|The Virgin of the Revelation, Rome April 12, 1947
ROME, on the above date, was a sunny Saturday after Easter. Bruno Cornacchiola, a railway worker, decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring day by taking his three children—– Isola, aged ten, Carlo, aged seven, and Gianfranco, aged four—– on a picnic. It was a day he will never forget as it changed the whole course of his life. Early that afternoon he providentially missed a train going to Ostia and so decided to go to Tre Fontane instead. It is a location just outside of Rome noted for the shrine where St. Paul suffered Martyrdom and a parklike area with eucalyptus trees. It was also, alas, notorious as a place of sin in which even the bodies of dead preborn babies were found. There, in the shade of the eucalyptus, while his children played, Bruno pored over his Bible. He was preparing a speech which he intended to deliver in a public square the following day. It was a vicious attack on the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Although Bruno had been Baptized a Catholic and received his First Holy Communion, he wasn’t a practicing Catholic. His parents weren’t very religious and his early environment in an ill-famed district of Rome certainly didn’t foster his Faith. A few months after he was married, he deserted his wife and volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It was there that he left the practice of the Catholic faith and embraced Protestantism, eventually becoming a militant Seventh Day Adventist. He returned to Rome and his wife, who remained a practicing Catholic, in 1939. In his uncontrollable anger, he often beat her up. He wouldn’t allow her to bring the older children to church and refused to have the youngest son Baptized.
Besides being a wife-beater, Bruno Cornacchiola was not a very good Christian. His language was punctuated frequently with obscenities, blasphemy and he had affairs with other women. The very morning of the picnic he passed a statue of Our Lady which had on the base of the statue, “Virgin Mother.” Bruno wrote in pencil, “You are neither virgin nor mother.” In his great hatred of the Church, he had even devised a plot to assassinate Pope Pius XII on September 8, 1947, the feast of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the late afternoon of the 12th, in the middle of his preparation for his attack on Mary’s great prerogative, one of his children interrupted him. Would he help them find their ball? Bruno put aside his Scripture text and the notes he had taken and joined in the search. While searching for the ball, Bruno found his youngest son, Gianfranco, kneeling at the entrance to a dark cave. The boy’s hands were folded in the attitude of one engrossed in prayer, as though in ecstasy. With a happy countenance and his eyes fixed on a certain point of the cave, the child repeated, “Beautiful lady! Beautiful lady!” as though he were addressing a living person.
Bruno was surprised, then uneasy, and finally terror seized him. He could see nothing in the interior of the cave. What was he to make of his son’s strange behavior? Excitedly he turned to Isola and Carlo for an explanation. But the children’s curiosity and fear for their younger brother were brief. Within seconds they also—–first Isola and then Carlo—–fell to their knees and joined their hands in prayer, enraptured with the same vision. Bruno was dumbfounded. Then he heard all three of his children cry out together: “Beautiful lady!” He tried to move each child, but they were as if glued to the ground. He was terrified. Suddenly, Bruno was also overcome by the strange mystical experience. His eyes were filled with intense light for a moment, then everything in front of him disappeared his children and the cave. He felt himself becoming weightless, ethereal, as if his spirit had been freed of his body. When he regained his sight, after momentary blindness, Bruno saw in the most illuminated part of the cave a woman of indescribable celestial beauty. Her head was adorned by a halo of brilliant golden light. The lady had black hair, and was clothed in a radiant white dress, gathered together by a rose-colored sash whose edges fell gracefully at her side; over her shoulders she wore a striking green mantle. The three colors of the dress (white), sash (rose-colored) and mantel (green) have special significance to Bruno. He explains that they signify Mary’s relationship to the Three Divine Persons and the three apparitions of Lourdes, Fatima and Rome. In fact, Our Lady identified herself as, “Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and Spouse and Temple of the Holy Spirit.” At her bare feet lay a black cloth which had a smashed crucifix on it.
Her face had an expression of motherly kindness, although clouded by sadness at times. In her right hand she held, resting on her breast, a small gray book. Her hands were crossed at her breast, but she unfolded them once to point to the broken pieces of the crucifix. She then joined them together again. In a noteworthy departure from other modern apparitions, Mary appeared not only to a non-practicing Catholic but to a zealous enemy of the Church and of herself personally. What message did she have for the wayward Bruno Cornacchiola and our times? We know only part of it; the remainder was to be delivered to Pope Pius XII, who later was to bless the statue of the Virgin that stands in the grotto where she appeared.
When the Blessed Virgin identified herself to Bruno Cornacchiola, she did so with two profound truths. The first was of a general nature: “I am the one that is of the Divine Trinity.” Because of her relationship to each person in the Blessed Trinity—–daughter of the Eternal Father, spouse of the Holy Spirit and mother of the Divine Son—–she is altogether unique among all of God’s creation. In the second identification she chose to reveal herself in relation to Bruno’s activity of Bible reading: “I am the Virgin of the Revelation.”
By this second title she corrects the error of those who would deny her privileges as unfounded, unnecessary inventions of the Catholic Church, not found in Divine Revelation in the Bible. She was admonishing a return to God and a more literal living of the holy Gospel: “Return to the pure source of the Gospel.”
Then the Virgin of the Revelation addressed herself directly to Bruno, “You persecute me—–enough of it now! Enter into the true fold, God’s Kingdom on earth. The Nine First Fridays of the Sacred Heart have saved you. You must be like the flowers which Isola picked, they make no protest, they are silent and do not rebel. . . . With this dirt of sin, I shall perform powerful miracles for the conversion of unbelievers.”
She revealed to Bruno the sad condition of his soul, at the once all his pat arguments and prejudices against the Church fell apart and he saw before him the way to salvation—–the Roman Catholic Church. At that point, the Virgin of the Revelation taught him the sure means of salvation, for him and for and all mankind, which is prayer, and in particular the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary. “Pray much and recite the Rosary for the conversion of sinners, of unbelievers and of all Christians.” As a reward to those souls who would listen to her message of prayer for the salvation of mankind, the Virgin promised great favors from Heaven. “In this place of sin I shall perform wonderful miracles for the conversion of unbelievers.”
In Bruno Cornacchiola, the Blessed Virgin recognized that we all have our moments of doubt and discouragement, and should turn to her for help. The Virgin of the Revelation also favored her prodigal son with foreknowledge of a portion of the future dogma of the Assumption, proclaimed by Pope Pius XII in 1950. She revealed: “My body could not be allowed to decay. My Son came for me with His Angels . . .”
True to Mary’s promise, the dirt from the Grotto of Tre Fontane, which formally saw great immorality, has proven to be miraculous. Like the miraculous waters at Lourdes, it continues to work wonders for the welfare of both bodies and souls. There have been so many bodily cures and conversions that no one disputes that these graces have been received through the intercession of the Virgin of the Revelation. In order to test him and to assure him of the Divine reality of all he experienced, she gave him a sign.
“Every time you meet a priest in church or in the street, you are to approach him and address him with these words, ‘Father I must talk to you.’ If he answers, ‘Ave Maria! My son, what do you want?’ beg him to stop because he is the chosen one. He will direct you to another priest by saying, ‘He is the one for you.’ ” It was quite a test that Our Lady put him through. He had to ask the question, countless times it seemed, to every priest he met and not get the proper response and walk away sadly aware of being thought of as rude or even out of his mind. It upset him so much that he was on the point of despair and even thought of committing suicide.
Then he prayed as he had never prayed before. Didn’t Our Lady ask him to pray and suffer for the conversion of sinners, of unbelievers and for unity of all Christians? He persevered and it eventually happened exactly as Our Lady predicted. However, as the word of the apparition got around he had much to suffer from former friends and associates who accused him of being a fanatic, crazy, etc. Others saw him as an exploiter of a situation that brought much attention to him. He was examined by the police and given, along with his children, psychiatric examinations. If he at times became depressed, he now turned to his spiritual guide, Our Lady of Good Counsel.
As if to refocus attention on the shrine and her message to Bruno, on April 12, 1980, the 33rd anniversary of the Virgin’s visit, a most astounding public miracle occurred at Tre Fontane in the presence of 3,000 people (including some 25 priests), who had gathered to hear Bruno Cornacchiola recall the first apparition and to attend a commemorative Mass. During the Holy Sacrifice strange images appeared in the sky above the Grotto. The sun seemed to turn backwards in the heavens and began to draw near the earth. It could be seen with without straining the eyes. It appeared bigger than normal, and showed within its corona brilliant and diverse colors, in much the same way as the sun “danced” in the sky over Fatima, Portugal in 1917.
In rapid movements, as an incandescent magma, forming diverse figurations, the sun appeared as: a cross; an “M”; a heart surrounded with stars, or dripping with blood; the monogram of Christ “IHS”; hands joined in prayer; the Holy Family; etc. Some also claim to have seen the solar crown separate in three circles, then come back together again. In spite of the numerous trees, which should have impeded vision, the sun stood out clearly and brightened the chapel, faces, and the clothing of the people.
The phenomenon lasted about a half an hour. Meanwhile, the Mass that had been in progress was halted so that the people could calm down and return their attention to the eternal Son present on the altar. When the Mass continued it was amid the visible emotions of the congregation. Many lapsed Catholics who had not gone to Confession for years returned to the Faith. There were also many physical cures. A medical center was set up and after extensive research confirmed that the cures were miraculous and beyond any medical or scientific explanation. Two years later the same miracle of the sun was repeated, again on the anniversary date, April 12, 1982. Again the people could look directly at the sun without hurting their eyes. An interesting difference between the two miracles of the sun is that in the first one in 1980 it was lay people who gave testimonies, whereas in 1982 miracle the testimonies were given by the clergy. Incidentally, Our Lady had a fourfold message for priests: they were to have a deeper faith in the revealed truths of the Faith, greater obedience to the Teaching Authority of the Church, a vigilant prudence in dealing with people, and a pure and dignified life style.
Bruno is now in his eighties and occasionally gives talks on Our Lady of Revelation, to whom he owes so much. Our Lady said that he would be another St. Paul, who also persecuted the Church, but ended up not only a Christian but a member of the apostles who went into the whole world to spread the Good News. From the very beginning of his conversion Bruno was intent in passing on the truths of the Faith which he formally so poorly understood. Under the inspiration and direction of Our Lady Herself he founded the catechetical organization called SACRl at Tre Fontane in April, 1948.
Even as Bruno was involved in promoting the errors of the Seventh Day Adventist Church as its President of the Missionary Youth Association, so for the last fifty years he has devoted his life to promoting the truth and catechizing the fallen-away Catholics, non-Catholics and Catholic youth, so that they be armed with the truth and not easily taken in by the errors found in the many cults of our day.
From the early months of his conversion, he was associated with an existing congregation of Sisters who were already in Tre Fontane catechizing the local people. In one of the apparitions, Our Lady told him, “Go to my beloved daughters, the Teachers Filippini, and tell them that their mission is to be one of intense prayer for the conversion of nonbelievers and sinners.” From the start, one of his close collaborators was a Sister Raffaella Somma, whom Our Lady of Revelation gave some predictions concerning the apparitions, her personal life, and even her death within a year—–all of which were fulfilled.
Gradually over the years, the apparitions became well established. An attractive, simple shrine was built staffed by the Conventual Franciscans. Pope Pius XII blessed the statue of Our Lady of the Revelation in St. Peter’s Square. Due to the many miracles—–physical ones and conversions as well as the miracle of the sun—–the number of people who pray at the Grotto and make pilgrimages there steadily increases.
Pope John Paul II blessed three statues of Our Lady of the Revelation for Italy, Australia and the United States, according to Fr. Edward Kelty, a resident of Rome. Of these shrines, Our Lady said: “Wherever a Sanctuary of the Virgin of Revelation is erected, it will be for all an oasis of conversion during the purgation of the Church.” The shrine in Australia is in the same diocese as the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate [The Friars are in the archdiocese of Sydney and also in Western Australia, in Perth]. The shrine in this country is under the Religious Teachers Filippini. Their address is: Sanctuary of the Virgin of Revelation, 60 Slocum Street, Waterbury, CT 06704 Tel. (203) 755-2456.
Catholic Tradition selected the shell motif as a decorative element because the shell is a symbol of Baptism used for pouring the waters of regeneration, in honor of all the dishonored and likely aborted babies of long ago in that grotto local, and because part of Pope Pius XII’s armorial bearings consist of a coast-like symbol.