Growing up, we would all gather each night to pray the rosary in our family prayer room around a little prayer altar over which hung a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the same as the one I’ve included here).
The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had a profound effect on me; our Lord’s eyes would appear to follow me. Regardless of where I would sit or knee in the room, Jesus was always watching me with His Heart wrapped in thorns and burning with love.
You don’t forget things like that. It’s a testimony to the importance of sacred images in the home. Children need that sense of wonder and mystery that only images of our Lord, His mother, and the saints can give.
Click here for more on the history of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Today, I would like to share with you an amazing story told by Fr Jorge Bugallo García, LC about life & death, the priesthood, and the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
June 9, 2010. San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. A priest’s life is full of unique and unrepeatable experiences. He is “taken from among men and chosen to represent them” (Heb. 5:1). Unlike other more “ordinary” moments, this one marked my life in a profound way from its very beginning—and also marked my incipient priestly ministry.
I was ordained to the priesthood on December 12, 2009, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Rome. That day, at 10:30 in the morning, Christ had made me his priest forever. It was a Saturday, the 12th of December, in the Year for Priests. I could not have asked for more. That night, I couldn’t sleep a wink from the excitement and the reality of what I had lived that morning. Well, God was already in a hurry, and Our Lady did not waste the opportunity.
On Sunday, December 13, I celebrated my first Mass, right on the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe, next to the tomb of St Peter, and just a few meters from John Paul II’s tomb. What an immense grace! I felt profoundly happy and could not contain myself in the homily. Amidst tears and emotions, I kept repeating “Thank you!” to God, to our Mother in heaven, and to all those who accompanied me in these twenty-some years of preparation and formation. And yet, even then, heaven was carefully preparing a great event for the following day.
On Monday, December 14, I went with my family to San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio’s monastery and tomb are located. It was over five hours away from Rome, but it was worth the effort, because I had reserved an altar to celebrate Mass there, and we wanted to visit the place. We arrived around midday and I was able to celebrate Mass at the appointed time. By six in the afternoon—we had already fully enjoyed the day—and it was getting dark out. We got into the car to come back to Rome. My brother asked if he could stop by a shop to fix his cell phone, since it wasn’t working. It was already late and starting to drizzle. But we stopped to look for a shop so that my brother Luis could solve his problem. One thing led to another, and half an hour later, he bought a phone card and that took care of it.
The clock showed that it was 6:45 when we finally started heading down the mountain along the national highway, heading toward the freeway that would lead us to Rome. The going was slow because of the darkness and the rain. Added to that was the fact that a motorcycle, driven by a young woman at a very prudent speed, was setting the pace for the (at least) seven vehicles behind her. While we prayed the Rosary, halfway down the mountain, I suddenly noticed that the motorcycle had disappeared after one of the countless “tornanti” or hairpin curves.
I noticed because the line started to move more quickly and the motorcycle was no longer visible. But a few curves down the road… I saw the motorcycle! It was about five meters from the highway, with its headlight on, lying down with its front wheel turned in the wrong direction. At that moment, something inside me told me: “Stop and go down!” I stopped the car on the side of the highway and told my mother and my brother to wait for me, that it would be something quick. I got out of the car.
It was still raining and the only light guiding me was from the headlight of the partially dented motorcycle. I noticed, from the state of the motorcycle, that whoever was driving it had suffered an accident or at least a bad fall. I called out to see if anyone heard me. There was no answer. I tried again, a little stronger, with the best Italian I could muster. No one answered. As it was the forest, full of overgrown shrubs, and hard to see, I imagined the worst.
Since the motorcycle headlight was pointing toward some trees, I walked toward them. I was completely taken aback when a few meters ahead, I saw the girl who had been on the motorcycle just a few minutes earlier while we were descending the mountain. I was horrified to see that her left arm had been completely amputated, and her shoulder was bleeding nonstop. She had only half of her other arm, from her shoulder to her elbow, and it was also bleeding profusely. Her legs were thrown up toward her shoulders, and both were completely broken. She seemed like a broken doll, but in reality she was a living person. It was a spectacle that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I came closer. Her face was only half visible, since the helmet had been smashed onto her head, crushing the entire right side of her head and face. Only her left eye was visible. I spoke into her ear, saying, “I’m a priest… can you hear me? If you want, I can give you the absolution… If you agree, it’s enough for you to make some small movement…” I saw her head move a little.
Meanwhile, my mother had come closer, and she screamed. My brother also came, alerted by the scream. I asked my brother to use his cell phone—which was now working—to call an ambulance from the town. Fifteen minutes later, the ambulance came. During that time, I was with the girl, accompanying her and trying the best I could to squelch the flow of blood from the places in her body where she was bleeding. And most importantly, I gave her the absolution. She was the first person to whom I gave this sacrament—only 60 hours had gone by since my ordination.
The paramedics came and took her pulse. She was very week. “Non ce la fa,” one of them whispered to me. “She’s not going to make it.” I took the girl in my arms, and while I was carrying her to the ambulance, she looked me in the face, closed her visible eye, and her head fell forward on her neck: she left this world. She went to heaven while she was in my arms. Her name was Rosanna and she was 17 years old.
That’s how it happened. Among the girl’s belongings, we found her cell phone, and we were able to call her mother. She lived in a town ten kilometers away from the accident. Imagine what it is like to tell a mother that her daughter has just died in a road accident. In our conversation, I also told her:
“Ma’am, I am a priest. I was just ordained on Saturday. Look, I had the opportunity to share your daughter Rosanna’s last moments of life, and I am very happy to begin my priestly ministry this way.”
In between tears and with her voice breaking, the mother thanked me for the call and among all the words she said, which I was not fully able to understand (she spoke a kind of regional dialect), I did hear her say:
“Father, you are a priest. Father, you should know that my daughter was very devoted to the Sacred Heart. I am a believer like my daughter. And I don’t know why, but I do know one thing. Rosanna did the novena to the Sacred Heart twice. She had Communion and confessed on the first nine Fridays of the month a few times. That is why she could not die without the help of the Heart of Jesus. Thank you, Father, and may God bless you always.”
The words speak for themselves. I do not remember them all exactly, but that was as much as I remember.
That night, we got to Rome around dawn. I could not sleep. I kept thinking about everything I had lived a few hours earlier. It is not easy to explain the things that happen to you sometimes, at least, not like that. I was just starting to assimilate the priesthood I had received a few hours earlier and God was already asking for my help.
Two paths crossed that night: Rosanna’s and mine. And Christ was in a hurry that night. My brother’s cell phone, which hadn’t been working, had slowed down our departure. Then the accident happened while we were praying the Rosary. Thanks to my brother’s cell phone, which was now working, we were able to call the ambulance and Rosanna’s mother.
It’s very clear. There are no coincidences in life. Just God’s hand and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin were enough to work the miracle, to bring a person to heaven.