World Youth Day is known as an event that can and does change lives, but when a teenager said she has regained her sight during the Portuguese youth fair, it electrified both Portugal and Spain on Aug. 6.
Two and a half years ago, Jimena, a 14-year-old girl from Madrid, lost 95% of her sight due to a problem related to her myopia. Being a teenager, she was still using her cell phone, but only for audio messages. Over the course of her disease, she had begun to learn Braille to read with her hands.
Last week, she traveled to World Youth Day in Lisbon with her Opus Dei youth club, El Vado, from the popular Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas. Because of her visual impairment, she was registered as a handicapped pilgrim. On Aug. 5 -- the first Saturday of the month and the day when Pope Francis prayed the rosary with sick young people in Fatima -- Jimena got up like every day, with blurred vision.
After praying to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day it was, and after having completed the novena to Our Lady with her classmates, Jimena went to Mass. When she returned to her seat after receiving Communion, she realized she had recovered her sight.
"When I opened my eyes I saw perfectly!" she said in a WhatsApp audio message that she sent to her family and friends, that has since gone viral.
"After Communion I sat on the bench, I started crying a lot because it was the last day of the novena and I wanted to … I asked God very much (for this), and when I opened my eyes, I saw perfectly," she said.
The healing was so instantaneous that at the end of that same Mass, Jimena got up and read the last prayer of the novena clearly and aloud, to the astonishment and joy of her friends present at the church.
The audio continues with her being surprised at seeing her "older" classmates (she had not seen them for more than two years), and then asking for a mirror to see herself, after which she admitted: "I am a little changed, too."
Jimena asked all her friends to accompany her to thank God for that "gift," and commented that she will call all her daughters "Nieves" -- "Snow" -- because Aug. 5 is her "new birthday."
In an interview with the Spanish radio network COPE, Jimena explained that she convinced all the young people with her group at WYD to pray for her healing. "And today after Communion … I see perfectly! Well, I don’t know how to explain it," she said.
Jimena's mother, whose name was not revealed, was quoted by Spanish blog Camino Catolico saying that "Faith moves mountains," and that the miracle happened precisely at noon "after (Jimena received) Communion and in front of her entire WYD group."
"Jimena saw again," the mother said.
"She has called us crying and with all her friends like crazy. We don't know much else at the moment. They are going to try to see the pope to tell him. Today everything begins again, and Our Lady of the Snows is already an active part of our faith," she was quoted as saying.
A nun friend of the family contacted Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops' conference, to tell him what happened and the cardinal called the girl to hear the story directly from her. Jimena, in the words of the cardinal, "was very enthusiastic."
Asked at a press conference in the WYD media center Aug. 6 about the case, the cardinal considered it a "grace of God," nevertheless counseling those present to wait for medical assessments before proclaiming the event as miraculous.
"I think that there we have a piece of information that is beautiful and a girl who has recovered her sight," the cardinal said. "Doctors will now have to assess whether or not it was incurable," the first process in the official declaration of a miracle.
At one of the WYD sessions with young pilgrims from Spain, Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of Orihuela-Alicante, Spain, commented: "What happened with Jimena is a sign, which is how miracles are called in the Gospel of St. John. We need the light to see God and to see everything with the eyes of God. It is a sign," he clarified, "and a call from Our Lady to open our eyes, to grow in our faith."
The healing appeared to happen a few hours after Pope Francis was praying in the famous Marian shrine on Aug. 5.
"We are very happy and rejoice with her, and we pray with her," Carmo Rodeia, spokesperson of the Shrine of Fatima, told OSV News.