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Trail of Tears: A Relic Like No Other Visits the Vatican

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Reliquary containing tears of weeping Madonna goes to St. Peter's for a prayer vigil "to dry tears"

How does one live in a house where an image of Our Lady has wept human tears?

The miracle happened at the end of August, 1953, and was quickly recognized by the Church. It occurred in Syracuse, Sicily, in the home of a young married couples, Angelo Iannuso and Antonina Giusto, who were awaiting the birth of their first child.

On Aug. 29, 30 and 31 and still on Sept. 1, a plaque of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, originally hanging at the head of their bed, wept “human tears,” according to scientific analysis.

Angelo and Antonina went on to have four children, two boys and two girls. The second of the four, Enzo, “opened” for us the doors of his home.

“When Mary chose to cry in our family, it is because she loves the family. Her message should be taken within the family,” he said.

“Sometimes, Mom would show us the cloths she used to dry the tears that came from the image,” he continued.

A spontaneous gesture, typical of a mom.

Today, some of these cloths are contained in a reliquary, together with the remains of the tears from the plaque.

On Thursday the reliquary of the tears of Syracuse will be in St. Peter’s for a prayer vigil “to dry tears,” desired by Pope Francis in this Jubilee of Mercy. The Pope will give an address during the event, which, according to the Vatican, is meant to be a sign of the merciful hand of the Father, stretched out to dry the tears of the mother or father who has lost a child, the son or daughter who has lost a parent, those who are ill, those without work … all those who are enduring any of the multiple forms of suffering which touch our lives.

Comfort the afflicted, one of the seven spiritual works of mercy, is the heart of this great jubilee event that is open to all, but especially to those who have a need of support, strength and consolation.

Atmosphere of serenity

In Syracuse, the rooms of No. 11 of Via degli Orti di S. Giorgio, where Enzo’s parents lived together with his paternal uncle, have become an oratory, a place of pilgrimage and prayer. In one of the rooms, their bed is still conserved. In the bedroom where they slept, where the miracle occurred, there is now an altar and Mass is celebrated there daily.

To return to these family spots is for Enzo a reason to give thanks. “It seems almost impossible to have been involved in something like this, but that’s the way it is, and thus one feels a sentiment of serenity and of gratitude.”

“We didn’t deserve that this would happen to us; there’s nothing to brag about. We had the gift of having been instruments, and as such, after having been used, we can be left aside.”

Sometimes, Antonina would tell her children what had happened that Saturday morning, when she realized that tears were coming from the Virgin’s face.

She had few words, because “more than anything, it was an atmosphere that one could breathe in the house. An atmosphere of serenity. There wasn’t an absence of problems, like in every family, but one could breathe in the serenity,” Enzo reflected.

Enzo, today a sailor, moved from Syracuse to Puglia. He’s married and has three children. “I’ve had a busy life, but this has not kept me from living and embracing my decision to be a father and a husband,” he explains.

Enzo and his wife, he says, live a “normal life, like any couple, with moments of sorrow and joy, with sacrifices. But when one has lived a joy like that, everything can be faced with serenity.”

To live well, he adds, “one has to get up each day and decide to begin again. We have the Father and the Virgin close by. They only ask us to have a little bit of trust.”

And since as a boy he breathed in the faith and serenity of his parents, so his children have lived immersed in this same atmosphere.

“It isn’t by telling a story that one transmits the faith, but by living it. It is a richness that you have and that you share naturally.”

When the reliquary with the tears of the Virgin comes to Puglia, he goes, “as if my mother were coming. I go to see her.”

[The translation of the Pope’s address from the prayer vigil will be available later today.]

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