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Home / About Us / Oblates of St. Francis de Sales / Fr. Brisson's Beatification Miracle

Fr. Brisson's Beatification Miracle

On July 17, 1953, in Alausí, Ecuador, an 8 year-old boy, named Carlos “Carlitos” Peñaherrera had his right foot crushed by the wheel of a tractor which accidentally fell on it. The wheel was upright and detached from the tractor, and Carlos didn’t get out of the way fast enough to escape injury. The accident occurred outside the place where his father worked. Hearing the commotion, he rushed out outside, saw his son writhing in pain on the ground with his right foot smashed and bloody around the toes. He carried his son to the hospital in the town, which wasn’t much more than a dispensary. The doctor examined it and cleaned it, but said that he didn’t have what he needed to treat the foot as he should and told the family to take Carlos to the hospital in Riobamba, the capital of the province. The accident happened at about 5:00 PM. He gave Carlos something to deaden the pain and sent him home. As it was already night, it was too late to descend the mountain to reach Riobamba, and Carlos spent the night at home. The medicine wore off, and he was in great pain during most of the night.

The next day, June 18th, between 9:00 AM and 9:30 AM, his aunt went to tell the Sisters what had happened. She explained that Carlitos might lose his right foot, if an infection were to set in. The doctor had cleaned the foot, coated it with antiseptic, removed some of the bone splinters that were visible, and bandaged each toe separately, then he wrapped the whole foot on a sort of splint to immobilize it, for the splintering of the bones made it possible to turn the toes in any direction, so it seemed. He lacked the facilities to take an x-ray and to operate. Sister Marguerite-Thérèse, the Mistress of Novices at the Novitiate, then located in Alausí, asked the aunt whether she thought the family would appreciate their visit and whether they would agree to make a novena to our Good Father to obtain Carlitos’s cure. The aunt thought that they would.

Sister Marguerite-Thérèse left with Sister Lucia-Margarita, a Novice, who carried a relic of our Good Father and a holy card with the prayer for his Cause of Beatification. The two arrived at the house, where the family lived, and were welcomed by Carlitos’ mother; his father was there as well. They had not as yet gone to Riobamba. The Sisters heard the account of the accident, the results of the doctor’s treatment and his concerns again from the two parents. They saw Carlitos and saw that he was evidently in great pain. They proposed to make a novena to our Good Father for his cure. The family was impressed as Sister Marguerite-Thérèse told them about Father Brisson, who he was, what he had done while he was alive to heal those who suffered. His goodness and her own enthusiastic faith impressed them, and they agreed to make an urgent novena then and there. After reciting the novena prayer nine times in succession, Sister Marguerite-Thérèse added an Our Father and a spontaneous prayer that our Good Father would help them to have faith and God would reward that faith through our Good Father’s intercession with the desired cure. Then she and Sister Lucia-Margarita placed the relic on the bandaged foot and the holy card as well. The Sisters promised to continue the novena continuously, and Sister Marguerite-Thérèse was careful to insist that they invoke no one else, no other saints, and that no one take the relic off the foot. Mr. Peñaherrera, impressed by what he had heard of Father Brisson’s goodness, assured her that they would only pray to the “Good Father” and that he, himself, would make sure that no one disturbed the relic except the doctor. The Sisters left, and Carlitos and his parents went to Riobamba.

At the hospital in Riobamba, an x-ray was taken, that showed that the bones in the toes were shattered and in splinters; some of the metatarsals were fractured, but apparently the fractures were not complete, so that the bones were not separated and would not have to be set to heal, only to be immobilized. It was decided to remove the bone splinters from the toes surgically with Carlitos under a total anesthesia. This was done on either the 18th or the 19th. The doctor at the hospital in Riobamba then sent Carlitos home to recuperate the next day. The Sisters were kept abreast of all that had transpired by his aunt.

They went to visit Carlitos at his home and found him very much improved; he was in bed, apparently not in pain and busy playing a game. He told them that he no longer had the great pain that he had had the day he was injured and then treated in Alausí. On the 21st of June, the family went to Guayaquil for a consultation with a specialist, I think an orthopedic specialist, with a referral from the hospital of Riobamba. When the specialist examined the foot, he was surprised to see that the healing was already well-advanced, although the operation had been done only two or three days ago. He took x-rays and was apparently quite amazed, so much so that he had them sent to Boston for a consultation. The big toe of Carlitos’ right foot was like a sponge and could be turned in any direction, and most of the bone matter in the others had been splintered and had had to be removed. The specialist did not see how the boy would be able to walk normally… He wanted to see Carlitos again after the foot was more completely “healed”, so to speak, to decide what should then be done. The family returned to Alausí.

When the Sisters were on their way to see them after their return from Guayaquil, they saw a boy running after one of his classmates at the far end of the plaza. They stopped, amazed at his speed; they were even more amazed when they recognized the boy as Carlitos, and he was running at top speed on June 22nd, only five days after the accident, with no difficulty at all! Needless to say the family was ecstatic, and Sister Margeurite-Thérèse and Sister Lucia-Margarita with them!
Sister Marguerite-Thérèse wrote to Mother Jeanne de Sales Cussac to tell her of what had transpired; she received the instructions to collect all the testimonies of those involved: Carlitos, his parents, his aunt, the eyewitnesses to his accident, the doctors who saw and treated him, Sister Lucia-Margarita, and, of course, her own deposition. She did that, and the family even requested the district judge to be present and to certify their accounts as being given before him, which he did. It’s not clear whether or not those testimonies were given under oath.

Time passed and our Good Father’s Cause made no progress for two main reasons: the attention given to our Venerated Mother’s Cause (St. Leonie Aviat), which was less controversial and less involved, and the fact that not as yet having been declared “Venerable”, his Cause had to be re-introduced or validated … in order to continue once the new norms set up by Pope John Paul II entered into effect.

However, in 1981, as Divine Providence would have it, a Franciscan who worked at the Vatican in the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints was in Ecuador on business; he was a personal friend of the Bishop of Guayaquil. Somehow he became aware of the history of this cure, felt it worth pursuing, and set up a diocesan tribunal in Guayaquil under the Bishop’s auspices to put the testimonies of the witnesses in proper canonical form for submission after our Good Father had received the Decree of Heroicity of Virtues and been declared “Venerable”. Carlos, who was then 36 years’ old, and most of the other witnesses were still alive and available to verify their own testimonies. Then these sessions were transcribed and bound.

What happened then, I can’t say for sure. Did he take them back to Rome with him? Were they given to the Postulator of our Founders’ Causes? Were they left in Guayaquil and demanded by our Sisters, by Sister Jeanne de Sales, as Assistant General, or by Mother Anne de Sales herself? Father Emilio Testa was able to have access to them from the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints in the late 1990’s, for he showed them to us when he came to ask for the Bishop to set up a historical commission to validate our Good Father’s Cause so as to re-introduce it under the new norms. So probably a copy went to Rome with the Franciscan, and another was kept in Guayaquil, which seems likely.

As far as we know, Carlos Peñaherrera, whose birthday, incidentally, is the same day as our Good Father’s, never had any further treatment for his injury. His ability to walk or to run was never the result of physical therapy or special orthopedic shoes. His physical condition was such that, as a young man, when he lived for a while in the USA, in California, I believe, he was able to enlist and to serve in the U. S. Air Force; his physical condition posed no problems. He passed the required physical examination with no difficulty! Today he again resides in Ecuador; the big toe of his right foot is like a ball of flesh that can be squeezed and turned in any direction. He’s never had any difficulty with his foot since he was cured 58 years ago. I hope that what I could tell you is clear and will help you explain the events surrounding the Cause as well.

(text : Sr. Alice-Thérèse, OSFS)