The Dawning of a Devotion

Quite naturally, like every healthy devotion in the Holy Church, Dona Lucilia’s reputation for holiness began to spread, not only as a model of a Catholic soul, but also as a surprisingly effective intercessor.

On the morning of April 27, 1968, the seventh-day Mass for the repose of the soul of Dona Lucilia was celebrated in the Church of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in São Paulo.

Her son, Dr. Plinio, who was attentively following the Holy Sacrifice, had a haunting doubt in his mind, born of his filial affection and the clear notion he had of the rigours of divine judgement: could his mother still be suffering the punishments of Purgatory?

At the moment of the Sanctus, an unexpected event put an end to his filial apprehensions: the beautiful cross of red roses atop the pall placed next to the Communion rail was suddenly illuminated by a strong ray of light. It even looked as if the beam of light had settled amid the petals of the bouquet of orchids in the centre of the arrangement.

Now, Dr. Plinio had just made an ardent plea to Our Lady: “I am conscious of having been a devoted son to Mama, and it is in this condition of a good son that I ask of Thee a sign, so that I may know whether she has left Purgatory.1 The heavenly answer was not long in coming.

The growing luminosity pervaded the petals at length, until the ray of light moved slowly towards one of the arches leading to the sacristy. Many of the faithful wondered what was the cause of the surprising phenomenon. Perhaps a broken stained-glass window or an open window – which no one could locate – allowed the ray of light to enter, but what could not be explained was why it remained in the same place for so long.

For the posthumous story of Dona Lucilia, the fact was a very significant one. It was God’s will that the first celestial sign that took place in her regard should be an authentic symbol of her work on earth. How many afflicted people had already found in that kind lady the consolation, the calm, the light they needed to continue their journey through the uncertainties of this life!

This was, therefore, the first “ray of light” of the many that, after Dona Lucilia’s death, would still fall on those who entrusted themselves to her maternal care.

The first collective promise

In 1968, a group of TFP2 members travelled to the city of Recife to carry out one of the institution’s usual public campaigns among the Brazilian population.

Msgr. João, then a layman, was heading the activity and had arrived in the Pernambuco capital a few days earlier to prepare accommodation for the young men who would be taking part in the campaign. He had been surprised by the persistent rain, which had been pouring down since the first moment of his stay. Now, in bad weather, it was impossible to be active on the streets… So, once his companions had arrived, and while the rain continued, he took the opportunity to have some formative conversations with the young people to help ease the wait.

Meanwhile, time passed and the rain continued… It was necessary to take more decisive action.

After two whole days spent in that distressing situation, a fortuitous inspiration came to Msgr. João:

“Let’s make a promise to Dona Lucilia to stop the rain! Are you in agreement?” he asked his young audience.

“Yes, excellent idea!” everyone replied amid enthusiastic applause.

They then made a joint promise to Dr. Plinio’s mother, who had died a few months earlier: if the rain stopped, on their return to the city of São Paulo they would pray a Rosary at her tomb in Consolation Cemetery, in thanksgiving for the grace obtained.

It was the first time that a collective promise had been made to Dona Lucilia, formally asking for her intercession in a difficult situation.

As incredible as it may seem, they had only to make the promise for the downpour to immediately stop! Impressed by the speed of the response, everyone had an inner certainty: it was a heavenly favour. Other promises followed over the days that the activity lasted, and they were almost always answered immediately, perhaps to emphatically reinforce and engrave in the souls of the beneficiaries the power that, from that moment on, the prayers addressed to Dona Lucilia would have.

Back in São Paulo, the fulfilment of the promise was the cue for the visits to her tomb to become continuous by those young people who were beginning to experience the efficacy of her maternal and powerful intercession.

Spontaneous devotion, the fruit of admiration

In reality, until 1967 very few members of the movement founded by Dr. Plinio frequented his home, where Dona Lucilia also lived. For the better part of his followers, his mother was a virtual stranger, with whom they only occasionally crossed paths or, when her health permitted, they would see discreetly attending some of her “big son’s” public lectures.

In a spontaneous way, some of Dr. Plinio’s followers began to ask for her intercession before God in various circumstances, and felt they had been answered
Dona Lucilia in March of 1968

However, after the diabetes crisis Dr. Plinio suffered that year, there was an increase in his followers’ contact with Dona Lucilia, who was already ninety-one years old, as a result of their visits to the convalescent founder. This contact, which lasted for several months, gave everyone – and in particular Msgr. João, who has an indelible memory of those days – the opportunity to have first-hand experience of Dona Lucilia’s unrivalled kindness and her graciousness manner.

Everyone was enchanted by her. But there was more: a unique unction resulting from the baptismal grace dwelling in that soul left an indelible mark on them, even though for some the interaction was limited to an amiable and formal exchange of words.

And so, when she passed away, some of Dr. Plinio’s followers – and especially, as we have seen, Msgr. João, the true forerunner of devotion to Dona Lucilia – spontaneously began to ask for her intercession before God in various circumstances. And they felt they had been answered.

Therefore, in the years following her death, her reputation as a mediator grew progressively, above all due to the good influence of Msgr. João over the others. In fact, the memory of Dona Lucilia would have been in serious danger of disappearing into the fog of oblivion if this faithful “apostle” had not taken it upon himself to divulge the eminent virtues that adorned her noble soul, given that Dr. Plinio, for the sake of discretion, would never have taken the lead in such an initiative.

She had a surprising solution for everything

What kind of favours made up the petitions of her first devotees? From assistance with the most mundane everyday needs, such as small practical complications, to more intricate cases, everything was entrusted to Dona Lucilia’s care on a constant basis, and she always came up with a surprising solution!

One of these regular occurrences took place with Msgr. João himself. He was praying at her tomb in complete solitude when a few large drops of rain began to fall – known in São Paulo as “quatrocentões”, alluding to a certain large old coin – the inevitable prelude to a tropical storm. Disappointed because it was the only day he could have a moment of prayer at the remains of his intercessor, this faithful son implored: “But on this very day, which is my day to come here, is it going to rain? It’s not possible! Dona Lucilia, do something!”

The answer was peculiar, because it was possible to observe a violent storm raging in the surrounding area, but it never reached the perimeter of the cemetery, which allowed Msgr. João to continue his prayer with great satisfaction.

On another occasion, Dona Lucilia’s maternal care met with the innocent absentmindedness of a youth who, upon leaving school, realized that he had forgotten to bring money to pay for the bus that was supposed to take him home. Dismayed, he walked down the street with a downcast gaze, praying to Dona Lucilia with filial trust: “Oh, my mother, if only I could find at least four little cruzeiros…” Only a few steps later, he saw the amount he had asked for on the ground.

Episodes like these demonstrate a maternal meticulousness in her care, intent on resolving even the smallest detail. However, the area in which Dona Lucilia’s action became most significant was in situations where young people entrusted themselves to her intercession in order to overcome difficulties of the spiritual life, in a world that was increasingly at odds with sanctity. Perseverance, chastity and prayer became, for many, practicable concepts thanks to an advocate called Lucilia.

Consequently, expressions of respect and gratitude for her began to multiply, such as the custom of placing flowers on her tomb in Consolation Cemetery, as well as frequent visits there to pray and ask for her help. Without a doubt, God’s grace was fostering devotion to Dona Lucilia with unique efficacy.

Expressions of respect and gratitude for her began to multiply, such as the custom of placing flowers on her tomb, as well as frequent visits there to pray and ask for her help
At left and right, floral decorations at Dona Lucilia’s tomb – Consolation Cemetery, São Paulo. In centre, a visit of Dr. Plinio with some of his disciples to the site; at his left is Msgr. João, then a layman

Thus, in a very natural way – or perhaps it would be more to the point to say that it was in a very supernatural way – like all healthy devotion within the Holy Church, Dona Lucilia’s reputation for holiness3 began to spread, not only as a model of a Catholic soul, but also as an effective intercessor.

However, it must be emphasized that, with regard to these ever-increasing manifestations of private devotion, that is, private veneration of Dona Lucilia, no initiative was ever taken on Dr. Plinio’s part, due to his outstanding integrity of conscience, to propagate her reputation for sanctity, even though there is nothing in Catholic doctrine to prevent a son from speaking of his mother’s virtues.4

Spiritual mother of thousands of children

While Dona Lucilia was still alive, Dr. Plinio used to ponder a question that he found difficult to solve: she had been an excellent daughter, a wonderful sister, a very patient and devoted wife, but above all, she had fulfilled the role of mother in an unparalleled manner. Anyone who lived with her would have the impression that her maternal soul remained in the expectation of dozens of children. These, however, never came – nor could they, in such large numbers. So how is it that Providence allowed such a big heart to find the torrents of her maternal affection and care inexorably confined?

The growing influx of people at Dona Lucilia’s tomb, the repercussions of graces obtained, the gratitude that so many showed for the countless benefits received, all this seemed to be the fitting answer to that “unsolvable” question. After all, she would not only be the mother of dozens, but of thousands of spiritual children, because her mission had begun, like never before, post-mortem! As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches,5 good is eminently diffusive. Given the immense stream of graces obtained through the intercession of Dona Lucilia, it was impossible for this devotion not to spread throughout the world, beyond the limits of a restricted circle.

Given the immense stream of graces obtained through Dona Lucilia’s intercession, this devotion could not fail to spread throughout the world
Msgr. João with the recently published book “Dona Lucilia”, in April of 2013

In fact, her fame has long since crossed the boundaries of the initial group of her devotees and is spreading with prodigious speed throughout the most varied settings in Brazil and the world, bringing the light of hope in affliction to those who turn to this kind lady with confidence.

Proof of this are the continuous testimonies received by the Heralds of the Gospel and published in this magazine, which have long since passed beyond the scope of the public directly related to the institution, to include people who come to know of her through the dissemination of her virtues and favours via digital media and other means, very often to our surprise.

In this way, as oil slowly and gently penetrates cloth, a spontaneous, sincere and supernatural devotion to Dona Lucilia is gradually spreading through public opinion, becoming accessible to all those who need maternal support and do not hesitate to ask for her help. ◊



1 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Dona Lucilia. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2013, p.48.

2 Brazilian Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property, a civic-cultural institution of Catholic inspiration founded by Dr. Plinio and of which Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP was a distinguished member.

3 Reputation for holiness, in Latin fama sanctitatis, is “the widespread opinion among the faithful regarding the integrity of life and the practice of Christian virtues, exercised in a continuous manner and surpassing the common conduct of other good Christians” (cf. AMATO, SDB, Angelo. “Sensus fidei” e beatificazioni. Il caso Giovanni Paolo II. In: L’Osservatore Romano. Città del Vaticano. Year CLI. N.78 [April 5, 2011]; p.7).

4 Cf. CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Carta ao diretor do jornal [Letter to the Editor of the newspaper] “O Estado de São Paulo”, 15/8/1979.

5 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ. I, q.5, a.4, ad 2.



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