Nhá Chica of Baependi

By Paulo Coelho

What is a miracle?

There is a definition for every kind of miracle: it may be something that goes against the laws of nature, an act of divine intervention at a moment of great crisis, something which is considered scientifically impossible, etc.

I have my own definition: a miracle is something that fills the soul with peace. Sometimes it manifests itself in the form of a cure or a wish granted, it doesn’t matter – the end result is that, when the miracle occurs, we feel a profound reverence for the grace God has granted us.

Twenty or more years ago, when I was going through my hippie phase, my sister asked me to be godfather to her first daughter. I was thrilled and I was especially pleased that she did not ask me to cut my hair (at the time, it was down to my waist), nor demand an expensive christening present (I didn’t have any money to buy one).

The baby was born, a year went by and no christening. I thought perhaps my sister had changed her mind and so I went to ask her what had happened. She replied: ‘You’re still the godfather, it’s just that I made a promise to Nhá Chica and I want to have her christened in Baependi because she granted my wish.’

I didn’t know where Baependi was and I had never even heard of Nhá Chica. My hippie phase passed, and I became an executive working for a record company, my sister had another child and still no christening. Finally, in 1978, a decision was taken, and the two families, hers and that of her ex-husband, went to Baependi. There I learned that Nhá Chica, who did not have enough money to keep herself, had spent the last thirty years building a church and helping the poor.

I was going through a very turbulent period in my life and I no longer believed in God, or, rather, I no longer believed that the spiritual world was very important. What mattered were the things of this world and what you could achieve here. I had abandoned the mad dreams of my youth – amongst them was that of becoming a writer – and I had no intention of going back to that dream-world. I was in that church merely to fulfil a social duty. While I was waiting for the christening to begin, I started wandering around outside and I ended up going into Nhá Chica’s humble little house next to the church. Two rooms, a small altar with a few images of saints, and a vase containing two red roses and one white rose.

On an impulse, quite out of keeping with my thinking at the time, I made a promise: If, one day, I manage to become the writer I would like to be, I will come back here when I’m fifty years old and I will bring two red roses and one white rose.

I bought a picture of Nhá Chica, purely as a souvenir of the christening. On the way back to Rio, there was an accident: the bus in front of me suddenly braked and, with split-second timing, I somehow managed to swerve out of the way, as did my brother-in-law, but the car behind us ran straight into the bus, there was an explosion and several people were killed. We parked at the roadside, not knowing what to do. I reached into my pocket for a cigarette and there was the picture of Nhá Chica with her silent message of protection.

My journey back to dreams, to the spiritual search and to literature began right there, and one day, I found myself back fighting the Good Fight, the fight you undertake with your heart full of peace, because it is the result of a miracle. I never forgot the three roses. Finally, my fiftieth birthday – which had seemed so far off at the time – arrived.

And it almost passed by. During the World Cup, though, I went to Baependi to fulfil my promise. Someone saw me arriving in Caxambú (where I spent the night), and a journalist came to interview me. When I told him what I was doing, he said:

‘Would you like to talk about Nhá Chica. Her body was exhumed this week and the beatification process is with the Vatican now. People should be giving their accounts of their experiences with her.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘It’s too personal. I’ll only talk about it if I receive a sign.’

And I thought to myself: ‘What sign would that be? The only possible sign would be someone speaking on her behalf!’

The next day, I bought the flowers, got into my car and went to Baependi. I stopped some way from the church, remembering the record company executive who had gone there all those years before and the many things that had brought me back again. As I was going into the house, a young woman came out of a dress shop and said:

‘I noticed that your book Maktub is dedicated to Nhá Chica. I bet she was really pleased.’

And she said nothing else. But that was the sign I was waiting for. And this is the public statement I needed to make.

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  1. octavio domit says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Thank you for sharing such a personal and inspiring experience.
    I am in Baependi right now, spending the weekend at a friends place, and I will try my best to visit Nha Chica’s church tomorrow before I return to SP.

  2. Paulo, e bonita a tua historia…………gostaria de ter a mesma sorte………..ja fiz varios pedidos, acendi varias velas, ate fiz um contribuicao em dinheiro la no Brasil uma vez no site de Nha Chica atraves de minha falecida irma Elza……mas………..nada aconteceu….me sinto uma folhinha de arvore indefesa voando ao leu na deriva sem destino, como diz o brasileiro, ao Deus dara……….quem sabe um dia vou pessoalmente a Baependi como voce foi, e tudo isso muda para melhor. ……….. abraco e boa sorte.

  3. jose auntrie says:

    Respected SIr,

    Am also going through a turbulent phase in my life. Please pray for me as well… Your story really moved me and filled my eyes….

    Thank you for sharing your story…

    With prayers.
    jose auntrie

  4. Gj says:

    Dear Paulo,
    I just bought one of your books last week and I totally loved it,,just wanted you to know that your messages were heard, read and will forever be cherished. After I read this book, I will continue to share it like you always want it to be.

    Simply Yours,

  5. Ana Bruno says:

    Olá Paulo:

    Que bom saber de vc e Nhá Chica, que só conheci este ano.
    Ní£o sei como pude viver sem ela todo esse tempo.
    Milagres acontecem sempre, espero um dia revíª-lo.
    Moro na Noruega.
    Bj, Ana Bruno

  6. rejina shanthi says:

    dear paulo,
    at first thanks a lot .iam now reading ur book ‘like the flowing river” ur book give me hope.really it give me a meaning to my life .some times i feel through u god is speaking to me.u are amazing.u are my favorite author.u are writings will helps a great for people who have lost all their love to live.u have kindled me hope.The article warrior and faith is amazing it give me new hope

  7. rejina shanthi says:

    dear paulo,
    at first thanks a lot .iam now reading ur book ‘like the flowing river” ur book give me hope.really it give me a meaning to my life .some times i feel through u god is speaking to me.u are amazing

  8. Monique says:

    je lis et je relis certains de vos ouvrages, Le Manuel du Guerrier de la Lumière, Maktub, Comme l’eau qui coule, et chaque fois j’y trouve ou y retrouve force et courage – j’aimerais beaucoup avoir une photo de Nhí  Chica et j’avais commencé de vous demander d’en publier une, mais j’ai réfléchi, si je dois la rencontrer elle saura me trouver – Merci pour tout

  9. Rosi says:

    Dear Paulo Coelho,

    I am really happy learning about this story. I read all your books and I loved all of them.


  10. consuelo garcia says:

    thanks for your writtings you are my favorite, I find peace in all you do thanks again

  11. anne says:

    thank you for sharing this inspiring story, im just wondering if you know any sites where i can download her prayer. ive been searching in the net but i always end up having a portuguese prayer, of which i cant understand, i mean the english of it. thank you


  12. Carmen Larisa says:

    Dear Paulo,

    A beautiful and impressing story you’ve written! It is obvious that you expressed your feelings in an open-minded manner, meaning that when telling the facts, you put your heart in it. Those who read can feel this very well. :-)
    It is impressive and it proves that everything happens for a reason and especially when we really want a change in our life.
    God is the greatest organizers of all; no one can fool God, even though people think that they can make a good impression with what they think or say about themselves, only God knows what our true intentions are and what we really need to evolve.
    Even though we don’t know what’s deep down in our souls, God knows and at the right time we meet special people to teach us about life, love, miracles in a subtle way. God knows everything but also has dicretion.
    Miracles are in our souls, they come from there and seem more effective when they are not very spectacular, even though we want them to be huge, very visible and loud.
    But God knows best that they must be efficient, discreet, and fill our hearts with peace and understanding.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us and don’t be afraid that doing this your intimacy will be at danger.
    Maybe you’ll lose some intimacy but you’ll definitely gain a lot of friends and then your heart will be more open than before. This is the idea: even if you do something and seem to become more vulnerable, it does not matter, because when you have a positive attitude and feel good, evil cannot touch you.
    We are all one being: the Spirit, drops in the Ocean of Love. When you are the Ocean, why would you be afraid of water?

    With love and appreciation,
    Carmen Larisa

  13. Celia says:

    My Dearest Paulo,

    My great Granny, was the one to teach me the true meaning of miracles.

    Like you, I gravitate towards people that are deeply connected to God, and that are less fortunate in the materialistic world. I, too always look for signs and signals, and through all of my encounters I make vows and own up to them.

    Miracles are the most beautiful thing to happen in ones life.
    They are a true blessing into our lives from God.

    Just Believe, and anything can happen.

    Thank you Paulo, this is beautiful.



  14. Karen says:

    As I finished reading about the miracle above, I thought of The Sign that I’m waiting for…

    The answer came crashing unto me quickly and as clear as crystal after only a little while.


    “she tells the story of a lovely bird who used to visit her. She admired it so much that one day she decided to keep it in a cage so that she could always have its singing and its beauty near her. As the days went by, she grew used to the new company and lost that wonderful feeling of waiting for that free soul to come visit her from time to time, without being obliged to do so. The bird in turn was unable to sing in captivity, and ended up dying. Only then did she understand that l

    LOVE NEEDS FREEDOM TO EXPRESS ALL ITS CHARM – although freedom implies risks.

    “We tend to want to capture things because we usually see freedom as something that has no borders or responsibilities. And because of this we also end up trying to enslave all that we love – as if egoism were the only way to keep our world well balanced. Love does not limit, it broadens our horizons, we can see clearly what lies outside and we can see even more clearly the dark places in our heart.”


    Thank you

  15. Leaf says:

    PS; there was an huge Thank you, in the first send, too. Thanks, LJ xxx

  16. Leaf says:

    I said that this was an emotionally moving story, then my comment disappeared;
    Also, re: the experimental witch project; I have never seen anything more beautiful in all my life, I wish you, and all participants, the very best of my heart, teardrops and all.
    LJ xx

  17. Leaf says:

    This was an emotionally moving story, thank you.

    And forgive me for typing in the wrong space; re: the experimental witch project – I have never heard of anything more beautiful in my life, and wish you, and all participants, the very best from my heart, teardrops and all.
    LJ xx