in the history of our Catholic Church.
AC: As a fact, until 1981 there was a canon or discipline in our Catholic Church that said that (those) younger than teenagers
could not have processes for canonization in the Vatican unless they were martyrs. The youngest one until now was St Maria Gorettiwho was 12 years old but she was a martyr. Because of the sanctity of Francisco and Jacinta, so many people around the world asked John Paul II to canonize them so JOhn Paul II admitted them to the commission to allow meditating and reflecting on the sanctity of the children. So teh discipline changed in May 1981 so only then could Jacinta and Francisco's causes could go into the Vatican to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to be studied. Right now
at this point they are the youngest blesseds in our church and very soon they will be the youngest saints in our church, non-martyrs. Jacinta died at 9 years old and Francisco dies at 10 years old at his home in Fatima.
MO: I think what so many people
are curious about is that they want to get to know these shepherd children even better. The question is what did their lives look like after their visions of the Virgin Mary? How did they change - what types of things as far as prayer, conversion, sacrifice were the hallmarks of their life?
AC: I can tell you that they were not born saints! They had little faults like we all do. For example, little Jacinta was very much egocentric - everything has to be according to her will. Otherwise she would be in a bad mood.She was not very much into sharing her things. Although she was very kind and nice, the sharing... many children are like that. After the visions of the angel, after she realized the suffering of people, of the poor, of the Holy Father. Even the suffering ofpeople who lived their lives totally without God. eteral life would be without God. They became very much preoccupied with others. The center of their lives changed from themselves to the people they met: Jesus, Mary and the people in suffering. They
left behind that selfishness ... and they became very compassionate.
For example, Francisco was totally centered on God. One day someone asked him "What did you like to see the most?". "Well, I liked to see the angel. What I loved to see more was Our Lady but I truly loved to see the most was Jesus and the light that Our Lady put in our hearts. I love God so much." So Francisco as a little boy was centered on God. God was the center of his life.And it was after this that he established his priorities -what he thought would please God he would do; what he thought would make God sad, he left behind. This was Francisco.
Jacinta was a little bit different. One
(time when they were) in jail in August 1917 the three of them, she was crying because she was missing her mom. Lucia to encourage her said "Jacinta let's offer this sacrifice for an intention - what intention do you choose? To console Jesus. to make reparation to Our Lady, for the Holy Father, for the conversion of sinners?" And she said,"I choose them all, since I love them all!" Sowhile Francisco was completely centered in God, Jacinta had a compassionate heart for all kind of sufferng - she would do everything she could to console people. Of course to share her food. If I had to summarize characteristics of their sanctity, I would have to say tremendous love towards Jesus in the Eucharist, Our Lady, the Holy Father (that is, the Church) and for the conversion of the poor sinners.
MO: Those are wonderful insights from the vice-postulator St Angela Coelho, the vice postulator for the shepherd children of Fatima, whose canonization miracle was just approved - the date is going to be set coming up on April 20th.
When we look for the evidence or proof of the sanctity of the two children, do we look at the memoirs of Sister Lucia? did the children themselves write down aspects of their life? How did they go through the process and how did you go through the process of learning about these children and their short lives and in fact knowing that they were saints?
AC: When they died with fame of sanctity, the diocese had to start the normal process of talking to witnesses and gathering testimonies about how they saw Jacinta and Francisco behave. So usually a process for canonization has two main parts: the concern over teh writings (what the person writes) and the testimonies of witnesses. In the case of Franciso and Jacinta, they did not write anything, so that part was out of the process but many witnesses were interviewed in the fifties and sixities. Among them were the parents of Francisco and Jacinta, their sisters and brothers and of course Lucia was the most important witness in the process. So to achieve the decree of veracity of virtue that was achieved in the late eighties and early nineties, there was a process like for any other saint. Some wirnesses were interviewed, and this was the most important source for information about their lives.
To (give) talks about their lives, to study their lives
, Sister Lucia's memoirs were very important but also the canonical process that took place in the diocese of Fatima is also a very important source of information.
MO: I know that in this cause Fr Luis Condor was your predecessor in the job; how did you become involed and become the vice postulator for these children?
AC: I knew Father Condor for many years; after the beatification in 2000 in Fatima we were neighbors practically 2 blocks away! He was sick and I helped him in the hospital becuase I worked in the hospital as a medical doctor so we became friends. Eventually of course we realized that in common we had this love for Francisco and Jacinta because in my religious community Allianza di Santa Maria (Alliance of Holy Mary in English) a community totally dedicated to the message of Fatima. So eventually after that first meeting, he asked me to go and read some of the letters with some of the potential miracles or graces, and so when he became sick in 2009, the bishop who is the author of the cause, the Bishop of Fatima, thought it would be a natural sequence for me to follow the job of Fr Luis Condor. So here I am...
MO: It must be an exciting thing having your own devotion to the shepherd children. On this show we talk a lot about miracles - maybe that's all we talk about - its so fasintating that in your job you have to find miracles that were worked through intercession of these two saints. (As criteria), we have to have a serious condition, not liable to go away on its own,it has to be an instantaneous, complete and permanent cure, and there can be no medical treatment that creates the cure. So it seems almost impossible to find a miracle that qualifies. Tell us about your experience difting through all these great miracle stories and favors that have streamed in - how do you find a true miracle?
AC: It is the most diffoicult part of my job if I can say this!
As a matter of fact I have presented two cases since 2009 to the Congregation of the Saints and they did not approve them. So this is how serious it was. One happened in the United States and it seems to be a tremendous grace still for the families who live the event. The doctors in the Congregation did not have all the conditions like you exactly said for this to be a miracle.
So I had to try - when this one arrived in my office July 2013 (more or less July or August 2013)
immediately I thought it could be a good potential case so I flew to the country to talk to the people and tried to ask the parents to recollect the medical report becuase only they have access. I also interviewed the doctors myself so I could set up my mind the way to follow in the best way that I could, the witnesses of the event - what happened - to be sure that only people that parents and those in the religious community and friends prayed to Blessed Jacinta and Francisco. The medical case is for the scientists; the intercession is up to the theologians. When these two comissions along with the ciomssions of the cardinals and the bishops are teh most important aspects. So I asked some of the doctors to make their opinion and they advised to wait a little bit ifreally it was a permanenet cure. So we waited three years - so when I asked again their opinion they said "ok - you can do it. It seems very optimistic." So last year I made an official inquiry in the diocese where the process took place . I collected the medical documents, the witnesses reports. I brought everything to Rome and started a process for putting everything in the famous Positio to give to the doctors and then to the theologians and then the cardinals and bishops. So it is a long working process.
MO: I am sure that it has to be so incredibly rewarding when we you finally hear that news that a miracle has in fact been investigated and validated as autentic and will lead to the canonization of these two young saints.
AC: I have to be honest with you that the best reward is that these twp shepherd children will finally be recognized by the entire Church. They are my best reward - of course it is great when you can see your work come to an end. But of course it is not up to me or becuase of me. the greatest joy I have is to see them to be known as saints in the entre Church. This is the greatest joy I can have.
MO: Regarding Sister Lucia - I get this question all the time - of course her cause is a separate issue. They are looking at her beatification looking at 15,000 documents and trying to find her own mracle. is there any update on that? Any news on how that is moving along?
AC: No. I am also involved with the process of Lucia - I am vice postulator for her cause too - but the process of Lucia - the diocesan phase - finished last February 13th. It was a process that took eighty years - I arrived at the cause two and half years ago. I was the last help for the group that was already working and working hard. Fiften thousand pages of the process is a lot so it os a totally indepemndent cause. She did not die as a little shepherd but as Sister Lucia the Carmelite nun. Now that the pages have arrived at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints , they need to find theologians to again transform the 15,000 pages in the positio to only have 500 to 1,000 pages.So can you see (the great amount of work) to tranform all those elements, all those documents into a document that can present the virtues that allow me to say that Lucia is in Heaven and she is a model for out Christian life. We are looking at those documents , how she lived life, a "Christoform" life, how she became like Christ. Because a saint is someone who became like Christ, somehow, in some aspects. That stage can take one or two years -then it is necessary to be again voted by theologians and only afterwards the decree of the veracity of virtues can she be declared venerable and only then we can start to introduce the process for the miracle that leads to beatification.
MO: That will be exciting when that comes to be as well. What can we turn to in these young children;how can they be a model for our own lives of faith in this 100th year anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima?
AC: First of all love God above all things and take time to be with Him in your prayer life. Without a prayer life, we get very confused about very important things in life, the essential things. Trust in the Blessed Mother, in Our Lady. Trust and imitate her - because true devotion to Our Lady is not just to bring flowers and light candles... it is to be like her also. And then to be compassionate in all the kinds of sufferings. And of course offer up the little daily things - offer to God, live with God and then nothing will be useless in your life.
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