December 31 - Saint Catherine Laboure (d. 1876)

The Madonna dei Fiori of Bra (III)

Of course, as often happens in such circumstances, certain coincidences have been observed that, when considered through the eyes of a believer, cannot be regarded as pure chance. For example, it was only during the winter of 1877-1878 that the bushes did not bloom at the end of December. The first flowers only appeared on February 20th. The following day, the news reached Bra that during that same few hours, a successor to Pius IX, Vicenzo Gioacchino Pecci had been elected, and had taken the name Leo XIII. But strangest of all seems to be the bushes' link with the Holy Shroud, preserved in the same diocese, in Turin Cathedral. The flowering, which normally lasts for ten days or so, (I have witnessed it myself), lasted for more than three months during the winter of 1898-1899, coinciding with the Solemn Exposition, during which the Shroud was photographed for the first time, revealing its mysterious properties as a photographic negative. On November 23, 1973, the Holy Shroud was exhibited on television for the first time, by the wish of Paul VI. And that year, well in advance of its usual flowering time, the blackthorn at the shrine was already flowering, and flowered until the following spring. Other occurrences also proved unusual during the Exposition of 1978, when the Archbishop of Krakow, soon to become Pope John Paul II, was among the three million pilgrims.

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