Pope Francis canonized five new saints on October 13. Perhaps the most well-known is a 19th century British theologian by the name of Cardinal John Henry Newman. But what isn’t so well known is a special miracle that led to his sainthood.
That miracle not only saved one little girl – still thriving today – but also her mother. Melissa Villalobos of Chicago first encountered Newman by accident on an EWTN show.
“I thought, ‘This man is so amazing,’” the 42-year-old Catholic revealed to Catholic News Agency.
Her relationship with the saint grew in 2011, she told Chicago Catholic, when “my husband brought home a couple of holy cards with Cardinal Newman’s picture.”
“I would pass his picture in the house and I would say little prayers to him for whatever our family’s needs were at the time — the children, my husband, myself,” she added. “I really started to develop a very constant dialogue with him.”
Two years later, in 2013, that dialogue became a plea. Pregnant, and with four other young children to look after, Villalobos ran into complications during the first trimester.
“I was losing a lot of blood,” she said, because “the placenta had become partially detached from the uterine wall, so there was a hole in the placenta and that hole was allowing blood to escape.”
She discovered she suffered from a subchorionic hematoma, or a blood clot in the outer fetal membrane, that was two and a half times the size of her baby.
The doctor could only prescribe bed rest, in an attempt to avoid miscarriage.
“There was no medicine or procedure we could do,” she recalled. “I was definitely nervous about even a sneeze coming out of the blue, which could end the pregnancy and the life of my unborn child.”
After more blood loss than usual led to an emergency room visit, Villalobos was placed on strict bed rest.
“This news, of course, was given to us with a heavy heart because the doctor knew I had four children, my husband had to work and the thought that I could lay in bed from May 10 to Jan. 1 and do virtually nothing was not possible,” she said.
Things got worse when her husband, David, left for a business trip in Atlanta. That day, she said, “I woke up in bed in a pool of blood.”
She thought about calling 911, but she was worried about what would happen to her other children. So, instead, she managed to make them a quick breakfast and instructed them not to leave their chairs – not for anything.
This was for two reasons: “My fear was that they would get out of their seats and get hurt” or that they would “see me bleeding so profusely and I didn’t want to traumatize them,” she said.
She left them to walk upstairs into her bedroom’s bathroom.
“The bleeding was really bad because I had just gone up the stairs, which I really shouldn’t have done,” she said. “I kind of collapsed on the bathroom floor out of weakness and desperation.”
That’s when she hoped her children would leave their chairs – so she could ask them for her phone to dial 911. Her worries then hit a climax: She worried about her children downstairs, her unborn baby’s life, and, even, her own life.
That’s when she called out to the saint.
“I said, ‘Please, Cardinal Newman, make the bleeding stop,’” she repeated the exact words. “Just then, as soon as I finished the sentence, the bleeding stopped.”
As she thanked the saint, the scent of roses wafted through the room.
“Then the smell stopped and I said rhetorically, ‘Cardinal Newman, did you just make those roses?’ …And then there was a second burst of roses … I knew it was him.”
She went downstairs only to find her children still seated.
“I thought to myself in that moment, ‘Oh my goodness! My baby is OK. I’m OK. My four children are OK. We’re all OK.” she said, before smelling roses for a third time.
That same day, she found out she was cured during an ultrasound. According to the doctor, everything was “perfect.” The placenta hole had disappeared.
Two days after Christmas, her healthy baby girl was born. Today, little Gemma is a beautiful five year old. While Gemma doesn’t know her full story yet, Villalobos told the National Catholic Register that she had recently asked her mom, “What does ‘cured’ mean?”
Perhaps, when the time comes to tell her, Villalobos might respond, “It means you.”