‘Miracles happen. I know, because a miracle happened to me’
JAMAICA ESTATES — Dr. Vincent Rizzuto says he’s living proof that faith can cure illness.
Rizzuto, 85, a retired internist from Forest Hills, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and depression but says he was cured of both through the intercession of St. Charles of Mount Argus (1821-1893), a Passionist priest who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. “Miracles happen. I know, because a miracle happened to me,” Rizzuto said.
In 2020, Rizzuto wrote a manuscript about his experience with St. Charles that drew the attention of Father Victor Hoagland, CP, a priest who lives at the Passionist monastery in Jamaica Estates. Father Hoagland, who writes a blog, “The Victor’s Place,” posted the entire manuscript on his website.
“Dr. Rizzuto has a remarkable story to tell. People should know about it,” he said.
Grateful to be cured, Rizzuto has spent the past few years asking St. Charles to intercede on behalf of dozens of friends and acquaintances who were suffering either from illnesses or financial difficulties. He documents their stories in his manuscript.
Rizzuto’s remarkable recovery took place in 2015. He was at the end of his rope that year following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and was in the grip of a deep depression brought on by the sudden death of his sister Adeline two years earlier.
“She had a perfect bill of health. There was nothing wrong with her,” Rizzuto recalled. “Then, she had a sudden cardiac arrest and died. It caught me completely by surprise.”
The brother and sister, who grew up in Bushwick, had been close all their lives.
“I always tell people, the closer you are, the bigger the depression when you lose that person,” he added.
Rizzuto, who graduated from Georgetown University Medical School and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War era, went on to enjoy a varied career in medicine as a consultant for a medical program sponsored by Citibank and as an attending physician at the Catholic Medical Center of New York.
At one point during his illness, Rizzuto contemplated suicide. “I was afraid I might take my own life if I were left unattended,” he explained. He voluntarily checked into a psychiatric/medical center. “However, my depression was so deep that eventually, I exhausted most of the customary medication,” he wrote in his untitled manuscript.
He was discharged after doctors judged him to be stable enough to continue treatment as an outpatient.
However, depression continued to grip him, and he struggled with Parkinson’s. It was at that point that a friend brought him to the monastery in Jamaica Estates and introduced him to Father Joseph Guzinski, CP. Seeing how sick he was, Father Guzinski “got right down to business,” Rizzuto recalled.
Father Guzinski gave him the holy oils of St. Charles and suggested he use them.
“My home health aide made a sign of the cross, placed the oil on my forehead and we said a little prayer to St. Charles,” he recalled. “I had no sense of time or holidays or anything like that. But at 11 o’clock in the morning, I found out it was Easter Sunday. And my depression and my Parkinson’s went away, just like that.”
Rizzuto knew the depression was gone because he felt better immediately. The second part came a few weeks later when he was examined by a neurologist who concluded that he did not have Parkinson’s and advised him to stop taking his medications. Rizzuto, who had never heard of St. Charles before then, has learned a great deal about him since.
St. Charles, who was Dutch, was born Joannes Andreas Houben.
He was ordained in 1850, took the name Charles of St. Andrew and lived in the Mount Argus Passionist monastery in Dublin.
He became famous during his lifetime for his ability to cure the sick, Rizzuto said. Numerous people would bring their ill and infirm loved ones to him in the hope that it would cure them. His feast day is Jan. 5.
“He can help you. But you have to ask for his help,” Rizzuto said. To this day, he remains grateful to Father Guzinski, who died in 2016.
Father Hoagland is hoping Rizzuto’s story will lead people to discover St. Charles. “He was such a humble man.
“It’s interesting how God uses humble people to spread the faith — St. Bernadette, the children of Fatima, and St. Charles of Mount Argus,” he said.