Disclaimer

NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Holy Relics Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 10/28/2012


 
A few of the regular participants of Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group
standing beside the Rosa Mystica shrine in the Gruber home.
 
What an evening last night turned out to be!  At this month's prayer meeting at the Gruber home, we did our usual round of prayers prior to which I shared about the holy lives of the great St. Francis of Assisi and our new Saint, Mother Marianne Cope.  We also venerated relics from each Saint and had a very meaningful discussion about what these holy people personally meant to us.  The rest of the meeting proceeded, as usual, with nothing particularly eventful to report... but it was what happened afterwards that really came as a big surprise.
 
At tonight's meeting, we venerated a 1st Class Relic (bodily ashes) of
St. Francis of Assisi (left) and also commemorated St. Marianne's memory through
a small glass phial filled with blessed soil from her original grave at Kalaupapa.
 
Just a few moments after we concluded our last prayer with an "Amen", two of our cellphones in the room started going off like crazy.  Dre, our host, answered her phone first, only to learn from someone on the other end that we had a "Tsunami (tidal wave) Watch" in effect due to a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada.  It was really uncanny because just minutes before - during our open prayer intentions segment of the meeting - we had invoked the Lord's protection for our country from hurricanes and other natural disasters... and next thing we know, we're facing a potentially dangerous tidal wave that was headed straight for our Hawaiian islands.
 
A chart of the Canadian earthquake that triggered the latest
Tsunami Watch in the Hawaiian islands.
 
Needless to say, we hurriedly finished our potluck meal and the three of us who lived on the windward side of Oahu, headed for home to prepare ourselves.  After a couple of hours of tense waiting and more rosary prayers, the tsunami arrived at about 10:30pm... but not in the magnitude originally expected - Thanks be to God!  All of us who participated in last night's prayer meeting later expressed our gratitude that we were able to come together in prayerful intercession for our island home and for the rest of the country.  I'm not saying that we stopped the tsunami, but I do believe all the prayers that were offered last night by many concerned people in Hawaii (and beyond) - including us - combined together, must have somehow moved the merciful heart of God to spare us.  Prayer is indeed powerful... and yet again, we dodged another bullet.
 
 
* * * * *  Update: 10/29/2012  * * * * *
 
While browsing through some of the other photos that I took with my cellphone during this prayer meeting, I found among them, the photo shown below.  Initially, I didn't use it for this post because of the unattractive flash-glare that showed up on the picture of St. Marianne that was on the altar... but now I'm adding the photo because of it.
 
When I took a second look at the photo on my computer screen this morning, my eyes were drawn to the light reflection and I noticed that there was a distinct image of a man mysteriously formed in it; I was stunned... and if you compare the photo with the one shown above, you can see that the image was not something that was already superimposed on the picture of St. Marianne.  I am praying to the Lord to enlighten me about the significance of this unusual image.
 
A mysterious image of a man (circled in red) appears in the flash reflection on St. Marianne's photo.
(click on the photo to view a larger image)
 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Saint of the Month (Round 2): St. Anna Schaffer


Saint Anna Schaffer
A Victim-Soul for Sinners ~ Feast: October 5th
 
Anna Schaffer (also spelled as "Schaeffer") is one of those holy souls who during her lifetime passed quietly and unnoticed... but after she died, her reputation for exceptional goodness did not fade with her earthly life, but instead, guided by the hand of God, it slowly grew and grew until it finally snowballed during the last 20 years; culminating in her recent Canonization this past October 21st.  I normally feature just one Saint a month on my blog, but in the past week I noticed on my behind-the-scene stats, that a lot of recent visitors to my website were due to searches for "[Saint] Anna Schaffer".  I can only speculate that the recent Canonization events in Rome had many people around the globe wondering who this obscure German laywoman was (I, myself, only learned about her 9 years ago)... and what was it about her that prompted the Church to proclaim her one of its newest Saints.  If you're one of those curious people, this particular posting will be of interest to you.
 
To begin... St. Anna Schaffer was born to a poor yet devoted German couple on February 18, 1882, in Mindelstetten, Bavaria.  She was a precocious and pious child, who from her First Holy Communion resolved to become a missionary nun.  During her teen years she worked diligently to raise money for the dowry that she needed to join a congregation, but her dreams of living as a religious were dashed by an unforeseen tragic event.  One fateful evening in 1901, Anna was seriously scalded at her workplace after she slipped and landed knee-deep into a large vat of boiling bleach, while attempting to fix a broken stovepipe.  Obviously, the accident left the unfortunate woman in atrocious pain and horribly scarred... and to make matters worse, all the medical treatment proved futile and she was eventually confined to bed as an invalid.
 
St. Anna Schaffer as a young girl.  She had resolved to
live only for Jesus after her First Holy Communion.
 
Initially, Anna was filled with anguish and regret over the accident and her infirmities, but through the compassionate and constant guidance of her parish priest, she came to slowly accept her painful condition as a special call from God to imitate Christ Crucified.  She offered her life as a sacrifice for sinners and for the spiritual needs of the Church, and in this manner, she eventually found peace, joy, and a sense of purpose for her sufferings.  Things took an extraordinary turn in 1910 after she received several visions of St. Francis of Assisi and the Lord, himself, who bestowed upon her the Sacred Stigmata in her hands, feet, and side.  Anna’s humility prompted her to ask the Lord to hide the visible wounds, which he eventually did, but she continued to feel the pain of the Stigmata for the rest of her life.
 
Anna spent her remaining years living in poverty, but yet her day-to-day existence was also a fruitful life of prayer, atonement, and counseling those in need of spiritual guidance through either personal contact or through an active letter-writing apostolate. She continued to receive heavenly visitations and also experienced the mystical gift of Bilocation, as attested by witnesses who saw her ministering to the poor and infirm in distant places although she was physically incapable of leaving her own sick bed.
 
The Saint's beautiful tomb in the parish church of
Mindelstetten, Bavaria (Germany)
 
In the end, Anna’s final illness was rectal cancer, which led to her holy death on October 5, 1925; her last words were, "Jesus, I live in you".  The funeral service that followed was the biggest ever remembered in Mindelstetten and Anna’s grave immediately became a place of pilgrimage where hundreds of cures and favors were recorded by the town's parish church.  She was beatified by the late Pope John Paul II in March 1999... and Canonized on October 21, 2012.  Her tomb (now within the parish church) continues to be a place of pilgrimage, especially among German Catholics.

A Reflection:
“The righteous call out, and the Lord hears them; He rescues them from all their troubles.”  ~ Psalm 34:18

A Short Prayer:
Dear St. Anna, pray for me that I might have an abundance of Faith and Fortitude during my own times of personal trial and illness.  Amen.
 

Saints & Holy Relics Make Nationwide News...

 
  
Portraits of America's new Saints: St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope
 
The Canonizations celebrated on 10/21/2012 by the Catholic Church has garnered a surprisingly large amount of mainstream news coverage in the USA - both on television and online - during the past few weeks.  Undoubtedly, it probably had a lot to do with the fact that two of the seven new Saints had lived and died on American soil - the already-famous, St. Marianne Cope of Molokai (d. 1918), and the not-so-well-known (but equally virtuous), St. Kateri ("Katherine") Tekakwitha (d. 1680), a Native American from the Mohawk Indian Tribe.  
 
I was actually quite happy to see how many of the news stories prominently featured the two miraculous healings attributed to the intercessions of St. Marianne and St. Kateri, which were also approved by the Church as integral validations of  their respective Canonization Causes. Interestingly, both cures involved the devout use of Holy Relics... and since this little ministry is mainly dedicated to promoting devotion to the Saints and their sacred remains, I couldn't resist writing about it!
 
A small glass phial, filled with soil from the original grave of St. Marianne Cope,
sits beside a veil-relic of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this ministry's custody. The soil was a
gift from a dear friend who received it from a nun of St. Marianne's congregation.
 
In the case of the healing attributed to St. Marianne Cope, a woman named Sharon Smith from Syracuse, New York (the same city where St. Marianne originally became a nun), was dying from severe pancreatitis in 2005.  Upon hearing of her condition, a nun from St. Marianne's congregation pinned a plastic packet to Smith's hospital gown and prayed for the patient to be cured.  The small pack contained soil from Mother Marianne's original grave in Kalaupapa - a 3rd Class Relic - that was apparently a factor in the inexplicable healing that resulted soon after.
 
The miracle attributed to St. Kateri Tekakwitha involved the 2006 cure of a young boy - Jake Finkbonner - whose was dying from a severe infection of the infamous "flesh-eating bacteria" after medical treatment failed to stop it from spreading throughout his body.  Again, in this case, a nun placed a relic (1st Class) of the future Saint on the dying child and the advance of the killer bacteria was halted within hours. Below is a portion of a story about Jake's cure that I clipped from Yahoo:

 
According to the Bible, in the early years of the Church, God used St. Paul to cure the sick and to work incredible wonders for the benefit of the Faithful:
 
"Meanwhile, God worked extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul.
When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick,
their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them."
 
~ Acts 19:11-12
 
... and now, reading and watching all the news coverage about this past Canonization ceremony brings me joy and excitement because it just goes to show that God is still working the same miracles today; that the Church's devotion to the Saints and their respective relics still has relevance and spiritual value even in our modern timesThanks and praises be to God... and blessed be the Saints who accomplished his Divine Will!
 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

St. Marianne Cope: A Second Saint for Hawaii!


 
The shrine of St. Marianne Cope in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawaii...
 and a large, carved wooden statue of the Saint currently on display near the shrine. 

A special congratulations to all the Catholic Faithful in Hawaii!  At this very hour (Italian time), the Vatican is celebrating the Canonization of several new Saints, including one from our Aloha State - what a tremendous joy and blessing for the entire Church!  Of course, I am referring to our very own Mother Marianne Cope, who is now officially Saint Marianne Cope of Molokai... and trust me, the Catholics of Hawaii are having a very proud moment right now - we're the only State in the USA to have two Saints who lived and died within our bounderies!

For readers who are not familiar with St. Marianne, here's a chronological summary of the life of our new Saint:


 A Prayer Invoking the Intercession of St. Marianne Cope of Molokai
(from the website of the Sisters of St. Francis, Syracuse ~ New York)

Lord Jesus, you who gave us your commandment of love of God and neighbor, and identified yourself in a special way with the most needy of your people, hear our prayer. Faithful to your teaching, St. Marianne Cope loved and served her neighbor, especially the most desolate outcast, giving herself generously and heroically for those afflicted by leprosy. She alleviated their physical and spiritual sufferings, thus helping them to accept their afflictions with patience. Her care and concern for others manifested the great love you have for us. Through her merits and intercession, grant us the favor which we confidently ask of you so that the people of God, following the inspiration of her life and apostolate, may practice charity towards all according to your word and example.  Amen.

Through the intercession of St. Marianne Cope, I ask for the grace of (mention your request here).

[Conclude the prayer by reciting an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and Glory Be in honor of St. Marianne]

A 1st Class [Bone] Relic of St. Marianne Cope, as displayed on her Feast Day
in her shrine at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pilgrim Statue & Holy Relics Visitation: Vargas Residence, 10/13/2012


A large sign outside the Vargas Residence, testifying to their Catholic Faith
and their devotion to the Blessed Virgin (note the gloomy weather).
 
Today, on the 95th anniversary of the stupendous Miracle of the Sun at Fatima (Portugal), the Vargas Family in Kailua again hosted a Rosary Prayer Rally as part of their participation with the nation-wide annual prayer campaign sponsored by the America Needs Fatima organization.  I was graciously invited to be a part of the prayer gathering and to also bring with me my veil-relic of our Blessed Mother and the Holy Relics of the Beatified Fatima children: Bl. Francisco & Bl. Jacinta Marto. Since the prayers were held in a private/home setting, I was able to include a 2nd Class Relic of Sr. Lucia dos Santos (d. 2005)  from my  ministry's custody, which meant that all three of the Fatima seers were represented at the event through their relics!
 
A photo of some of the prayer participants who gathered in the
driveway of the Vargas Residence to pray the Holy Rosary.
 
Before the beginning of the prayers at Noon, the skies were covered by dark grey clouds and rain fell throughout Kailua causing several people near the outside of the tent to open umbrellas... but remarkably, no sooner had the prayers started when the rains suddenly subsided and sun came out!  The timing was so obvious and reminiscent of what happened at Fatima in October 1917... that many of us had no doubt in our minds that it was a little sign from our dear Heavenly Mother.
 
 
This ministry's 27" Fatima Pilgrim Virgin statue flanked with the relics of the
Fatima Seers and Our Lady's clothing.  A closer view of the Fatima relics is shown to the right.
(click on all the photos in this blog to see larger images)
 
After we finished the prayers, I was invited by the lady of the house - Auntie Patty Vargas - to give a brief talk on the history of Our Lady's apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady's call to pray and sacrifice... and the significance of Sacred Relics in the Catholic Faith.  We then headed indoors with Our Lady's statue and the relics, and enjoyed a delicious meal courtesy of our hosts.  It was definitely another successful prayer rally for the Vargas Ohana.  'am already looking forward to the 2013 rally!
 
A makeshift altar set-up in the Vargas home to display the two statues of Our Lady
and the Holy Relics that were present at the event (the lovely Immaculate Heart of Mary statue
belongs to a friend, a relative of our host).
 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Enigma of the Sacred Stigmata


** NOTICE:  This post contains images readers may find graphic & disturbing. **

“From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me; for I bear
the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.”

~ Galatians 6:17

The above quote from Sacred Scriptures was made by none other than the great Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul of Tarsus. It’s an enigmatic statement, which many interpret to mean that the Saint was referring to the many sufferings he endured for the sake of Christ’s cause. However, there are many who also speculate that he was referring to something much more specific and mysterious - the Sacred Stigmata of Jesus Christ; that he, St. Paul, was possibly the very first Stigmatic (or Stigmatist) in the rich history of Christianity. 

A familiar image of St. Francis of Assisi receiving the Sacred Stigmata
during a vision on Mt. Alverna, Italy (as painted by Giotto) 

+  What is the “Stigmata”?

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of
the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church.”

~ Colossians 1:24

For those who aren’t familiar with what stigmata is, in Catholic mysticism, the word describes a set of wounds - replicating those suffered by Christ during his Passion - that have appeared on the bodies of individuals throughout the centuries.   The wounds of the Sacred Stigmata may consist of one, or more, of the following:

   +  The bloody sweat suffered by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
   +  The scourge wounds suffered at the pillar
   +  The wounds made by the crown of thorns
   +  The shoulder wound that resulted from the carrying of the Holy Cross
   +  The nail wounds in the hands and feet received during the crucifixion
   +  The lance wound to the side/heart made by a Roman soldier after Christ died

Dr. Antoine Imbert-Gourbeyre - a French doctor who died in 1912 - personally studied several Stigmatics during his lifetime, as well as compiled a comprehensive listing of Stigmatics he had identified from history. His count, at the time, totaled 321 Stigmatics, which in my humble opinion falls a little short of the actual number based on my personal research… and interestingly enough, woman Stigmatics outnumbered the men three to one, which isn’t surprising given the fact that women have a greater capacity to empathize with those who suffer. Plus, if you think about it - wasn’t Jesus attended to during his Passion and death by more women than men?

A painting of the stigmatization of St. Catherine of Siena
(click on all photos on this blog to view larger images)

The phenomenon of the Mystical Stigmata, has itself, fueled debate between the Faithful and those who either believe that there’s a scientific/medical explanation for the wounds, or that they are simply an outright fraud perpetrated by publicity seekers. For me, personally, I believe the numerous cases of Stigmatics who have been Canonized or Beatified by the Catholic Church (approximately 70 mystics) and those who are currently being investigated for possible Sainthood (60+ Servants of God) were indeed special individuals who were touched in a most profound way by the hand of God.  Henceforth, in the rest of this blog, I will refer to this select group of Catholic mystics as “true” Stigmatics.

In the past 25 years I have studied the phenomenon and have read biographies - long and short - of over 200+ recipients of the stigmata, and I must say - my admiration for true Stigmatics has only grown as I came to fully realize how their unique vocations and roles in salvation history have made them not just spiritual "carbon copies" of Christ Crucified, but miraculous physical representations of Him, as well,  in a world that is increasingly denying the existence of God.

In this blog I will attempt to explain the reasons why I believe the Mystical Stigmata, as exhibited by credible Catholic mystics, is a supernatural grace from God. This post will be very long, so for the reader’s sake I won’t delve deeply into the theological aspect of the phenomenon, nor go into an extensive rebuttal of what skeptics believe. Now before I continue, it’ll be necessary to briefly state how skeptics view the stigmata - they believe that it’s mainly caused by the following two reasons:

  ***  A hysterical condition augmented by auto-suggestion or self-hypnosis, during which the mind causes the body to produce marks resembling crucifixion wounds (in other words, they say it’s a mind over matter thing).

  ***  “Pious Fraud”: a term used to describe situations where a person deliberately perpetrates a hoax to propagate a religious cause. The term has also been used to describe a situation where a Stigmatic was accused of self-inflicting wounds while he/she was in an altered state of consciousness (e.g. Ecstasy).

The above may be correct in many cases, but in the instances of true Stigmatics, I can’t bring myself to believe in the above explanations based on what I’ve gleaned from my years of research. There are just too many inexplicable factors attested to by countless witnesses, including doctors and scientists, that point to the supernatural origin of the Mystical Stigmata. So below are just some of my findings that I believe support the authenticity of this unique marvel...

+  The Mystery of the Wounds

“And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood:
and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

~ Hebrew 9:22

The wounds of genuine stigmata are generally very deep and they bleed profusely. In comparison, in the few documented cases of trauma patients who were subjected to hypnotism to produce stigmata-like lesions, researchers were only able to effect weak imitations of the genuine wounds; hypnosis/auto-suggestion only induced superficial, rash-like marks that seeped a small amount of blood, if any… and they healed rather quickly. To give an example of the severity and depth of what a genuine Stigmatic suffered, the permanent hand wounds of the Italian foundress, Madre Claudia de Angelis (d. 1715 - Anagni, Italy), completely pierced her palms and her confessor once wrote he could see right through them when she held her hands up against a candle flame. Closer to our own time, St. Padre Pio (d. 1968 - San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy), the famous Capuchin Saint, had a very deep chest wound, which bled almost a cup of blood daily yet astoundingly he never suffered from anemia. Furthermore, in all cases, the stigmata never became infected despite the lack of medical treatment, and in fact, they often got worse or were simply resistant when medication was applied to cure them.

  
St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), shortly after he was stigmatized in 1918... and his spiritual protoge',
Teresa Musco of Caserta (d. 1976).  Teresa's wounds pierced her hands completely.

Most stigmata are exhibited as permanent wounds on the bodies of the stigmatized, but there have been quite a number of mystics who have had “periodic” episodes of the wounds (or the times when the wounds would bleed). In the latter case, the stigmata have manifested or bled only during the Lenten Season or weekly on Fridays, the day commemorating the Passion. In these events, deep lesions spontaneously erupt at the traditional sites of the Passion wounds only to mysteriously heal within a few hours without the aid of medical treatment. This mystery was closely observed in the remarkable case of St. Gemma Galgani (d. 1903 - Lucca, Italy) who manifested varying degrees of stigmata from Thursday evening to late Friday afternoon - her scourge wounds were sometimes so deep, bones were visible, yet by Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, the terrible lesions would be completely gone only to reappear a week later!   Again, this is something that is clinically impossible.

The Fragrance of Sanctity is also frequently associated with Stigmatic wounds or with the blood that has issued from them. To name just a few Stigmatics who were graced with sweet-scented wounds, we can cite St. Lydwina of Scheidam (d. 1433 - Holland), Madre Juana dela Cruz (d. 1534 - Madrid, Spain), Madre Domenica del Paradiso (d. 1553 - Florence, Italy), St. Catherine dei Ricci (d. 1590 - Prato, Italy), Benoite Rencurel (d. 1718 - Laus, France), and again St. Padre Pio whose wounds and blood emanated the scent of fresh roses. For skeptics who claim a bottle of perfume is the cause, it doesn’t explain why the preserved blood-soaked bandages (including other personal belongings) of certain stigmatized holy persons continue to emit the wonderful scent of flowers or incense long after a mystic has passed away.

             
The Servant of God, Domenica Lazzeri (left), St. Gemma Galgani (center),
and the Servant of God, Therese Neumann (right)

In the well-documented cases of Domenica Lazzari (d. 1848 - Capriana, Italy) and Therese Neumann (d. 1962 - Konnersreuth, Germany), their blood was witnessed to supernaturally defy gravity during their weekly Passion Ecstasies. When these women bled from the stigmata, they would normally be lying in bed with their feet pointing up towards the ceiling. Yet the blood that issued from their feet wounds never flowed downwards, as was expected, but instead it flowed upwards towards the toes as though the women were suspended on crosses (also see the segment on "Hemography" further down in this blog)!

Luminosity has also been reported in the wounds of certain Stigmatics. Again citing, Therese Neumann, her hand wounds were observed (and photographed) glowing on at least one occasion while she was in ecstasy during a Mass in her parish church. St. Catherine dei Ricci’s wounds and those of Bl. Helen of Hungary (d. 1237 - Veszprim) were likewise witnessed to glow radiantly while they were in ecstatic rapture.  After she died in 1457, the nuns in her small Italian convent observed St. Rita of Cascia’s single thorn wound sparkling like a precious jewel on her forehead.

Another mystic, Madre Passitea Crogi (d. 1615 - Siena, Italy), had her blood collected without her knowledge during the occasions that she relived the Passion of Christ in a trance state. Vials of her blood are still preserved in one of the Franciscan monasteries she founded, and although the blood is now obviously dry and crusty, the nuns have observed it liquefying into bright red blood during major Feast Days, or at times of crisis for the Church.

I, myself, am blessed to have in my custody, a piece of bandage soaked in the stigmatic blood of the Servant of God, Louise Lateau (d. 1883 - Boise d’Haine, Belgium).  Originally when I first received it from a priest-friend in 2001, the blood was dark and dry.  However, shortly after it was placed on my home altar, the blood became moist and it caused a large stain on the holy card on which this rare and precious relic was mounted (see below).  I had to laminate the card in order to keep it from falling apart.

A relic from the stigmatic blood of Louise Lateau (d. 1883).
In recent years the blood has "moistened" and it caused the large
dark stain seen to the bottom-right of the card.

And finally, what is probably one of the most bizarre occurrences connected with the Sacred Stigmata - some mystics have had nail-like protuberances included in their wounds. A well-documented instance is found in the life of St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226 - Italy), who is reportedly the first verified Stigmatic in the history of the Church. His early biographer noted that his hand and feet lesions were embedded with dark, hard “nails” that were formed out if his own flesh. As already mentioned, the mind can induce the body to form rash-like marks and drip blood, but it is clinically impossible for the human brain to make our bodies form the fleshy nails described in the wounds of St. Francis.  Incidentally, Therese Neumann also had similar nail-formations as part of her stigmatic hand wounds.

+  Associated Mystical Phenomena

“Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do,
he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.”

~ Words of Our Lord, John 14:12

In addition to bearing the wounds of Jesus in their bodies, many Stigmatics were also gifted with other mystical gifts; in fact, in my readings on the lives of the Saints, I have never seen an abundance of charisms in the lives of holy persons as experienced by Stigmatics; their biographies overflow with reports of signs and wonders. Just to give you a small idea of these other supernatural gifts, and the stigmatized souls who experienced them, I present the following:

  
A photographic portrait of the Italian Servant of God, Edvige Carboni (d. 1852),
and a rare photo of the visible stigmata on one of her hands.

Bilocation - the charism of being able to be at two places at once, has been reported in the lives of St. Lydwina of Scheidam (d. 1433), Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), Madre Maria Candida de San Augustin (d. 1861), Teresa Helena Higginson (d. 1905), St. Anna Schaffer (d. 1925), St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938), Edvige Carboni (d. 1852), Anna Henle (d. 1950), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and Maria Teresa Carloni (d. 1983).

Healing Abilities - the service-charism of curing ailments either through their prayers or by their touch, during their lifetimes, was granted to St. Margaret of Cortona (d. 1297), St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), St. Colette of Corbie (d. 1447), St. Gerard Majella (d. 1755), Bl. Anna Maria Taigi (d. 1837), Teresa Helena Higginson (d. 1905), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and Little Audrey Marie Santo (d. 2007).

 
The blood of two stigmatics - Sr. Maria Teresa Pinol (left) and Natuzza Evolu (right) - the stains of
which miraculously arranged themselves into religious imagery on pieces of cloth.

Hemography - a unusual phenomenon involving the blood shed from stigmatic wounds.  There have been documented instances where the bloodstains captured on bandages and pieces of cloth have inexplicably rearranged themselves to form elaborate religious imagery such as crosses, spears, the Eucharist, flaming hearts, etc.... and even entire phrases of a spiritual nature! At other times, the symbols were impressed on the bodies of the stigmatics, themselves. For example, the famous Augustinian mystic, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich  (d. 1824), was known to have been impressed with a cross on her chest in addition to also having the regular spear wound. This particular charism has also been noted in the lives of  Sr. Maria Teresa Aycinena Pinol (d. 1841),  Marie-Julie Jahenny (d. 1941), Sr. Maria Rumolda Van Beek (d. 1948), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and most prolifically evidenced by Natuzza Evolu (d. 2009), who incidentally, was illiterate and couldn't read the words that were formed in her own blood.

Incorruptibility - after their deaths, the bodily remains of the following Stigmatics were found to be preserved from corruption: St. Margaret of Cortona (d. 1297), St. Clare of Montefalco (d. 1308), St. Angela of Foligno (d. 1309), St. Frances of Rome (d. 1440), St. Rita of Cascia (d. 1457), St. Eustochia Calafato (d. 1491), Bl. Osanna Andreasi (d. 1505), St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), St. John of the Cross (d. 1591), St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi (d. 1607), St. Rose of Lima (d. 1617), Ven. Orsola Benincasa (d. 1618), Bl. Mariana de Jesus Navarro (d. 1624), Ven. Madre Mariana de Jesus Torres (d. 1635), Bl. Maria Angela Astorch (d. 1665), Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno (d. 1900), and the American, Marie Rose Ferron (d. 1936).

The above list is by no means complete (there are much more), but it should be sufficient to show that the phenomenon of Incorruptibility is prevalent in the hagiography of Stigmatics.

The incorrupt body of Bl. Osanna Andreasi (d. 1505); her stigmata was invisible to others,
but appeared on her body shortly after she died... thus, refuting the notion that the Sacred
Stigmata are actually the effects of auto-suggestion.

Inedia (Miraculous Fasting) - the gift of going without food and drink for extremely long periods of time - or even permanently(!) - was noted in the lives of Bl. Angela of Foligno (d. 1309), Bl. Elizabeth the Good of Waldsee (d. 1420), St. Lydwina of Schiedam (d. 1433), St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), Domenica Lazzeri (d. 1848), Juliana Engelbrecht (d. 1853), Louise Lateau (d. 1883), Viktoria Hecht (d. 1890), Magdalena Gornik (d. 1896), Anna Henle (d. 1950), Bl. Alexandrina Da Costa (d. 1955), Therese Neumann (d. 1962), and Antonietta De Vitis (d. 2004). Significantly, all these mystics survived on the Eucharist alone as their sole nourishment!

  
Two photos of Marthe Robin (d. 1981), a Servant of God from France.  For 53 years,
she was nourished by the Eucharist alone, which she received just once every week.

Levitation - the ability to temporarily leave the pull of earth’s gravity during deep spiritual contemplation has been witnessed in the lives of St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), St. Lutgarde of Aywieres (d. 1246), Bl. Giovanna of Orvieto (d. 1306), St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), Madre Maria Villani (d. 1670), Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich  (d. 1824), Bl. Mariam Baouardy (d. 1878), St. Gemma Galgani (d. 1903), Bl. Maria of the Passion (d. 1912), Bl. Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan (d. 1926), and Bl. Esperanza de Jesus (d. 1993).

Miraculous Rings - many female Stigmatics, have reached such a high degree of sanctity, which merited for them the sublime gift of the "Mystical Marriage" with Christ; a spiritual state in which a soul attains the deepest possible union with God while still living on earth. Often, the Mystical Marriage is accompanied with a vision in which the recipient receives a 'wedding ring' from Christ, as a sign of the spiritual espousal. Among the stigmatized who were privileged to receive a mystical ring were St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), Bl. Osanna Andreasi (d. 1505), Bl. Stephana Quinziana (d. 1530), Bl. Catherine Mattei (d. 1547), St. Rose of Lima (d. 1617), Madre Marina Escobar (d. 1633), Madre Maria Villani (d. 1670), St. Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727), Sr. Columba Schonath (d. 1787), Luisa Piccarreta (d. 1947), and Sr. Maria Rumolda Van Beek (d. 1948).

The recently Beatified Mystic, Bl. Maria Bolognesi... and a photo of the miraculous
ring she received from Jesus Christ at her "Mystical Marriage" to him.

The ring is most often visible only to the mystic, but on rare occasions, there were tangible signs of this mysterious piece of jewelry.  In the case of St. Catherine dei Ricci (d. 1590) and Marie-Julie Jahenny (d. 1941), there were elaborate marks that appeared around the ring fingers.  In the incredible cases of St. Colette of Corbie (d. 1447) and the recently Beatified, Maria Bolognesi of Rovigo, Italy (d. 1980), the rings they received from the Lord were solid gold... and visible! In fact, St. Colette was known to often lend her ring to her Franciscan collaborators whenever she wanted to ensure their protection during difficult journeys.  It never failed in its heavenly power to protect and ward off evil!

Reading of Hearts / Prophecy - the gift of seeing the hidden secrets of men’s hearts and/or foretelling future events has been reported in the lives of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), Bl. Elizabetta Canori-Mora (d. 1825), Bl. Anna Maria Taigi (d. 1837), Anna Henle (d. 1950), Edvige Carboni (d. 1952), Anna Tomanova (d. 1957), Bl. Elena Aiello (d. 1961), Sr. Monica de Jesus Zapater (d. 1964), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and the little-known Colombian mystic, Bro. Roque Solaque (d. 2009).

Transverberation / Mystical Hearts - the sublime gift of having one's heart and soul pierced and infused with the fire of Divine Love (Incendium Amoris!); a sign of a soul's profound union with God and a mark of a high degree of sanctity.  At times, the reception of this rare mystical grace also leaves a physical effect on the body such as a sensible burning sensation in the heart, or even an actual wound within the heart itself. Among the chosen souls who received this gift can be counted St. Catherine of Genoa (d. 1510) St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), Madre Maria Villani (d. 1670), Bl. Mariam Baouardy (d. 1878), St. Gemma Galgani (d. 1903), and St. Padre Pio (d. 1968).

The figure of a crucifix, which was found mysteriously embedded in the
incorrupt heart of St. Clare of Montefalco

In the hearts of the following individuals, images associated with the Passion of Christ - crucifixes, crown of thorns, nails, spear, etc. - were also found 'engraved' in varying degrees in the very tissues of the heart muscle: St. Clare of Montefalco (d. 1308), Sr. Cecilia Nobili (d. 1655), St. Charles of Sezze (d. 1670), and Maria Luisa Biagini (d. 1811).

In the outstanding case of the Franciscan Capuchin mystic-nun, St. Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727 - Citta di Castello, Italy), she was made aware by divine inspiration of the symbols of the Passion inexplicably impressed on her heart... and she even claimed that they sometimes "moved" to accommodate new symbols that were granted to her in conjunction with any new stigmatic  sufferings  she received from Jesus.  Fortunately, St. Veronica was practical enough to have a fellow nun draw several diagrams of her heart with the variety of religious emblems on them - a cross, nails, a spear, etc. - and after her death, an autopsy confirmed the reality of the markings that were indeed clearly present on her heart!  Not surprisingly, the miraculous images of the Lord's Passion corresponded exactly with the last drawing that the Saint had described to the artist.  Incredible!


Weeping Images - in modern times, there have been several alleged stigmatics who have had weeping religious statues and pictures closely associated with them, usually in their homes.  Images that have wept regular, watery tears and even blood.  This phenomena was reported in the cases of Sr. Agnes Sasagawa (living Marian visionary of the Akita apparitions), Alan Ames (living), Alina Coia (living), Angelik Caruana of Malta (living), Little Audrey Marie Santo (d. 2007), Bettina Jamundo (deceased?), the Servant of God Concetta Pantusa (d. 1953), Debora Marasco (living), Enzo Alocci (deceased?), Giulio Massa (living), Fr. James Bruse (living), Julia Kim (living Marian visionary of the Naju apparitions), Mario D'Ignazio (living), Myrna Nazzour (living visionary of the Soufanieh apparitions), Pina Micali (living), and Teresa Musco (d. 1976).


Above Row: Mystic, Bettina Jamundo, with her weeping Marian image; the Gesu Bambino of Alina Coia.
Bottom Row: The Queen of the World statue of Enzo Alocci; the Medjugorje Madonna of Giulio Massa.


+  Characters Beyond Reproach

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

~ Words of Our Lord, Matthew 16:24

Mystics and Stigmatics who have been accorded the honor of Canonization or Beatification, or who are currently being investigated for Sainthood, can safely be looked upon by the Faithful as honest and credible recipients of supernatural graces. The very fact that the Church has subjected their lives to rigorous scrutiny and has even raised some of them up as ultimate examples of faith and virtue for all Christians, really says it all about their excellent characters.  Plus, keep in mind - in considering people for the honor of Sainthood, the Church does not regard any mystical gift(s) as definite proof of holiness, but rather, they are evaluated strictly on the level of virtue they practiced during their lives.

           

          
Six modern Stigmatics who were raised to the glory of the altar (left to right, top to bottom):
Bl. Maria Maddalena of the Passion (d. 1921), St. Anna Schaffer (d. 1925), Bl. Dina Belanger (d. 1929)
Bl. Maria Pilar Izquierdo (d. 1945), Bl. Alexandrina da Costa (d. 1955), and Bl. Elena Aiello (d. 1961).

Among the many virtues exemplified by true Stigmatics, the most consistent would probably be Humility and Obedience (to their religious superiors or Church authority), plus a profound willingness to bear all sufferings for the love of God and neighbor.  I would speculate that most Stigmatics would prefer to remain hidden away from curious eyes and the public spotlight if they had a choice about the matter… some stigmatized mystics were so weary about being viewed as special or holy, they hid their wounds the best they could or prayed to have them become invisible. In some cases, the wounds reappeared after the death of the mystic.

Marie Rose Ferron of Rhode Island, USA.  She prayed for her stigmata to become
invisible and her prayer was answered.  After her death, traces of the wounds from a
mystical crown of thorns were still visible on her brow, under her head wrappings.

The invisible stigmata was noted in the lives of St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380 - Italy), Bl. Osanna Andreasi (d. 1505 - Mantua, Italy), St. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (d. 1607 - Florence, Italy)... and also in the modern cases of Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno (d. 1900 - Rome, Italy), St. Anna Schaffer (d. 1925 - Mindelstetten, Germany), the Servant of God, Sr. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (d. 1927 - New Jersey, USA), Marie Rose Ferron (d. 1936 - Rhode Island, USA), and Berthe Petit (d. 1943 - Belgium).

+  Living Stigmatics & the Need for Discernment

“And it shall come to pass, in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit
upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your
young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

~ Acts 2:17

There are quite a number of individuals living today who are purportedly imprinted with the wounds of Christ (80+ and the number has been growing in recent years); more than any other time in history... and many of them are recipients of reported Marian apparitions, as well. Some, in my humble opinion, can be reasonably viewed as credible - for example, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of the Church-approved Marian apparitions in Akita, Japan… and Mrs. Gladys Quiroga de Motta, the visionary of San Nicolas, Argentina, whose Marian apparitions are rumored to be on the verge of being officially approved by her local Bishop. But for the most part, careful discernment is a must, as there are some individuals who claim Stigmata, yet are heavily involved with Esoteric and New Age ideologies.  One even claims to be in direct contact with UFOs and alien beings!

         
Three alleged stigmatics living today: Debora Marasco (Manduria, Italy), Mario D'Ignazio (Brindisi, Italy),
& Sr. Susan Kuruvilla (Kerala, India).  Debora and Mario claim Marian apparitions, which always
require caution and discernment; Sr. Susan founded a charitable home.

At this point, I’d like to remind readers that the Devil can also work wonders to mislead us so we need to be on guard.  Diabolic or false stigmata has been detected on more than one occasion in the history of the Church. Two famous cases are the Spanish mystic, Sr. Magdalena de la Cruz (d. 1560 - Cordoba, Spain), who during a serious illness, confessed that her life-long mystical gifts were the result of a pact she made with demons. The case of the French peasant woman, Rose Tamisier (b. 1818), was quickly exposed as a fraud after she was caught in a blatant lie by one of her confessors; she apparently perpetrated stigmata and other supposed mystical gifts as a way of seeking celebrity and personal gain.

A heretical anti-Pope, the late-Clemente Dominguez (d. 2005),
exhibiting stigmata during an alleged visionary experience.

Fairly recently, a man named Clemente Dominguez (d. 2005 - Palmar de Troya, Spain) manifested apparent supernatural stigmata during alleged visions of Jesus and Mary in the 1970s… but he also ended up founding his own version of the Catholic Church with his many followers and even proclaimed himself its Pope; obviously a very big red flag!  This all goes to show how easily the Devil can infiltrate and deceive people… and how in matters of private revelations, we should always look to the Catholic Church for guidance… or at the very least, practice some good ol’ common sense grounded in solid Church teachings.  As Scriptures state: “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16)

+  Conclusion

Oh, how full I am of compassion... and how I desire - I need - the generosity of some
to make reparation for others.  It is love that makes reparation.

~ Words of Our Lord to Sr. Mary of the Holy Trinity,
a Poor Clare nun of Jerusalem (d. 1942)

I firmly believe that we - the people of the entire world - owe a big debt of gratitude to true Stigmatics, as these people, throughout history, have been the “lightning rods” of Divine Justice for all of us sinners.   Contrary to the popular opinion that the Sacred Stigmata goes against the concept of a loving God, I beg to differ - sure, it’s disturbing and painful just to view graphic photos of those who suffer this grace... but that is the reality of the Passion of Christ; what Jesus endured to save us from the ugliness of sin wasn't a pretty sight.

An intense scene from the epic Biblical movie, the "Passion of the Christ"
(incidentally, ideas for this film were also gleaned from the visions of one of the
most famous Stigmatics in Church history: Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich)

For me, I’ve come to comprehend that the lives of holy stigmatized souls are all part of God’s plan of Divine Mercy and Love... and I am grateful to the Lord and all these souls who were (and are) willing to suffer for us.  The many sins committed by today’s society cry out loudly for God’s justified wrath, but in his goodness and mercy, he works with a few hand-picked souls who voluntarily cooperate with Christ in absorbing into their own flesh the well-deserved punishment meant for a much wider group of people.  At the same time, through the holy example and the heavenly messages delivered by true Stigmatics, we are given the opportunity to reconcile with God and return to his loving embrace.

         

                        
Six modern Stigmatics who were in good standing with Church authorities (left to right from top):
Felomena Carnevale (d. 1959), Sr. Ma. Rumolda Van Beek (d. 1948), Sr. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (d. 1927),
Natuzza Evolo (d. 2009), Katarzyna Szymons (d. 1986), and Madre Maria Luisa Zancajo (d. 1954). 

Incidentally, in the cases of Felomena, Sr. Maria Rumolda, and Madre Maria Luisa pictured above... their pious lives are currently being investigated by their respective dioceses for possible Sainthood. In the case of Sr. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, who is currently a "Venerable", a miraculous cure attributed to her intercession has recently been approved by the Vatican and her Beatification is scheduled for October 2014.  How exciting and what a great blessing for the Church in America!


NOTE:  It is not my intention to anticipate the judgement of the Church in regards to the mystic souls named in this blog. Any statements presented herein are simply my personal opinions and I submit to the final judgement of the Catholic Church in regards to these matters.