The joy of a Phoenix parish is spreading along with the news of 30-year-old parishioner Dafne's Gutierrez's complete cure of blindness.
The reported miracle of the wife and mother of three is bringing people from around the country to visit St. Joseph Maronite Catholic church in Phoenix, Arizona.
When she was just 13 years old in 1999, Dafne was officially diagnosed with the medical condition, idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). One effect of this condition can be another condition called papilledema, where the pressure in the brain is greatly increased. This pressure affects the optic nerves, which in some cases such as Dafne's eventually results in complete blindness.
The various medications and treatments which were tried for Dafne all failed. In 2014 the eyesight in her left eye deteriorated dramatically. Her physicians tried two separate surgeries, installing different types of shunts in an attempt to drain and reduce the pressure in her brain, but these too failed, leading to complete blindness in her left eye. Meanwhile the sight in her right eye was also deteriorating, and she was declared legally blind. She was soon in total darkness, saying in 2015 that she could look directly at the sun and not see any light whatsoever. She also experienced "vise-like" headaches, seizures, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vomiting, and dizziness. Her doctors declared her blindness to be "permanent and medically irreversible."
Dafne's blindness left her unable to care for her three young children, which completely broke the young mothers heart. On January 7, 2016, "so as to not be an additional burden on her family", she was approved for admittance to a nursing home, because "she could not take care of herself or her children, due to her blindness and seizures", and was scheduled o be admitted soon. "What hurt me the most was not being able to see my children again," she said.
Around the same time last January 2016, Dafne heard a Spanish radio news report that the first class relics of St. Charbel (or Sharbel) Makhlouf were on a pilgrimage honoring the Lebanese saint's 50th beatification anniversary, and were going to be coming to a nearby church — St Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Phoenix — for the weekend of Jan. 16-17.
Neither Dafne or her family had ever heard of this saint. Yet interestingly, later that same day Dafne's sister-in-law called and told her she'd seen an announcement about the visit of the relics, and suggested Dafne and her husband go with her. So the blind mother of three was taken to visit the bone relics of miracle worker St. Charbel during a special veneration and healing service at St. Joseph Church.
Dafne prayed on the way to the church. "Please God heal me — if not for me, then do it for my kids! I'm tiredI'm tired of going to You praying and asking You to heal me...I am giving in. If You don't want to do it for me, then do it for my kids. That is the way I went in [to the Church] I'm giving in to You. Do it for my kids"
Once at the Church she prayed to God, and then to St. Charbel: "I don't know who you are, but please help me."
After Mass celebrated by parish priest Fr. Wissam Akiki, and the veneration of St. Charbel's relics, her sister-in-law helped her to the confessional. Fr. Akiki was told about her blindness and blessed her with holy oil touched to the first-class relic of St. Charbel, praying specifically for her to be cured. "I put my hand on her head, then on both eyes, and I asked God to heal her through the intercession of St. Charbel.” Fr. Wissam told her that he would be praying for her and that he believed her vision would be restored. Dafne said she "felt very strongly that someone was standing next to me on my right side." Afterwards the priest said to Dafne's daughter: "Don't worry, your mom will see again."
After the prayers and blessing with the relic, Dafne asked her sister-in-law, "Who was that standing next to me, on my right side?" Her sister-in-law said, "There was no one standing next to you other than Fr. Akiki." To this day, Dafne is not sure who was standing next to her at that moment, but is sure "someone" was there.
"From that moment" Dafne's stated "I started to feel different. I can't explain it but my body felt different". The next day, Sunday January 17th, 2016, she again went to St. Joseph Church for the 3:00 p.m. Mass and to once again venerate the relic of St. Charbel.
That same Sunday evening at 4:00 a.m. she suddenly awoke with her eyes burning. "They were like burning — really burning," and her head hurt "like after an operation." She woke her husband up exclaiming that her eyes were burning. He asked how that was possible since she had no sensation in her eyes. He then put his hands on her eyes and noticed they felt hot and he said, "They are vibrating and moving" and he also noticed a strong smell like "burning meat". Dafne then realized that she could actually see her husband very vaguely — like a shadow. She shouted, "I can see you! I can see you with both of my eyes! I started crying... I wiped my eyes and then opened them again to see if I really could see, and I could."
"I could not believe it. I did not want to close my eyes,” she stated afterwards in an interview. “My children were shouting: ‘Mom can see! God healed mom!’”
Within 48 hours (precisely three days after her weekend visit to venerate the relics) her sight was completely restored to 20/20 vision. The remarkable and sudden healing was confirmed that day by an ophthalmologist, and later by several other physicians.
In a statement, Doctor Anne Borik, D.O. stated:
Medically speaking, what is interesting — and what captured my interest in this [case] — is that you don't see resolution of vision in 48 hours from a long standing optic nerve problem such as Dafne had. My job as a medical physician is to try to find out how this happened medically. We discussed this case with a neuro-ophthalmologist, and also an outside consultant reviewed the entire case, and basically there is no [medical] explanation how Dafne Gutierrez's vision was one day completely blind, and then 48 hours later was restored to normal ... And so based on this information, we as a medical community in reviewing this case cannot explain this medically.
At the very least, the physicians felt that even if she had regained some of her eyesight, there should have been some permanent damage and vision loss in at least her left eye, for that eye had been affected for two years. It is expected that there should be at least some optic nerve damage, and that there is simply no medical explanation for a complete restoration of 20/20 vision in both eyes.
"Faith and confession" is what Dafne Gutierrez continues to repeat time and time again when asked about her healing. "I was desperate when I walked into St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church. I felt like God never heard me before, but this time was different, just different. For me to be able to see and read the papers [medical reports] that say that I would never be able to see again... It is such a blessing!"
Exactly one month after Dafne's sight was restored, a special Mass of thanksgiving and blessing with the holy oil of St. Charbel took place at St. Joseph Church on February 18, 2016, and was presided by Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan, Maronite Catholic bishop of Los Angeles, California.
Daffne spoke to the crowd who had gathered to give thanks to God for her healing through the intercession of St. Charbel: "All the doctors have said: 'There is no explanation'.....God healed me."
In an interview on YouTube, she encouraged everyone: "I just want to keep on telling everybody; Don't lose faith. God does exist. Just have faith ... [go to] confession. Don't lose hope."
Sr Charbel Makhlouf (1828-1898) was a Maronite Catholic monk from Lebanon who died on Christmas Eve at age 73. He spent the last 23 years of his life in a rugged cabin in complete solitude, with poor heat and the bare necessities of life, and was known for his practice of penance and mortifications, eating very little and sleeping on the ground.
Three days after his death he was buried in the monastery cemetery, and for the next 45 nights his tomb was surrounded by a dazzlingly bright light. As the days passed this phenomenon was witnessed by an increasingly large number of local villagers who informed the religious Maronite monastery, none of whom could provide an explanation. Permission was sought from the ecclesiastical authorities for the monk’s body to be exhumed. Four months after his death permission was obtained, and upon the exhumation his body was found to be completely incorrupt, even though he had been buried in the ground without a casket. Charbel was given fresh clothing before being placed in a wooden coffin in a corner of the monastery’s private chapel.
Soon a strange liquid was found exuding continually from the casket, coming from the pores of his body. Described as a mixture of fluid and blood, it continually flowed from his remains day and night. Soon, a local custom began where pieces of cloth soaked in this fluid were soon being distributed as relics, and were being credited with effecting cures. To this day this custom of "holy oil" touched to the relics of St. Charbel used as a blessing is still a very common practice of the faithful, as was used in Dafne's healing.