Photo courtesy of the family
Dolors Massot – 01/29/22
While Maria Todolí lay intubated in the ICU, separated from her husband, both of them experienced a profound life change.
On Christmas Eve 2021, in the home of Maria Todolí and Josep Ardit, a married couple from Spain, no one could have predicted what was about to happen.
The Valencian public television channel À Punt was talking about the married couple during prime time. “Now we’re connecting live with a family to ask how they’re living Christmas Eve,” presenter Màxim Huerta exclaimed enthusiastically. The transmission switched to a journalist who was with the family in person, introducing Josep, Maria and their nine children—the eldest of whom is 13 years old.
The camera wandered through the kitchen and the dining room, filming the table settings and the lights in the house, as well as the hot dinner on the table, while one of the girls seasoned the oranges for dessert with cinnamon. Josep, a pianist, had composed a song for the occasion so the little ones sang in chorus around their parents and the piano. It was an ideal Christmas scene.
“We wanted to show the beauty of God’s love in this way, making known what God had done in our lives, the happiness of marriage and all the children God has given us. We’ve had 13. Nine were born, Caterina is on the way, and three didn’t make it to birth but had—and still have—a great mission: Abiel, Esperanza and Jesus. Each child is a beautiful word from God. I was telling the presenter that after dinner we would head off running to midnight Mass,” recalls Josep.
Maria begins to feel sick
But the next day the unexpected happened: Maria, who was pregnant, began to feel sick. Very sick. “I think God wanted to show the beauty of the love of Jesus Christ for every person, but through suffering, which so often makes us doubt Him,” says Josep.
It was all very fast and frightening. By Christmas night, Maria was having difficulty breathing and within days was admitted with COVID-19 to the hospital in Alzira (Valencia). Eight of the children—Betlem, Maria, Immaculada, Mercè, Maria Magdalena, Teresa, Manuela, Candela and Josep, the youngest son—stayed at home. Josep remembers perfectly the terrible night of January 2.
A night of darkness
“I left her at the hospital, because with the COVID-19 pandemic I wasn’t allowed to enter. I watched her from outside through a window that overlooked the room she was in. I thought I was never going to see her again. I videotaped her with my cell phone so she could say something to the girls from that half-open window. When I returned home that night, it was very foggy and I could hardly see anything. Psalm 97 came to my mind: ‘Clouds and thick darkness are all around him …’ I sensed that I was going to experience something very serious.”
Transferred to the ICU
Maria’s health was getting worse by the minute, and she was 5 months pregnant with a baby girl, whom they had decided to name Caterina. Both lives were in danger. Maria was suffocating due to the disease. The doctors then decided to transfer her to La Fe Hospital in Valencia, where she was immediately moved to the ICU.
Overnight, Josep’s world collapsed. He thought that Maria would die and that everything he was would also die with her. He was afraid. What would become of his children? Then he felt in his heart the certainty that God is his Father, and also the Father of his eight daughters and little son Josep, and if Maria and Caterina died, “we would see them again in heaven.”
“Is God there, or not?”
In the end, Josep’s daily struggle was to live the concrete reality that God had permitted, which was that Maria and Caterina were sick in the hospital, but they weren’t dead. God was present in that concrete reality and not in the fantasies that Josep felt were real, which were unbearable because God wasn’t in them. “The constant temptation was: is God or isn’t God in this situation? Is the Lord a good spouse or is he coming to destroy me?” he recalls.
But that situation caused something in him that he never imagined: a true conversion, a turning point, going from living for himself to living for Jesus Christ out of gratitude. Josep says that he was sad because he was selfish, he was afraid to suffer, he had so many sins … He says, “I didn’t want to sin; I wanted to love Jesus Christ and others because I know that’s the truth, but I couldn’t get rid of my bitterness.”
Then something happened.
Josep asks for prayers
Josep began to make recordings and send them out via WhatsApp to keep people informed on Maria and Caterina.
“I got a call one afternoon from a person from London, whom I didn’t know at all. He’d heard about the situation from the recordings I’d sent. They were Catholic Charismatics living in a contemplative community there. He was like an angel announcing to me that God had healed Maria and that I had to start giving thanks for it. We prayed over the phone and he gave me the Gospel of St. Mark 11:20-26 (the one about the withered fig tree). My father had also told me [something similar] that morning while I was washing some dishes, and I believed them both, but seeing that Maria’s situation wasn’t improving, it was impossible for me to give thanks.”
“That man from London kept telling me to look with the eyes of faith, that Maria was cured even if the medical data didn’t confirm it yet. That evening I went to Mass with our three eldest children. I was full of bitterness and sadness, and then I went to confession in tears. When I got home I began to give thanks for each daughter, for my little son Josep, for my wife and Caterina, for so many things I’d received. We played videos of Maria and the family, which days before it had been impossible for me to watch because of the pain they caused me. And if my son Josep asked about his mother, I showed him the Virgin and told them, ‘Mom isn’t here right now but the Virgin is and she will embrace you.’”
“Joy entered the house even though my wife was still intubated.”
“It was a miracle,” he continues. “Jesus Christ had truly taken away my sins in that confession and I began to pray from a corner on the floor next to my bed, not only for Maria and Caterina but for everyone, for all those who were suffering but didn’t know the comfort of God’s love. I was a different person. I fell in love with Jesus Christ and the joy of the Virgin entered the house even though my wife was still intubated.”
When the worst was over, I interviewed Maria Todolí, although she was still in the hospital. At the time of the interview, it was January 22. Maria had spent many days on the verge of death. She had been intubated twice. When I spoke to her she was out of the ICU but still at La Fe Hospital. She had a little way to go yet because she was being treated for a bacterial infection, Clostridium difficile, which had slipped into Maria’s body taking advantage of the weakness of her immune system.
We spoke over the phone, with Maria and Josep using the speaker of their cell phone. They didn’t want to wait any longer to talk about what had happened to them, because they weren’t talking only about physical healing. They wanted to talk about their conversions — which happened to both of them.
Thousands of people praying for Maria and Caterina all over the world
Josep explained to his wife what had happened during those 20 days: thousands of people all over the world had been, and still are, praying for them. They’d been receiving updates through the voice messages recorded by her husband. He’d tell his listeners how Maria was and what the doctors were saying.
“I never thought these recordings would be listened to by so many people, nor that they could help. Everything has surprised us.”
Very soon Josep also opened his heart to let it be known that God had touched him deeply.