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Photo: Joseph Romagnano
During her visit to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Sunday, April 29, Little Sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand, RN, checks out the zucchetto given to the Marians by Blessed John Paul II.
My Miraculous Cure
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the transcript of the talk given by Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, RN, of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities in France. She delivered the talk Sunday, April 29, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., and again on Tuesday, May 1, at the Medicine, Bioethics & Spirituality Conference hosted by Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy and the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre was healed from Parkinson's disease through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, a healing that served as the miracle for his beatification. Additionally, we invite you to read the powerful talk given by Sr. Marie Thomas Fabre. Click here.
My name is Petite Soeur Marie Simon Pierre. I had been suffering from Parkinson's disease since 2001. I was only 40 years old then. You know, there is no cure for that disease today. But I was suddenly and totally cured during the night of June 2nd to June 3rd, 2005, as a result of the prayers of my religious family. A lot of ink has been spilled over this, but the media sensation did not transform my life. I did not become a star. Today, more than ever, I remain Little Sister among the other Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities, and I exercise my nursing career in one of the health centers, in France, governed, directed, and animated by our Congregation.
Despite expert advances in medicine, my healing could not be explained by science. It surprised the most incredulous. My record, among so many others, was kept by the postulator for the cause of John Paul II's beatification. Inquiries, as well as medical expertise, followed, and I accepted this record de combatant. Nearly six years after the healing, on Jan. 14, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the miracle that therefore opened the road for the beatification of John Paul II on May 1, 2011, in Rome.
Let us go back in time and try to understand what happened. On May 13, 2005, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Benedict XVI officially grants a dispensation from the five-year waiting period for the opening of the beatification of John Paul II. This seems extraordinary. As quickly as the next day, a fervent chain of prayer begins in all the communities of the Little Sisters in France and Senegal. They pray with fervor every day, without interruption, in an attitude of resignation trusting in God's mercy for my healing through the intercession of John Paul II. This prayer is made through the initiative of Mother Marie Marc, general superior at that time. We responded generously to the call to pray.
We deeply loved John Paul II, and we were hoping that this healing could be like a little pebble in creating a ripple for the beatification cause of this marvelous Pope, "the Pope for the family" who had helped us so much in our apostolate through his teachings and his radiance. Our Institute had been influenced by his personality and his teachings.
Since the beginning of his priestly ministry, Father Karol Wojtyla had shown such interest in the life of couples and of families. The first catechesis of John Paul II, on his Wednesday's audiences, was on sexuality and marriage. His first encyclical "Redemptor hominis" was on the human vocation. Among his many teachings, the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris consortio," the "Letter to Families," the "Letter to Women," countless discourses and homilies, and particularly his encyclical "Evangelium vitae" constitute a precious charter.
In his encyclical "The Gospel of Life," John Paul II was inviting us to proclaim, to celebrate, and to serve the Gospel of Life. And it is an apostolic mission of mercy for our times.
In this encyclical, the Pope was speaking to Christians and to all people of good will; he was giving a message of hope. Aware of the present threats to human life, John Paul II was inviting us to contemplate the message of life brought to us by Christ. He was reminding us of the greatness and the dignity of man regardless of his weaknesses or disabilities, from his conception to natural death. Every person has a sacred history. Human life is sacred and inviolable. It needs to be respected and defended.
Concluding this chapter, let us remember that the request for healing has always been part of the mission entrusted to us by the Church. My Congregation was saddened at the idea of seeing me very soon confined to a wheelchair since I was still so young and a good nurse. Don't we need arms, hands, eyes, and hearts to tell families — all families regardless of their distress — of the tenderness of God who is a Father?
I am happy today to be able to continue my work as a nurse with mothers and their infants.
Here's my background and the story of my healing. I am always overcome when I share it.
I was born in the North of France, more precisely at the Maternite Catholique de Cambrai. I am the eldest of a family of five children, three sisters and a brother; I was eight years old when the youngest was born. I came from a strong Catholic family, with a devout, prayerful mother. When I was very little, I was influenced by my great grandmother, who, despite a life of trials, held on against the winds and waves that buffeted her, remaining strong due to her prayer life and deep faith in Divine Providence. Starting at a very young age, I went to Sunday Mass with my mother; and so did the whole family regardless of work, weather, or unexpected situations. I attended a private school of which I have fond memories. I think my childhood and my teenage years were no different than most families in the North of France, in their simplicity, with their joys and sorrows. A great family spirit, full of generosity and mutual aid, marked my childhood.
At 12 years old, I made my Profession of Faith (i.e., Confirmation), a very special day of grace in my life. On that day, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I told the Lord that I was giving myself to Him forever. And I sang: "Lord, I give You my young heart. I wish to love You forever more and more. This I promise, Lord Jesus." Then in 1977, I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes for the first time. Next, I enlisted at the Hospital of Cambrai from where I could go to Lourdes and be at the service of the sick from 1979 to 1981. In Lourdes, I experienced a very strong call to the religious life. On my last pilgrimage there, by chance but surely guided by the Lord, I find myself at the baths where I had the grace to bathe. I came out of the baths completely healed. Mary brings us to her Son. Deep inside, I understood that I must follow Him.
Then, in 1980, I left for Soissons to pursue my studies in auxiliary childcare, and I graduated in 1981. My desire was to work with the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities to get to know them better and discern if that was where the Lord wanted me. I was drawn by everything that regarded valuing the sanctity of life and the family. In mid October of the same year, I was hired at the Maternite Catholique as an auxiliary worker in childcare. I planned it so as to live the important times of the liturgical year with the Little Sisters. It was during Holy Week in 1982, precisely during Holy Thursday night, that I responded with my 'yes' to God's call. I gave my life for Life.
On September 14th, 1982, I entered the postulancy of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities and discovered over the years a congregation that is at the service of the family, of life, and of the newborn as well as at the service of the injured. On July 1983, during my oblation, I received the name of Petite Soeur Marie Simon Pierre and began my novitiate. Then on August 6th, 1985, I made my first vows. Yes, I freely chose to answer the call of Christ. I consecrated myself and my whole being to Him, vowing to more closely follow Christ in obedience, poverty, and chastity, and to live the religious life in the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities. Through my consecration, I have responded to a call: to serve life in today's Church and particularly to be present to mothers and families at the moment of their child's birth. I also respond to the desire and expectation of the child in need of care. From 1988 to 1992, I studied in Lyons to prepare for my nursing diploma. In 1993, I made final vows at my Perpetual Profession.
When I obtained my nursing diploma, I was sent to L'Etoile Maternite Catholique in Provence. This is where, gradually, I began to experience fatigue and pain throughout my body. Parkinson's disease was diagnosed in June 2001. The symptoms were limited to the left side, which nevertheless greatly handicapped me because I am left-handed. At that time, I was only 40 years old. The sickness was progressing slowly at the beginning, but after three years, the symptoms intensified as the tremors, the stiffness, the pain, and the insomnia worsened. On schedule, I was seeing the neurologist to reevaluate my treatment.
After April 2nd, 2005 ((the day of the death of Pope John Paul II), the disease worsened every week. I could see myself weakening from day to day. I could no longer write, or my writing was hardly legible. Driving became almost impossible except for short distances. The movements of my left leg were jerky, and the stiffness would not make it easy to drive. More time was needed to accomplish my work, and it became very difficult to work in a hospital environment on a maternity ward. I was tired and worn-out. Since all the records were computerized, I could still without embarrassment carry out my duties in a responsible way.
After the Parkinson's diagnosis, I was finding it very difficult to watch John Paul II on television. However, I was used to staying very close to him in prayer. Pope John Paul II was for me a pastor according to the Heart of God, a great man. He was a man of prayer and an Apostle of Mercy. I have always admired him. He was close to all, to the weakest, the poorest, the smallest, the sick. He was a defender of life and of peace. I knew he could understand what I was experiencing. Similarly, I admired his strength, his courage, and his humility. His example was encouraging me to confront and to love this suffering, because there is no meaning to it without love. Today, I can say that it was a daily struggle, but my only desire was to live it in faith and submit with love to the will of the Father.
On Easter Sunday 2005, I wished to follow on television the blessing of our Holy Father, John Paul II. His health was declining daily, and I knew interiorly that it would be the last time I would see him. All morning I prepared myself for this encounter, knowing it would be difficult for me (he was a reminder of what I would become in a few years). This was hard for me being relatively young, to imagine that I would one day be in a wheelchair. An obstacle guided by the hand of God the Father kept me at work and did not allow me to see John Paul II again on television.
On the evening of April , 2005, we were gathered in community linked directly with Rome for the evening of prayer in Saint Peter's Square, thanks to a television channel of the archdiocese in Paris (KTO). Gathered thus as Sisters, we learned directly about the death of John Paul II. At that moment, I became very upset. I was distressed, I had just lost a friend, the one who could understand me and give me strength and energy to continue. In the following days, up to April 8th, the day of his funeral, I think I felt a great void, while at the same time, I was sure that he was always present.
At the time that Mother Marie Marc asked for the prayers of the Communities, I was resting. We take this time each year for our spiritual retreat. At the end of this time of rest, I returned to my Community on May 26th, completely exhausted by the sickness, and I saw Sister Marie Thomas. She knew I was tired but had not noticed how the signs of the disease had progressed since the death of John Paul II. What was so surprising and still surprises me is that, despite my exhaustion, since May 14, a verse from the Gospel of Saint John was always with me: "If you believe, you will see the glory of God"( Jn 11:40). This glory of God, I saw on May 1st, 2011, the day of the beatification of John Paul II in St Peter's Square. We came on pilgrimage to Rome for the beatification by boat with 700 French pilgrims, including 25 Little Sisters. What a moment the beatification was for me. Next to Sister Tobiana, the Polish nun who had assisted John Paul II in his last hours, I was seen walking in the direction of Pope Benedict XVI and then facing the crowd, carrying the relics of Blessed John Paul II. I was carried away and felt very moved, considering the responsibility of such a grace.
Here's what exactly happened during the 24 hours that preceded the sudden healing. It feels like yesterday when I recount my story. On June 1st, I had reached the end. The pain was unbearable, and the tremors were growing much worse. I struggled to keep standing and go forward. I do not easily listen to my pain and usually do not complain. But, this time, I was really at the end of my strength. On June 2nd in the afternoon, I went to my superior and asked for an interview.
At that time, Sister Marie Thomas was my superior. We had been in the same community since 1992. She was at the beginning a midwife, and we had worked together. Then she became my superior in 1995. She knew me and had witnessed the progression of the sickness of Parkinson's from 2001 to 2005. At our last General Chapter, Sister Marie Thomas became general superior on July 2007. (This was not related to the healing.)
I can still see myself in her office. I rapidly explain my condition, and I ask her permission to discontinue my professional activities. I knew she understood me. She greets me and listens to me with kindness. I simply tell her that I am at the end of my strength, that I must be replaced in the Maternity Ward. With peace in my heart, I surprise myself by telling her that I accept to be confined to a wheelchair someday. I add that this situation would not prevent me from living my religious consecration to the end. She is moved and pleased by it. She sees for herself that I am exhausted and tries to encourage me, reminding me that the Little Sisters are praying for my healing. She reminds me that I must go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in August in the steps of John Paul II and asks me to wait a little longer. The decision would be made in September. Indeed, my strength was holding on to the knowledge of this pilgrimage, realizing that in August 2004 I had not been able to go when John Paul II had gone to Lourdes to give his blessing to the sick. I had to forego that trip at that moment on account of cardiac troubles. This had been for me a great disappointment.
During this encounter with Sister Marie Thomas, which lasted for three quarters of an hour, John Paul II was present during our conversation. We could share in peace. "Wait a little longer. You are going to Lourdes. All the Little Sisters are praying for you. We will make a decision upon your return." These were her kind words. She then gives me a pen and asks me to write the name "John Paul II." It is nearly 5 p.m. Her request surprises me, and I first refuse, knowing that I can no longer write. This is extremely hard, and my writing is totally illegible. Hasn't she noticed it? Three times she insists that I take the pen and write. Since I do not mind her glance, I take the pen and write with much difficulty the name of "John Paul II." Looking at this writing, Sister Marie Thomas holds her breath and says nothing. Silence reigns. After a few moments, with an encouraging smile and confidence, she calmly tells me: "John Paul II has not had his last word."
The end of the day continues as usual. After evening prayers at 9 p.m.. I pass by my office and go to my room. It is between 9:30 and 9:45. I feel the desire to take a pen and write. This greatly surprises me. Yes, an interior strength incites me to write. Deep inside, I tell myself: "Take the pen and write." To my great surprise, the few lines written are very legible. I do not fully understand what is happening, and then I go to bed. It is exactly two months since John Paul II had left us for the House of the Father, two months during which the clinical signs of Parkinson's had greatly worsened.
At 4.30 a.m., I wake up, stupefied that I had slept. I jump out of bed. My body is not painful anymore. There is no stiffness, and my body feels very light. Interiorly, I feel much different. Then I feel a deep desire to go and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I have a yearning to give thanks to God for what is happening to me. I go down to the oratory, I pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. A great peace, a sensation of well-being, envelops me, something very big, a great mystery too hard to put into words. Next, as always in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I meditate on the Luminous mysteries of the Rosary of John Paul II. I remain in prayer until 6 o'clock, and then I leave to join the Community in the chapel for the morning prayers, followed by Lauds and the Eucharist. There are approximately 50 meters from the oratory located downstairs in the House of the Community to the chapel. There, I realize that my left arm, which was inert on account of the disease, is swinging again as I am walking. I experience some flexibility that I had not felt for a long time. During the Eucharist, a great peace and joy overwhelm me.
It is the 3rd of June on the Solemnity of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus. Coming out of Mass, I am convinced that I have been healed. There are no more tremors of my hand. My countenance is transformed. I start writing again, and at 12 p.m., I stop all my medications. I tell Sister Marie Thomas in the afternoon, and we keep it quiet until June 7th, except for Sister Marie Marc who learns about it on June 4th.
On June 7th, I go as scheduled to see the neurologist. The doctor notices with great astonishment the total absence of all clinical symptoms. He cannot understand my condition since I have not taken any medication for the past five days.
On the evening of June 7th, Mother Marie Marc confides this grace of healing to all the Communities and asks us to welcome it in all humility and keep it to ourselves. The whole Congregation then starts a novena of thanksgiving to John Paul II.
On June 3rd, 2005, the day of my healing, we had prayed the litanies of the Sacred Heart with John Paul II in spirit. He had made the trip to Paris to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre in 1980. Then, in June 1999, he told the French Bishops: "I invite all the faithful to continue their pious devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, adapting it to our time, so that they may not stop welcoming His unfathomable riches, and may respond with joy by loving God and their brothers, thus finding peace and entering into a victory march of reconciliation, and reaffirming their hope to live one day in the presence of God, in the company of all the saints."
It is almost seven years since I have ceased all treatments. Since my healing, I have rediscovered a normal rhythm. I do not drag anymore! I have resumed my normal activities, with no difficulty writing. I am back at the wheel and driving long distances. Therefore, I can continue serving, living our mission at the service of the little ones, as a witness to the Gospel of Life.
This healing is physical, but it has touched my inmost being and my whole existence. As I often say, "I was sick and I am healed." This is like a second birth, a new life, and my spiritual life has been renewed. What the Lord has given me to live through the intercession of John Paul II is a great mystery, difficult to put into words, being so wonderful, so powerful. I am more drawn to the Eucharist and Nocturnal Adoration, and the Rosary is constantly with me. On the second of every month, at 9 p.m., I spend a long time in prayer of thanksgiving for the great things the Lord has done within me, and a time of supplication for the sick and all the people who confide in our prayers.
From the moment of my healing, I have lived out my consecration in a special way for those who suffer from Parkinson's disease and all others who ask the prayers of our whole religious family. Our mission in the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternities also takes us to them, and it calls us to tell the world of the value of their lives.
Today, I can say that nothing is the same anymore, that a friend has gone far away from this earth while remaining so close to my heart. My interior life had been troubled, but it is now growing deeper and deeper.
We live our life as Little Sisters with Mary, Mother of the living, adopting at each moment the prayer of John Paul II: "O Mary, dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, we entrust to you the cause of Life!" We are even more assured of your presence at our side to help us in our weakness and support our commitment to this mission. We are blessed to live this apostolate of mercy in the footsteps of John Paul II.
We invite you to read the powerful talk given by Sr. Marie Thomas Fabre. Click here.
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