In Easter of 2014, the Cassidy family planned a big trip to Rome to see Pope Francis in person during the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII.
They also brought along their 3-month-old daughter Ave, who was born with Down syndrome, hearing complications, eye problems, and most concerning—two holes in her heart.
"It was raining," Ave’s mother, Lynn Cassidy, recalled. "We were told that if we stood on a barricade in St. Peter's Square, the metal fences in front, the Pope would come by in his 'Pope'-mobile."
After waiting for hours at the barricade, the motorcade finally turned into the square, and Lynn’s husband, Scott, held Ave up as high as he possibly could.
"It was like the Lion King," Lynn said. "The secret service person, Johnny, stopped and took her from Scott and held her up to the Pope. The Pope asked my husband, 'How old is she? What's her name?' He told (the Pope) she has two holes in her heart.”
Pope Francis then held his hand over Ave’s heart and blessed the baby girl—a moment that a professional photographer caught on camera for the family.
“When we got home in May, we went back to the cardiologist for a check-up. One of the holes was completely closed and one was half the size," Lynn explained.
While the family now admits that it’s possible the Pope’s blessing just happened to be perfect timing, Lynn fully believes it was divine intervention.
"I mean it's possible that it closes just over time," she said. "But when you see the picture that the professional photographer took, his hand is here and he's a servant of God."
Ave is now a happy, healthy 20-month-old, after undergoing two eye surgeries and receiving two hearing aids. Most of all, her heart is as strong as ever.
If Lynn ever got the chance to meet Pope Francis again, she says she would tell him: "Thank you for spreading the word that all life is precious. Even life that seems like it might have struggles like hers. She is as precious as anyone else. We just thank you for spreading that message, because people need to hear that."