Father of girl reportedly cured of blindness says it was ‘a gift of the Virgin to WYD’

Our Lady of Fatima statue in Lisbon Portugal May 9 2017 Credit Daniel Ibanez 1 CNA Daniel Ibanez / CNA.

The father of Jimena, the 16-year-old Spanish World Youth Day pilgrim who reported she recovered her sight during a Mass in Fátima, provided ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the details of what he described as “a leap in faith” and a “gift from the Virgin Mary for WYD.”

On Saturday, Aug. 5, in Fátima, Portugal, Jimena said she was cured of a serious eye problem — which the doctors called incurable — after completing a novena to Our Lady of the Snows and receiving holy Communion at a Mass.

‘I felt something special’

Her father, who says he was always “holding on to the conviction that she was going to be cured,” described what Jimena’s first call home was after what had happened.

“We practically didn’t speak, she was crying; she just told us, ‘I see, I see.’ Then the priest called us who had celebrated the Mass to give us a few more details. It’s an incredible joy,” he said.

“She went to confession before going to Mass. She was very excited, she felt something special. She then went to receive Communion,” he said. “Afterward she was afraid to open her eyes because she thought, ‘If I don’t get cured, it’s because I don’t have faith.’ And she opened them up and began to see everything. Then she … started crying and realized that her friends were two and a half years older [than when she saw them last],” her father recounted, still quite emotional.

A ‘Way of the Cross’ looking for doctors

For two and a half years, Jimena has suffered from an “accommodation spasm,” a malfunction in the way the eyes focus. Normally, such a condition would measure about two diopters (the unit used for an eye prescription).

“In Jimena’s case,” her father explained, “it ranged from eight to 16 diopters at the worst moments. So, it didn’t allow her to see, not with glasses nor in any way.”

“Let’s say that her ‘eye was crazy,’ so if they measured that she was at eight diopters and they put glasses on her, she couldn’t see, because she couldn’t focus. The convergence [coordination] of her eyes didn’t work for her, it was something that the doctors themselves considered inexplicable.”

For just over a year they tried a “very cutting-edge treatment in Japan” with the hope of obtaining results. However, there was no progress. “It didn’t work for Jimena and it produced terrible side effects because she felt bad, had nausea, headaches, and couldn’t study.”

“The medical team,” the girl’s father continued, said that they had run out of options and “they didn’t know what else to do.”

It was Jimena who asked her parents to stop the medication, and so they decided to look for other alternatives so as not to just sit by and do nothing.

“We went through a small ‘Via Crucis’ [Way of the Cross] from doctors who were recommended to us. No one understood what was happening to her. Some were kind and others were very rude,” he lamented.

‘There was a supernatural component’

“But we also saw that there was a component that wasn’t normal, a supernatural component,” Jimena’s father told ACI Prensa.

He explained that one day they had an appointment for an operation on Jimena “to fix the eye convergence issue with a procedure in the operating room, and we didn’t quite see that, we weren’t convinced that this was what we had to do.”

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“She prayed a lot to the Virgin that night and the next day the eye convergence was cured. And the doctor himself saw it and then said, ‘This is pretty amazing.’ It can happen, but well, he was pretty amazed. And for a doctor to be amazed, it already has to be something extraordinary,” the father related.

For the young woman’s family, what happened “also gave us clues that we could take a leap of faith and somehow trust the Virgin and leave ourselves in her hands without, logically, abandoning our responsibility.”

A novena that really took off

In the days prior to WYD, during a walk along the Rincón de la Victoria beach in Málaga (Spain) on their way to visit an image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel found among the rocks, father and daughter decided to completely abandon themselves to the Virgin.

“Walking along the beach we started talking. I told her that at some moments in her life she had had ‘inspirations,’” referring to the faith and trust that the young woman had placed in providence throughout her illness.

It was after that conversation that they both decided to “get in gear and get the whole world praying.” 

“And that’s what happened. She told us that she believed that we had to pray and make a novena to Our Lady of the Snows from July 28 to Aug. 5, and we got moving on it with everyone else. She was leaving for Lisbon the same day, the 28th.”

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Jimena’s father said that “thousands of people” participated in the novena, which really took off, he said. “Just the girls who went with her numbered almost 400 and most of those who were there didn’t know her. And now for them it was like the miracle of WYD.”

Vacation time this August was going to be definitive for the young woman. “We had hoped that in the summer, if we had any kind of a sign, if we had any kind of indication, we were going to be turned upside down.”

“September for Jimena was [to be] a new world, because she had to start going around with a cane and training a guide dog, she also had to consider which university degrees she could do and which ones she couldn’t,” he explained.

Jimena’s father explained that, in addition, they would have had to look for new doctors, “and every time she goes to a doctor it’s a mis-treatment, because they do all kinds of tests again, because they don’t understand anything and then she ends up devastated.”

In addition, they were working with ONCE (Spanish National Organization for the Blind), “and we realized that it’s a wonderful place.” However, he admitted, “we were always holding on to the conviction that there was going to be a solution.”

‘A girl always concerned about the people around her’

Jimena’s father’s voice cracked with emotion when trying to describe his daughter and said for him she is undoubtedly “a special girl.”

“She is very emotional, she is a very sensitive girl and very close to her girlfriends, always very concerned about the people around her and with an awareness of that, of that friendship that she has with that group of girlfriends that they have been with practically since they were little,” he said.

The father said that she is also “an inveterate reader,” something that she has had to sacrifice for two and a half years, “because there are not as many novels in Braille as one might think.”

“Now it will be a great gift for her to be able to take up ‘Moby Dick,’ the novel she was reading when she lost her sight. This morning we talked to her and she told us that she is reading the signs on the façades and in the streets of Lisbon because it seems to her that it is a gift for her to be able to read again. She doesn’t care that they are things that don’t have any importance, she thinks it’s a miracle to be able to read them.”

Illness as a ‘vehicle for purification’

During the last couple of years in which Jimena’s illness was getting worse, her family felt the need to “not lose our sense of humor, laugh at every situation to be able to live with it.”

“Even laughing at situations with Jimena because she couldn’t see and bringing out the funniest side of the terrible things that can happen to you in life, because otherwise you’re focused all the time on your own misfortune and life is very hard.”

He noted that “things never happen suddenly” and that illness “is a vehicle for other people to purify themselves or to be better around the patient.” 

The father also said that Jimena was able to meet one of her three brothers at the WYD Vigil a few hours after having recovered her sight.

‘A gift from the Virgin for WYD’

For the father of the girl from Madrid, “the beauty of this is that each one gets out of it his own testimony, his own experience, which has been very special and everyone is very moved.”

“I think that part of the beauty of a miracle is that it is not exclusive to one person or one family but rather that it is as big as possible. And in this sense, it has also gone beyond us. It has already crossed borders,” he remarked.

In addition, he expressed their intention to not be the center of attention, since “the focus has to be on WYD, since I believe that this is a gift from the Virgin for WYD.”

‘We don’t need any confirmation’

“We don’t need any confirmation. We are going to meet again with the medical team that has been treating her for the past year, more to close that episode a bit so that they can see her and draw their own conclusions,” he explained.

The father pointed out that “since it was a novena to the Virgin and there is no cause for beatification,” they don’t need to confirm that it is truly a miracle.

“I think that people are already sufficiently moved, those who believe, believe, and those who don’t, well they won’t believe anyway,” he emphasized.

The father explained that “when you take a leap in faith, you don’t look back, you only look forward.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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