Servant of God Maria Esperanza de Bianchini started having heavenly visions at the age of 5.
Born on November 22, 1928, in Barrancas, Venezuela, Maria de Bianchini was an answer to her parent’s prayers. They deeply desired to have a girl and prayed to the Blessed Mother that their humble request be fulfilled. In thanksgiving, her parents named their new daughter Maria Esperanza (“Mary Hope” in English).
Maria was especially interested in religion at an early age and at 5 years old experienced her first mystical experience. She saw a brief vision of St. Therese of Lisieux, who thew the child a red rose. It was surprising to her mother as roses did not grow in the area where Maria had the vision.
At 9 years old Maria received her first Holy Communion on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a feast spiritually connected to St. Therese and the Carmelite Order, and it marked another stage in Maria’s life. She now had a great desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as often as she possibly could and to deepen her relationship with God.
By 12 Maria had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, specifically the Virgin of the Valley, patroness of the Island of Margarita. The Virgin said to her simply, “Help me save this world that is going astray.” After that encounter Maria was also cured of an illness, bronchopneumonia.
Throughout her teenage years she had numerous mystical experiences and miraculous healings. Her deep desire for God naturally inspired her heart to long for the religious life.
For a time she lived with the Franciscan Sisters of Merida, but Maria experienced another vision of St. Therese of Lisieux on October 3, 1954. It is narrated on her website for canonization, “Again the Saint threw a rose to Maria Esperanza but when she caught it a thorn pinched her hand and it began to bleed. As this was taking place, Maria Esperanza heard the Sacred Heart of Jesus tell her, ‘Your mission shall not be becoming a nun; you will sanctify yourself in the world as a spouse and family mother spreading my message.'”
Our Lady visited her again on October 7 and October 12, prophesying, “You may prepare your heart to be a spiritual mother of souls, and so I may seal it as such forever. Besides, you shall be the mother of seven children: Six roses and a bud.”
Afterwards Maria was divinely inspired to go to Rome and met her future husband there. She married on December 8, 1956. Together they had seven children and lived for a time in Venezuela on a farm.
Then in 1978, Our Lady appeared again, reassuring her of Maria’s mission in the world, “Daughter, my presence among you is not a dream, it is real, obey and continue to be loyal to this Mother so that you may rejoice for all eternity! Your task is arduous … to hand on my message of love and reconciliation to all people and nations. You will suffer, but what joy and happiness it will be to see that you have been loyal to me, your Mother. I lead you by the hand.”
After this experience Maria was spiritually led to promote reconciliation and unity among all people. Our Lady told her what to say when people questioned her mission, “When you are asked what messages have been given to you, answer textually: Our Mother has come as Mary, Virgin and Mother, Reconciler of People and Nations, and her message is to commit oneself to a better service to the Catholic Church. And we, all Christians, have to do this service by reconciling ourselves more and more, since reconciliation brings forth human rights, social justice, renovation and charisma. And furthermore reconciliation posits truth, love, reparation and freedom of conscience, so we may live in accordance with the doctrine that Jesus Christ bequeathed us.”
Maria’s gifts for spiritual counseling were often compared with those of the renowned stigmatic St. Pio, and she was described by some as having “inherited Padre Pio’s mantle.”
Suffering from many health problems, Maria died on August 7, 2004, in the city of Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Her apparitions were first approved by the local bishop in 1987, while she was still alive, and then after death, the Diocese of Metuchen began the process for her canonization. She is currently known as a “Servant of God” and her miraculous life, filled with countless healings and apparitions, continues to be an inspiration.
See more in our series on the Saints of the United States.