Phoenix woman reports healing through Lebanese saint’s intercession
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the March 2016 edition of THE MARONITE VOICE. It has been republished with permission and edited to match CATHOLIC SUN style.
The Monday of Jan. 18, 2016 was not just your ordinary day in Phoenix. It is a day that will always be remembered as the day that Dafne Gutiérrez, a young blind Hispanic woman and mother of four children, got her vision restored to normal through the intercession of St. Sharbel.
Faith and confession is what Dafne Gutiérrez continues to repeat time and time again when asked about her healing.
“I was desperate when I walked into St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church,” Gutiérrez said. “I felt like God never heard me before, but this time was different, just different.”
Gutiérrez is not a member of the Maronite Rite and had never heard of St. Sharbel before, but she came with faith and prayed in front of the Relics of St. Sharbel, went to Confession and was blessed with the holy oil by Fr. Wissam Akiki, pastor of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Parish in Phoenix. Within four days, her vision was restored to normal with a completely normal eye examination.
Gutiérrez was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension in 2013. Despite aggressive medical and surgical treatment, her vision progressively declined, leaving her completely blind in both eyes. Surgical interventions including ventriculo-peritoneal shunts as well as lumbo-peritoneal shunts were performed in an attempt to lower the intracranial pressure in the brain and thus decrease damage to the optic nerves. Unfortunately, it did not work.
“After trying every medication, I had two surgeries to decrease the pressure in my brain that failed and now there is nothing else to do. They want to put me in a nursing home because they said I can’t take care of myself or my children.”
Gutiérrez states that her sister-in-law heard about the St. Sharbel’s relics coming to Phoenix, and it spurred interest because she heard that St. Sharbel cured a boy with blindness. On Saturday, Jan. 16, she entered St. Joseph, went to Confession, attended Divine Liturgy and was blessed with the holy oil that is still being secreted form the saint’s body. She returned the next day.
That evening she awoke at 4 a.m. with severe pain in her head, and her eyes were burning. When her husband turned on the lights, she said it hurt her eyes and at that point was able to see vague shadows. He told her, “It is impossible because you are not able to see.” He described an odor of burnt meat coming out of her nostrils.
That morning she called her ophthalmologist and she was evaluated the next day. Her exam showed that she was still legally blind with abnormal optic nerves. Two days later she saw a different ophthalmologist and her vision was a perfect 20/20 with completely normal optic nerves. Subsequently, she saw her original ophthalmologist one week later and her vision was documented to be normal with a completely normal exam — no medical explanation was given.
Gutiérrez immediately notified Fr. Wissam, as she was convinced that her healing occurred through the intercession of St. Sharbel in his church. At that point, Fr. Akiki consulted a group of physicians to investigate this occurrence. An extensive review of Gutiérrez’s medical records took place as well as repeat examinations.
“This is something we just don’t see,” said Dr. Anne Borik, a board certified internal medicine physician. “A long-standing damaged optic nerve causing blindness does not just all-of-a-sudden look normal in two days with complete restoration of vision.”
A medical committee assigned to investigate the incident reported that “After a thorough physical exam, extensive literature search and review of all medical records, we have no medical explanation and therefore believe this to be a miraculous healing through the intercession of St. Sharbel.”
Fr. Akiki has not stopped hearing Confessions and ministering to those in search of healing through the intercession of St. Sharbel.
“In the midst of hundreds of people, I remember saying to Dafne’s children, ‘Your mom will be able to see you again. Just have faith!’” recalled Fr. Akiki.
It has been over one month since Dafne Gutiérrez was healed through the intercession of St. Sharbel and her vision is still perfect!
As a gesture of Thanksgiving to God, Divine Liturgy and blessing with the holy oil of St. Sharbel took place on Feb. 18, 2016, celebrated by Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Los Angeles-based Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon.
Divine Liturgy and blessing with holy oil of St. Sharbel takes place at 7 p.m. on the 18th of every month at St. Joseph. In addition, the first Tuesday of every month will be dedicated to prayer and reflection on the Chaplet of St. Sharbel and Rosary at 7 p.m.
Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon Statement on The Healing of Dafne Gutiérrez
Just as there are many kinds of diseases, there are many kinds of healings. While the Lord Jesus cured many people of their physical and mental diseases, He also cured them of spiritual disease, thus bringing about a full healing.
As a bishop of the Church it is not within my competency to determine a physical or medical cure; the Church relies upon the expertise and skills of the medical professionals to judge that. Although miraculous instantaneous cures are rare, they are not unknown, and we should always be open to this possibility. As human beings, we are always amazed by the physical healing granted to people who have been under pain and suffering caused by certain diseases. We look at the case of Dafne Gutiérrez and we thank God for the gift of healing she received at the occasion of the visit of the Relics of St. Sharbel, the Maronite saint from Lebanon who spent 23 years of his life in a hermitage. During the visit of the Relics of St. Sharbel to St. Joseph Church from Jan. 15-17, 2016, she came and prayed asking St. Sharbel to cure her.
The other type of healing, spiritual healing, can help people in many different ways — sometimes in unexpected ways. A physical healing may completely cure someone — or may not — but it may also bring about a healing of the condition of the soul. We are able to judge spiritual healing by the fruit of that healing — by what we observe as a result. Jesus tells us “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16). When the Spirit of God acts among us and brings about spiritual healing, the word of the Lord grows “mightily” (to paraphrase a passage in Acts 19:20). It is always our wish to ask for spiritual healing as we petition the Lord for our physical healing and material needs.
The “end product” of spiritual healing is an increase in the virtues of faith, hope and love (caritas) in people. Such growth in these virtues can be seen in an increase in the intensity of our prayer life, in our more frequent reception of the sacraments — especially of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, resulting in our reconciliation with God and our neighbor. Thus, we will be living our faith, witnessing the love of God in the darkness of our world.
St. Sharbel is well known for his intercessory prayer on behalf of the many people afflicted with various diseases. So many cases of healing have been attributed to the intercession of St. Sharbel. What is evident at this time is that Dafne Gutiérrez has regained her sight. We raise a prayer of thanksgiving to our loving and merciful God for His providence and graces. May this healing of the sight of Dafne be an inspiration for all of us to seek the spiritual sight, in order to recognize the will of God in our lives and to act accordingly. Let us all together follow the example of St. Sharbel in living our life as a pleasing offering to the Almighty God.
+ Bishop A. Elias Zaidan
Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles
— By Dr. Anne Borik, The Maronite Voice. This article is republished with permission from The Maronite Voice, the joint publication for the Los Angeles-based Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon and the Brooklyn-based Maronite Catholic Eparchy of St. Maron. It originally ran in that publication’s March 2016 issue.