Is Audrey Santo a Saint?

The Gift of Hope

That was in 1993, and Linda says that from that point forward, the oil spread uncontrollably. She says it eventually flowed from dozens of icons all over the house; so much that they had to attach cups to collect it. Even today, the chapel that was once the family garage is coated with oil stains on the walls, in chalices and on paintings.

One picture, Linda says, even wept blood. "That's scary. It's in your home. You know that if it's truly from God, if it's truly mystical, there's a world of responsibility that goes with that," she said.

For years these unexplained phenomena drew a constant stream of visitors to what they believed was an extraordinary spiritual event. Down a hall from the garage-turned-chapel is Audrey's bedroom, and at one time a window was cut into her wall to allow those seeking spiritual and physical healing to pray in front of her.

"They pray for her intercession to God to heal them," Linda said.

No one left with an immediate cure -- there is no hard evidence that Audrey healed anyone -- but those who visited were given hope and free packets of the oil, carefully collected on cotton balls. A video of Audrey is still for sale and over the years Linda said the family had collected a sizable sum in donations that was used for Audrey's care.

There is also no evidence that this was -- or is -- a get-rich scheme. The Santo home is simple, modest and unassumingly tucked into a middle-income Worcester neighborhood. Away from the crowds, the Santos lived a surprisingly ordinary lifestyle in the midst of their very unusual mission. Audrey was treated like any other member of the family. The Santos spoke to her constantly, and for years, they even carried her from her bed to the dining room for Sunday dinners. There were three shifts of nurses caring for her and machines to keep her alive, all largely paid for by insurance.

A 'Victim Soul'

In spite of this meticulous care, over the years Audrey developed mysterious symptoms, like an unusual rash, the kind a patient on chemotherapy might get. "And then it just disappeared," Linda said.

Linda says that almost simultaneously they received calls from cancer patients for whom Audrey had prayed, saying their cancer had gone away. There's no proof of any this, but the Santos and others believe Audrey is what Catholics call a "victim soul," someone who takes on the suffering of others.

"It's either she's a fake, the greatest one that I have ever met, or she is a genuine victim soul," the Rev. George Joyce told "20/20" in 1998.

In 1996, Joyce, while celebrating Mass in the Santos' chapel, says that the wafer or host, which is used during Communion, suddenly and mysteriously developed blood stains.

Ultimately five bleeding hosts would appear in the Santos' home and that would add to the lore that in turn attracted priests from around the world to Audrey's bedside. They believe the hosts contained the actual blood of Christ and put them on display carrying them through the kitchen to worshippers in the backyard.

All the attention eventually caught the eye of the church and the bishop who formed a commission to investigate. "We found nothing. No source of the oil," Robert Ciotone, a commission member, said in 1998.

Accepting the Ambiguity

John Madonna, the commission's chairman, said, "We did our examination behind the pictures and under the statues and so forth and found that there was no way that these objects were being fed the oil."

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