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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 an American young woman from Worcester, Massachusetts through whom miracles were said to have happened during her lifetime.
On August 9, 1987, when Audrey was three years old (while playing in the driveway with Stephen, her brother), she fell into the family swimming pool. Her other brother Matt saw and removed her from the pool. Audrey recovered but was rushed to the hospital, remaining in a coma for about three weeks, in intensive care with 24-hour attention. When she awoke from the coma, she remained in a state called akinetic mutism — non-speaking and limited movement. Her family was recommended to place her in an institution. Audrey’s mother Linda, felt that she would receive better care being home with her family. In November, four months following the accident, Audrey was brought home.
Shortly after the accident, Linda took Audrey to Međugorje, a popular pilgrimage site in the then Yugoslavia, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared 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. 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".
Since her visit to Međugorje, numerous miracles were purported to have occurred in Audrey's bedroom and within the house.
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.
Miraculous healings were attributed to Audrey and 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 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". However, Joey's personal physician has stated that there was a 75 percent chance from the beginning that he would be able to walk again.
- As of 1999, Audrey showed no visible bedsores despite having been in bed for 12 years.
- Beginning in June 1998, Audrey was reported to possess supernatural powers. Believers report to have witnessed Santo fly across the room as well as inexplicably lift heavy objects.
- 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.
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. This was removed at the request of the Church.
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." Further, it was stated 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 had received from her family. The bishop lauded 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 celebrated 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.
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.
- Tench, Megan (2007-04-19). "A tearful farewell to Little Audrey". Boston Globe.
- Orsi, Robert A. (2005). Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691049033.
- Duffer, I. The Art of Divine Love, or Berthe Petit. Lulu.com. pp. 9–11. ISBN 1411603214.
- Barry, Ellen (December 25, 1997 - January 1, 1998,). "The Strange Case of Audrey Santo". Boston Phoenix.
- Diocese Issues Interim Findings on Miraculous Claims Statement by Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Worcester
- Audrey Marie Santo Britton Funeral Homes