TRES RIOS, COSTA RICA – On a warm spring day, Floribeth Mora was in her bed waiting to die from a seemingly inoperable brain aneurysm when her gaze fell upon a photograph of Pope John Paul II in a newspaper.
“Stand up,” Mora recalled the image of the pope saying to her. “Don’t be afraid.”
Mora, her doctors and the Catholic Church say her aneurysm disappeared that day in a miracle that cleared the way for the late pope to be declared a saint in a ceremony at the Vatican, where she will be a guest of honor, next Sunday.
For Mora, the church-certified miracle was only the start of her metamorphosis from an ill and desperate woman into an adored symbol of faith for thousands of Costa Ricans and Catholics around the world.
Mora, 50, has been greeting a stream of local and international visitors in her modest home in a middle-class neighborhood outside the Costa Rican capital, and accepts invitations to as many as four Masses a day. The faithful have given her so many letters to deliver to Pope Francis that she has had to buy an extra suitcase.
Mora has suspended her late-in-life law studies and much of her work for her family security business to dedicate herself full time to her role as a symbol of faith for many in Costa Rica.
“With all of this going on, I appreciate having my own business, because if I had a boss, they would have already fired me for missing so much work,” she joked.
She says she ignores skeptics who doubt she was really healed.
“Everyone can think what they want,” she told a reporter who visited her home. “What I know is that I am healthy.”
Mora was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and sent home to rest and take pain medication in April 2011 after doctors said the problem was inoperable. Mora, who thought she was simply returning home to await death, looked at the image of John Paul on May 1, the day of his beatification six years after his death.
Then, she says, it spoke to her.
She surprised her family by walking around, and, after her doctors declared her healed, word spread quickly to the local church, and from there to the Vatican.
“I have no reason to doubt what I am. I am healthy, and that’s the most important thing,” said Mora.