When Dafne Gutierrez, a 30-year-old blind mother of three, stood in front of a priest for a blessing, she felt there was someone standing on her right. Her family told her later that the priest was standing on her left side.
“There was somebody [on the right] touching me,” she told her sister-in-law, who responded, “But there was nobody close to you.”
“And ever since then I was feeling my body differently,” Gutierrez said in an interview Monday.
She was at St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Phoenix on a Saturday in mid-January for the visit of the relics of the St. Charbel Makhlouf, which were being brought around to many of the 36 Maronite parishes in the United States. Over the next couple of days her husband noticed something unusual about her. He asked her what the matter was. “You seem different,” he said.
Before dawn on Monday morning, she complained to him that it felt like her eyes were burning. Her husband noticed a smell in the room that resembled meat burning.
She tried opening her eyes. “I couldn’t see clearly, but I could see like shadows. I told him, ‘I can see you,’” she recalled.
Gutierrez had lived with Arnold Chiari malformation since she was 13. Two years ago she lost vision in her left eye, and then in her right eye last year. Doctors inserted a shunt to try to relieve the pressure, but that failed. Her headaches were “vise-like,” and she was afflicted with tinnitus, vomiting, dizziness and seizures. She was approved to go to a rehab/nursing facility because she couldn’t care for her children.
Her sister-in-law heard that the relics were coming and that St. Charbel had healed a blind boy in Mexico. Gutierrez is neither Maronite nor Lebanese, but as a woman of faith she prayed for the saint’s intercession. He’s had a great track record of healing, even after his death in 1898.
Not only was her vision restored, it was restored to 20/20, said Dr. Anne Borik, one of several physicians to examine Gutierrez. “The pressure in her brain got to the point where it caused damage to the optic nerve. After this happened, the optic nerve looked completely normal, with no signs of damage or atrophy,” she said in an interview “There’s nothing in the medical literature that anything like this had ever happened.”
She said that 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.” According to the medical committee of which she was a member, she said, “We have no medical explanation and therefore believe this to be a miraculous healing through the intercession of St. Charbel.”
“God gave me my vision back for a reason,” Gutierrez said. “I want to be able to help others. I give testimony wherever I can because it’s important for people to know that God does exist and he does hear us. I tell people, ‘Don’t lose the faith. And the most important of all is confession, which brings you healing.’”John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.