THE MYSTIC CROWN OF THORNS IN THE CHURCH
"Rejoice, thou, our mother, because the Lord will give to thy head increase of grace and protect thee with a noble crown." (Prov. 4:9)
Mass of the Crown of Thorns.
These words, taken from the fourth chapter of Proverbs, are read by the celebrant in the Mass of the Crown of Thorns, immediately after Communion. They are evidently addressed to the Church, our mother in the supernatural order of grace, and the beloved spouse of Jesus Christ. Her divine Bridegroom, having been crowned with thorns for her sake, it was proper that she should have a share with him in the pain and joy, in the humiliation and glory of this precious instrument of his passion.
Two remarkable facts will show how dear to our blessed Redeemer is the Crown of Thorns. In the life of Blessed Marie Alacoque, a nun of the Visitation in the Convent of Paray-Le-Monial, so well known to the devout lovers of the Sacred Heart, we read that this holy religious had the following vision.
"During the Christmas holidays in the year 1674, and precisely on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Blessed Margaret Marie was ravished in an ecstasy, when the Sacred Heart of our Lord was represented to her on a throne of heavenly fire, with flames radiating in all directions, and transparent as crystal. The wound received on the cross was visible. "There was a crown of thorns round his Sacred Heart, and a cross rose above it, to make known, as the Redeemer explained, that his love was the source of his sufferings; that from the first moment of his Incarnation, all his passion had been present to him, so that the cross had been as it were, planted in his heart." (History of B. Margaret Marie Chapter 16 by Father Daniel, SJ) With the cross there should ever be the cherished Crown of Thorns, and, as we learn from this vision, both are preserved in the glorified heart of our dear Lord. But still more surprising is what we learn from the life of the admirable Anna Maria Taigi. During forty-seven years, this holy woman was favored by God with a clear and uninterrupted view of a most brilliant sun. Around it were rays emanating from the center, and a very closely set crown of thorns intertwined, encircling the superior disk of the sun, stood upon the points of the upper rays. Two of the thorns, lengthened on either side beyond the others, descended below the disk, where, crossing one another, they formed with their points a figure like a cross. In the center was a beautiful figure, clothed with a resplendent mantle, majestically seated with eyes upturned to heaven, as of one enjoying ecstatic repose. From the forehead, two beams of light shot upward, and the figure touched with its feet, the left and lower side of the disk. This figure was never obscured by any shadow or form arising from the lower part of the sun; on the contrary all shadows that rose near it were driven away from it by some irresistible power. No human eye, even the strongest, could bear this brilliant light. Yet Anna Maria could gaze on it for hours together, without pain although her sight was naturally very weak and she was scarcely able to distinguish the nearest object. Some of her spiritual directors, well informed about this extraordinary favor, thought that "The sun was our glorified Lord, the Sun of Justice, come to the world to illumine the souls of men that were in the valley and shadow of death; that the thorns were intended to remind us of the most painful sufferings of. the humanity of our Savior, and that the majestic figure was that of Divine Wisdom before whom ages are but a moment, and the most hidden things are made manifest. The servant of God who knew well the meaning of this wonderful phenomenon said that: The Omnipotence of the divine Wisdom Incarnate was in this sun. Through the supernatural light of this heavenly sun, Anna Maria could see anything she desired to know, past, present or future.
The meaning of these extraordinary facts are clear enough in relation to the Crown of Thorns. We may remark that the seal of ecclesiastical authority has, by the Pope, been fixed to the revelations of Blessed Margaret Marie Alacoque, about the Sacred Heart of our Savior, by the fact of her beatification, and by the authoritative orders given that the pictures of the sacred heart, exposed to the veneration of the faithful, should be represented surrounded by the Crown of Thorns. The same might be said in proportion about Anna Maria Taigi, who has been declared venerable and who may soon be beatified. We can learn from these divine visions and revelations, how dear the Crown of Thorns is to our blessed Lord, and may therefore conclude that a special devotion to this sacred instrument of his holy passion, will be very agreeable to his loving heart. The two just mentioned are indeed very remarkable events in favor of our devotion to the Crown of Thorns; but our Lord has been pleased to illustrate his Church for our edification and instruction, with a much larger number of them.
We have thought proper to give the first place to the visions and revelations of Blessed Margaret Mary and of Ven. Anna Maria Taigi, because more immediately connected with the glorified humanity of our blessed Redeemer. But during the last seven centuries, our divine Savior has been, we may say, continually promoting in his own admirable way, a special devotion to his cherished Crown of Thorns. In the previous chapter on the history of the real Crown of Thorns, we saw that our Lord in his predilection for the Catholics of Western Europe, made a present to our forefathers of this precious relic. This was in the year 1239. Now it is a remarkable fact that from that memorable epoch to the present day, some favored servant of our Lord has successively, almost without interruption, been in a miraculous manner, impressed with the mystic Crown of Thorns. Hence, without fear of contradiction, we may affirm that, during the last seven centuries, the Crown of Thorns has been supernaturally kept visibly bleeding on the head of some saint or great servant of God. We have compiled a list, of more than fifty of these privileged persons from the second volume of the Stigmatized, "Les Stigmatizees," Palma d'Oria, published in Paris, 1873, by the celebrated French doctor, A. Imbert Gourbeyre, Professor of Medicine in the College de Clermont Ferrand. This eminent and truly Catholic medical doctor has with great labor been able to gather a catalogue of one hundred and forty-five saints and servants of God, who have received the stigmas of the Five Wounds, the impression of the Crown of Thorns, or who have endured in an extraordinary and miraculous manner, some special suffering of our Savior's passion. He declares that notwithstanding his careful researches, the list is incomplete. We cannot give even this catalogue. The object of our present work confines our selection to those canonized or beatified saints, or eminent servants of God who have been impressed with the Crown of Thorns, or who ha've supernaturally suffered a share of these mystic thorns in their heads. These will be found amounting to more than fifty. They are distributed in the last seven centuries. Some are living and suffering at the present time. As far as the dates of their births and deaths will warrant, we will classify them within the respective centuries to which these privileged servants of God belonged. For the sake of perspicuity and convenience, we will also divide them chronologically into different chapters corresponding to the respective century. We conclude these preliminaries with the following truly Catholic sentiments of the pious and learned French doctor.
"In this grave question of Supernatural facts, we Catholics are supported by the documents of history, by genuine and solid science, by the doctrines and decisions of the infallible authority of the Church. Resting upon the columns of reason and faith, we can, with certitude and confidence, proclaim the recent decree about miracles of the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. "If any one says, that there cannot be miracles, and consequently, that the narrative of miracles, including those mentioned in the Sacred Scripture, are to be relegated among the fables or myths; or that miracles can never be known with certitude, and that the divine origin of the Christian religion never can be rightly proved by them, let him be accursed. Anathema sit."