“I saw God very close … right here,” Cristina’s father, Pepe Moreno, told me, placing his hand a yard away from his body. He and his wife, Maite Alonso, never doubted that God would heal their daughter, for whom the doctors held no hope. Their faith was unshakable: their daughter would be cured, despite the doctors’ prognosis, because “in addition to the doctors, we have God,” they both thought.
Pepe Moreno is originally from Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain, where his mother and relatives live, but Pepe and his family now live in Vilanova del Vallès, about 16 miles north of Barcelona.
Cristina, Pepe and Maite’s daughter, was 19 years old in January 2021. She had finished her first year of studies to be a teacher, but decided she wanted to work in the performing arts. She enrolled in a prestigious performing arts academy, the ESAEM (Escuela Superior de Artes Escénicas de Málaga), created and directed by the famous actor Antonio Banderas, who is also from Malaga. Cristina lived with her grandmother.
On January 14, 2021, Cristina was leaving ESAEM and went to catch the bus to go to her grandmother’s house. She doesn’t know exactly how it happened—maybe she walked out from behind the bus—but a car struck her at full speed. It was a fatal moment, a split second: the vehicle hit Cristina’s body with such force that it threw her nearly 50 feet. Cristina remembers nothing more. She went into a coma that lasted several weeks.
In a deep coma
As Providence would have it, a doctor from the ICU was passing by at the time of the accident. She’d gone to pick up her own son, who was a classmate of Cristina’s. The doctor gave Cristina first aid until the arrival of the ambulance that took her to the Regional University Hospital of Malaga. Cristina suffered polytrauma and was in a deep coma.
The world was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital had set up a large ICU for the numerous COVID patients who were arriving every day. When Cristina arrived, immobile and seemingly fated to die, she was able to occupy the only bed that remained free for non-COVID patients.
Cristina’s parents, Pepe and Maite, found a priest—the hospital chaplain, Fr. Ramon Burgueño—who administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He said to Pepe, “Entrust Cristina to Blessed Álvaro del Portillo. Do you know him?” Pepe asked, in reply, “Are you from Opus Dei?” The priest answered, “No, but I received a great favor thanks to his intercession.”
From that moment on, many people from all over Spain and other countries began to pray for Cristina. “It spread like an oil stain,” says Pepe. Messages arrived from everywhere, while he was giving information about Cristina’s progress: “Now she’s moved an arm, now she’s moved her fingers, now she can move her legs a little, now she’s opened her eyes, but she doesn’t speak …” etc.
They entrusted themselves to Our Lady of Joy. At home they have a little white figurine (in the photo) with a sculpture of the Infant Jesus, absolutely trusting and happy in the arms of his Mother.
Cristina’s parents say that they never felt alone at any time, in spite of the long days and long nights spent with Cristina … days and nights without sleep.
The curious thing about the case, say the parents, “is that Cristina couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk, couldn’t hear, couldn’t eat, and only moved one arm, but yes, when we prayed she answered the prayers instinctively. That encouraged us a lot.” She had lost all her five senses, which she has now recovered.
And what does Cristina say?
Cristina eventually came out of the coma and is making progress towards complete recovery. We spoke with her — a lively, determined young woman, and a fighter.
“So, Cristina, what do you think about what has happened to you?” I ask.
“I ask myself why this has happened to me,” she says. “Why have two years of my life been taken away from me? I don’t understand.”
I told her to ask the Holy Spirit, like the blind man in Jericho: “Lord, let me see!” After all, understanding is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Cristina was raised in a Catholic family, in a Catholic school, but wasn’t practicing her religion. “I was a non-practicing girl. When I was with my parents I went to Mass on Sundays to please them.”
“I need to help others.”
“Since the accident, I’ve returned to religious practice. I know that there are many people who have prayed so much for me, who love me. That’s why I see that I need to help others.”
I ask how she plans to do that. “Now I’ve returned to my teaching studies, I want to specialize in Special Education, to take care of the most needy, both physically and mentally,” she says.
Cristina speaks with confidence and a firm tone, looking me in the eyes. She doesn’t want to give up the performing arts or singing completely … but now it’s not her priority. “Besides,” she adds, “I would like to get married and have seven children …”
Cristina speaks with confidence of a 20-year-old. She has lots of dreams; she’s happy and always smiling. The smile of this determined and affectionate girl has stayed with me.