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Audrey Marie Santo (December 19, 1983 - April 14, 2007), often referred to as Little Audrey by pilgrims to her home, was a young woman from Worcester, Massachusetts, United States, through whom miracles were said to have happened.[1]

Contents

The accident

On August 9, 1987, at the age of 3, Audrey and her brother Stephen were playing in the driveway of her grandmother's house. She fell into the swimming pool and almost drowned. She was immediately rushed to hospital. According to Audrey's mother Linda, the presiding physician prescribed too much phenobarbital, causing Audrey to lapse into a coma. Three weeks later, Audrey emerged from the coma into a state called akinetic mutism; she was only able to move her eyes and fingers; she could not speak. From the beginning, many people came to pray for Audrey - not only relatives, but family friends and even strangers. The hospital was so inundated with people that Audrey was placed in a private room in the PICU.

The doctors informed her mother that Audrey would have to spend the rest of her days on life support. They recommended that Audrey be placed in an extended care facility. Insisting that her daughter was fully conscious though in a "non-moving, non-speaking state," Linda took Audrey home and prepared to care for her personally.

Shortly after the accident, Linda took Audrey to Međugorje, a popular pilgrimage site in the then Yugoslavia, where the Virgin Mary is said to appear to six visionaries since 1981. Audrey was present at one of the alleged apparitions; she seemed to be aware, and nodded her head as if to say 'yes'. Linda states that Audrey communicated directly with the Virgin Mary and agreed to become a victim soul. In Catholic popular spirituality, a "victim soul" is someone who willingly takes on the suffering of others[2] . Audrey subsequently went into cardiac arrest and almost died, requiring a medical evacuation back to the United States. Rather than assuming that Audrey's health simply was not up to the strain of that much travel, her mother interpreted the child's heart failure as having to do with the fact that the apparition site was close to "the biggest abortion clinic in Yugoslavia". [3]

Miracles claims

Since her visit to Međugorje, numerous miracles were purported to have occurred in Audrey's bedroom and within the house. Her nurses reported an overpowering scent of roses in her room. At least three of these women were not Catholics at the time, but converted after witnessing the reported miracles.[citation needed]

It has also been claimed that Audrey sometimes bore the stigmata. The claimed miracles in Audrey's home included icons weeping blood or oil, a bleeding statue of Jesus, consecrated hosts bleeding, blood appearing spontaneously in a tabernacle, oil dripping down the walls of the garage, and the Virgin Mary appearing in cloud formations overhead.

Many miraculous healings were attributed to Audrey as well. Many people with various diseases or injuries claim to have been cured either by visiting Audrey's house or by intercessory prayer offered by others at Audrey's house.

For example, Sheryle Parolisi of Methuen, Massachusetts, says she prayed at Audrey's bedside for the recovery of her son Joey, who had been badly injured in a motorcycle accident. She reports that, on returning home, Joey met her at the door without the crutches or cane which he had needed to help him walk since the accident. He told her that he "just had a feeling that he could walk". Medical reports comparing Joey's condition prior to and subsequent to his alleged cure are unavailable. It is also likely that he may have experienced spontaneous remission of his symptoms.[citation needed]

Promoters of sainthood for Audrey have alleged that while alive, Audrey baffled medical science in the following ways[citation needed]:

  • As of 1999, Audrey showed no bedsores despite having been in bed for 12 years. Either none were reported, or the assiduous care she received at home prevented them. She was arguably receiving a great deal more personal attention than she would in a medical facility.
  • Her mechanical respirator occasionally stopped, as did the flow in her feeding tube. Believers stated that Audrey voluntarily controlled these devices through telekinesis because she made a deliberate decision to fast for a period of time.
  • She reportedly was not able to receive any solid food but was given Holy Communion hosts daily. Historically, people given to extremes of spiritual devotion are often said to exist solely on communion hosts. According to medical studies dating back to the Victorian era, when fasting was considered extremely admirable, such people are usually receiving some type of normal food. In addition, today's Communion hosts readily dissolve and are extremely easy to ingest.

During her life, Audrey's house became a pilgrimage site. The home was remodeled for this purpose and a large window installed in Audrey's bedroom so that visitors could view her as they passed by.

Controversy

In 1998, The Washington Post had a Pittsburgh lab test a sample of the miraculous oil which purportedly oozed from the icons in Audrey's room. Their tests revealed that the oil consisted of 80 percent corn or soybean oil, and 20 percent chicken fat. Another sample of the miracle oil given to 20/20's Lynn Sherr by Linda Santo proved to be 75 percent olive oil and the remaining 25% was unidentifiable[4].

In addition, an organization calling itself Apostolate of a Silent Soul, Inc. which is associated with Audrey Santo provides a "price list," and sells items such as photographs of Audrey and crucifixes which had been in Audrey's room, while also soliciting donations. This activity led to suggestions that the Santo family is marketing Audrey's condition for personal gain. As of March 18, 2010, they are still selling items such as: magnets, T-shirts, Audrey's photo, postcards, angel pins, books and CDs.[5]

The Audrey Santo story was also featured with disapproval in an episode of Penn & Teller's show Bullshit!. Upon receiving a price list for Audrey swag[5] along with an "oil soaked cotton ball" presumably from Audrey's bedroom, co-host Penn Jillette, in an uncharacteristically solemn manner, suggested reciprocating by giving Linda, Audrey's mother, a conscience, as "the one she's got is clearly not working."[6]

Roman Catholic Church's position on Audrey's alleged miracles

In 1999, the Bishop of Worcester, the Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, released his preliminary findings on the case. In that report, the Bishop said that "The most striking evidence of the presence of God in the Santo home is seen in the dedication of the family to Audrey"

As for the purported miracles, he said " I want to underscore that any paranormal occurrences are not miraculous in and of themselves".

He also stated in regard to the claim that Audrey is a Victim Soul, "We must proceed quite cautiously here, since this term is not commonly used by the Church except for Christ himself who became the victim for our sins and transgressions on the cross." The report further states that "The term "victim soul" is not an official term in the Church. It was used in some circles in the 18th and 19th century when there was a fascination with suffering and death."

And with regard to the many pilgrims who were praying to Audrey while she was still alive, he said "praying to Audrey is not acceptable in Catholic teaching." It was further states that "One should only pray for Audrey. Our faith teaches us to pray to God and to pray for the intercession of the saints. Therefore, the distribution of a "Prayer to Audrey" should cease immediately."

In the case of the purported miracle oil, his report stated: "We must be careful not to identify this oil as "holy oil," which could be used to anoint a person. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which can only be celebrated by a priest or bishop, uses oil blessed by the bishop at the Mass of Chrism, and is given to those who are seriously ill."

While the Bishop's report does not confirm any of the alleged miracles and cautions against some of the beliefs being promoted, it had nothing but praise for the care Audrey is receiving from her loving family. The bishop lauds the "excellent care the family gives to their daughter. This has manifested itself in her physical condition, for example, she has not apparently had bedsores in the eleven years she has been confined to her bed." He celebrates their "constant love and devotion to their daughter is a miracle in the broad sense of the word. They have always recognized the human dignity of their daughter, despite the circumstances."

Above quotes taken from the Diocese Issues Interim Findings on Miraculous Claims, Statement by Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Worcester[7].

Death and funeral

Audrey Santo died from cardio-respiratory failure on April 14, 2007 in her home. Family, friends, and clergy were at her side. The vigil was held April 17, 2007 and the funeral mass on April 18, 2007, both at St. Paul's Cathedral in Worcester, Massachusetts. The public was allowed to attend these two events, but the burial was private.[8]

Legacy

According to her family's Web site, Audrey has been declared a Servant of God, the first step in the Roman Catholic Church's canonization process, and church officials will begin investigating whether she should be declared a saint.[9]

References

  1. ^ Tench, Megan (2007-04-19). "A tearful farewell to Little Audrey". Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/04/19/a_tearful_farewell_to_little_audrey/. 
  2. ^ Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them by Robert A. Orsi Published 2005 Princeton University Press ISBN 0691049033 Accessed May 12, 2007
  3. ^ Ellen Barry, "The Strange Case of Audrey Santo". Boston Phoenix, December 25, 1997 - January 1, 1998, webpage found September 21, 2007.
  4. ^ Miracles or Deception? by Joe Nickell from CSICOP
  5. ^ a b Little Audrey Santo Price List Apostolate of a Silent Soul, Inc.
  6. ^ Season 3: Signs From Heaven Penn & Teller: Bullshit! on Showtime
  7. ^ Diocese Issues Interim Findings on Miraculous Claims Statement by Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Worcester
  8. ^ Audrey Marie Santo Britton Funeral Homes
  9. ^ Catholic Exchange.com

External links

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