Editor’s note: the following story is an excerpt from the book “The wonders of the Holy Name” by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, O.P.
A devastating plague broke out in Lisbon in 1432. All who could do so fled in terror from the city and thus carried the plague to every corner of the entire country of Portugal.Thousands of men, women and children of all classes were swept away by the cruel sickness. So virulent was the epidemic that men died everywhere, at table, in the streets, in their houses, in the shops, in the marketplaces, in the churches.
To use the words of historians, it flashed like lightning from man to man, or from a coat, a hat or any garment that had been used by the plague-stricken. Priests, doctors and nurses were carried off in such numbers that the bodies of many lay unburied in the streets, so that the dogs licked up the blood and ate the flesh of the dead, becoming as a result themselves infected with the dread disease and spreading it still more widely among the unfortunate people.
Among those who assisted the dying with unflagging zeal was a venerable bishop, Monsignor Andre Dias, who lived in the Convent or Monastery of St. Dominic. This holy man, seeing that the epidemic, far from diminishing, grew every day in intensity, and despairing of human help, urged the unhappy people to call on the Holy Name of Jesus. He was seen wherever the disease was fiercest, urging, imploring the sick and the dying, as well as those who had not as yet been stricken down, to repeat, “Jesus, Jesus.” “Write it on cards,” he said, “and keep those cards on your persons; place them at night under your pillows; place them on your doors; but above all, constantly invoke with your lips and in your hearts this most powerful Name.”
He went about as an angel of peace filling the sick and the dying with courage and confidence. The poor sufferers felt within them a new life, and calling on Jesus, they wore the cards on their breasts or carried them in their pockets.
Then summoning them to the great Church of St. Dominic, he once more spoke to them of the power of the Name of Jesus and blessed water in the same Holy Name, ordering all the people to sprinkle themselves with it and sprinkle it on the faces of the sick and the dying. Wonder of wonders! The sick got well, the dying arose from their agonies, the plague ceased and the city was delivered in a few days from the most awful scourge that had ever visited it.
The news spread to the whole country and all began, with one accord, to call on the Name of Jesus. In an incredibly short time all Portugal was freed from the dread sickness.
The grateful people, mindful of the marvels they had witnessed, continued their love and confidence in the Name of our Saviour, so that in all their troubles, in all dangers, when evils of any kind threatened them, they invoked the Name of Jesus. Confraternities were formed in the churches, processions of the Holy Name were made monthly, altars were raised in honor of this blessed name, so that the greatest curse that had ever fallen on the country was transformed into the greatest blessing.
For long centuries this great confidence in the Name of Jesus continued in Portugal and thence spread to Spain, to France, and to the whole world.