Christmas Day House Fire
December 25, 2000
I first met Cecilia C. in September of 1998 when several people from our parish made a trip to Richmond, Va. for a Shroud of Turin presentation. I learned that day that she was a widow and it was obvious that life was not easy for her. Cecilia has two grown children who offer little if any comfort to her life. Her son is in and out of jail with alcohol and drug offenses on a somewhat regular basis. Her living conditions through no fault of her own left a lot to be desired. Cecilia’s life story is just one sad episode after another. After getting to know her I realized that I admired her strength in dealing with these continuous disasters and it became obvious she was a very strong person who was able to endure hardships that would have left most people mentally and spiritually paralyzed. Cecilia said “Love of Jesus and Mary is what gives me strength”.
One Sunday, after mass sometime around February or March of 1999 I told her about Emmitsburg and I invited her to St. Joseph’s. It was not long after that Cecilia made her first trip to Emmitsburg and after that she would come as often as possible. Our Lady appeared to Gianna on two separate occasions while Cecilia was leading the Rosary.
About ten months later she lost her job of 18 years with a law firm because of new management. Things got much worse for her when this happened. Being unemployed gave her the opportunity to attend the Thursday night Prayer Group nearly every week. Cecilia would buy statues and books when she came to Emmitsburg and would always have them placed on Mary’s altar to be blessed during the apparition.
This past December 26th I received a phone call from her telling me her house had burned down on Christmas day. I drove to her house and was very saddened to find NOTHING left. The house was a complete loss and so was everything in it.
What happened next will remain burned in my memory for as long as I live. I took a shovel and started digging through the smoldering rubble looking for anything that could be salvaged. I was not really expecting to find anything at all that was not a total loss. To my surprise while I was digging I found a book about Saint Therese that was in perfect condition, it had no damage to it whatsoever. I placed the book in a safe place and went back to digging through the rubble. Right next to where I found the book I turned over a piece of roof that had fallen and under it was a perfect red rose. It was a artificial rose but in perfect condition and not as much as a smudge on it. About this time two people, John and Maggie I. from our parish showed up and started helping me dig through the debris. One of them found a picture of Our Lady of Emmitsburg and it had not been harmed by the fire in any way. I continued to dig and I found a statue of The Virgin Mary under a huge pile of smoldering rubble. There was absolutely no damage to it at all. After we finished digging we had found about 10 or 12 statues of Jesus and Mary that Cecilia had purchased in Emmitsburg and had blessed on the altar at St. Joseph’s during the Thursday night apparitions. THESE WERE THE ONLY THINGS THAT SURVIVED THE FIRE ! In addition to this Cecilia’s home owners insurance had lapsed because she just did not have the money to pay the bill. The insurance company called her and gave her a deadline to pay the premium. Somehow she came up with the money and the policy was reinstated just in the nick of time. Cecilia now has a nice apartment and her living conditions have improved greatly.