THE WONDERS OF THE CROWN OF THORNS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
If God is admirable in His saints, His mercy is not less wonderful in behalf of sinners. The Lord is gracious and merciful; patient and plenteous in mercy. The Lord is sweet to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Ps. 144:9)
Sanctity is the work of God: and saints are made and intended by God for the welfare of sinners. Saints are the ripe fruits and the perfection of the Incarnation, which was principally intended for the redemption and salvation of sinful man. In the Venerable Elizabeth Canori Mora we have just admired a heroic victim voluntarily sacrificed for the welfare of poor sinners. In Maria Rosa Adriani we have another holy victim of self-immolation in behalf of a sinful world. Maria Rosa was born, lived and died at Francavilla, head city of the Province of Lecce, Kingdom of Naples. Like a bright morning star she appeared in the horizon of life, early in January, 1786. She was only five years of age, when the brightness of her precious virtue began to shine upon earth. She was violently attacked by the painful and loathsome disease, small-pox. This little and innocent sufferer, beholding her small body covered with putrid sores, prevented by divine grace, began to meditate in the best way she could, on the sufferings of our crucified Lord. On that occasion she felt a strong inspiration and an ardent desire to become like unto him, and to bear in her body the wounds of his sacred passion. The fervent prayer of this innocent child was promptly heard by her heavenly Father. From that moment she felt intense pain in her little hands, feet and side. Her heart was inflamed with a deep and tender compassion for the sorrows of our blessed Lady at the foot of the cross.
As soon as she recovered from this serious illness, little Maria Rosa manifested a strong love for retirement, solitude, prayer, mortification and penance. Some years after she wished to consecrate herself entirely and forever to God in the religious state of life, in the Franciscan Convent of St. Clare in her native city. But her urgent request was sternly refused by her parents. In obedience to them whom she ever venerated as the representatives of God, this good child remained at home keeping herself in deep recollection of spirit, secretly practicing severe penances and almost continual prayer. Her greatest delight was to remain for hours before the most Holy Sacrament in the Church.
When twenty-two years, with her parents' permission, she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, in the Church of the Conventual Friars at Francavilla, 19th April, 1808. This new favor increased the fervor of the youthful servant of God. Her supernatural sufferings became more intense and the stigmata began to appear exteriorly, on the principal feasts of our divine Lord, and of his most holy Mother. By degrees the impression of the wounds appeared more visibly marked and the pain was intensified. At last,during the Octave of Corpus Christi, June, 1820, the stigmata were completely formed in her hands, feet and side. This alarmed the humility of Maria, who fervently entreated her divine Spouse to keep them concealed from human sight. Her request, however, was not granted and the stigmata remained visible until her death.
When our Lord finds correspondence with His extraordinary favors, he rapidly multiplies and increases them, in his privileged servants. This he certainly did with Maria Rosa. On the 8th day of June the same month, being Friday and the Feast of the Sacred Heart, she was, late in the evening, raised to a sublime degree of contemplation, when she was favored with a vision. Our Blessed Lord appeared to his servant accompanied by his most holy Mother, took her heart from her bosom, and entrusted it to the special care and guardianship of our blessed Lady, the Virgin of Virgins. He then exhorted Maria Rosa to prepare herself to endure for his sake, and without consolation, one of the most painful martyrdoms. On the following morning, she went to see her spiritual director, and with her habitual simplicity and candor, related to him the heavenly communications with which she had been favored by our Blessed Lord and his most holy Mother. With heroic courage she added, that she was fully disposed, and firmly resolved to endure for God's sake, and with the assistance of his divine grace, any and every affliction, privation and suffering, that his divine Majesty would be pleased to send her. These noble and generous dispositions of his penitent were encouraged by the pious and enlightened Franciscan Father, the spiritual director of Maria Rosa. Fully expecting that her patience and fortitude were to be severely tested, he placed her under obedience, to give her greater confidence, and more to augment the merit of her sufferings. Her confessor then commanded her to offer herself to God, as a willing victim for the sins of men, in imitation of her crucified Spouse. She promptly and gladly complied with the order of her spiritual director. The voluntary victim was immediately placed by God on the altar of mystic sacrifice. On the following night our Lord appeared to her, nailed to the cross: and darting forth from his wounds five most resplendent rays, like beams of burning fire, he transpierced with them the hands, feet and side of his seraphic servant. The extreme pain which Maria Rosa suffered from this divine operation, made her swoon and fall on the floor of her room as if dead. On the following morning, being unable to move, she sent to her spiritual director, who examined her hands and feet, and found them traspierced from side to side and bleeding profusely. The heroic sufferer told him that the wound in her side caused her intense pain, extending to her shoulder. This generous victim of charity and patience, could truly say with St. Paul: "I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body." (Galat. 6:17)
Beside these five visible and permanent wounds, people could see blood flowing from the interior angle of her eyes, but more abundantly from the right side. This was a consequence and effect of the Crown of Thorns, which Maria Rosa continually suffered internally, and the punctures of which were often visible on her head and brow. She explained this mysterious phenomenon to her director, by stating that the blood flowing from her eyes, was caused by a long thorn which seemed to her to pierce through her whole head its points penetrating to the eye. She added that this long thorn was pressed into her head, when forced to lean against the wood of the cross invisibly placed by our Lord upon her shoulders, by which she was almost crushed down to the earth with an immense weight. After enduring for some days this terrible martyrdom, with heroic courage and fortitude, our Lord enriched the soul of his noble servant, with the abundance of his heavenly gifts and graces. These in return inflamed her heart with an insatiable thirst for more sufferings.
To this end, this truly admirable heroine made use of numerous instruments of penance, which have been preserved at Oria as precious relics, the mere sight and even mention of which, cause a pious horror. She often scourged her innocent body to blood with a discipline made of strong wire, the numerous thongs at the extremity of which were armed with sharp steel points that cut and tore her flesh. A tin cross nearly a foot long, with arms in proportion, is also shown, the whole length and breadth of which is armed with small tacks about half an inch long. Maria Rosa, as a lover of the cross and victim of charity, when still very young, so closely tied upon her chest this terrible instrument of penance, that it sunk in her flesh, and became in the course of years incarnated with it. She bravely wore it almost all the time of her life. More frightful even were five large needles, a foot long, with which she occasionally transfixed her body through from side to side. All these terrible instruments of penance are religiously preserved in the Monastery of the Franciscan Fathers in the city of Oria.
This admirable servant of God had a profound veneration for, and sincere devotion to the seraphic Mother of Carmel, St. Teresa, whose virtues she earnestly strove to imitate. The saint in return obtained for her many favors from God. On the 15th of October, Feast of St. Teresa, 1824, Maria Rosa was ravished in a deep ecstasy. A seraph appeared to her, holding a burning dart of divine love, with which he pierced her heart. This divine operation was renewed every year on the same day, during the last twenty-three years of her life.
On the 10th of September, 1848, being the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity, and the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, our holy heroine felt, in fact knew by special revelation that her mortal course was drawing to an end. All her life had been a fervent and faithful preparation for death. She received with extraordinary devotion and joy, all the sacraments and spiritual helps, that our holy Mother the Church lavishes upon her dying children. Maria Rosa, having been during her whole life, upon the cross, she wished in imitation of her crucified spouse, to die a victim of obedience. She had previously agreed with her confessor that, in her last agony, she was to give him a sign to obtain his command, in virtue of holy obedience for her soul, to depart from this earth and proceed immediately to the eternal embrace of Jesus, her heavenly Spouse. He promised to do so on condition that, if admitted without delay to the beatific vision, she would, if permitted by God, cause the bells of the Monastery Church to ring miraculously a joyful chime. The long wished-for moment arrived. The dying servant of God raised her last supplicating look to her confessor praying at her side. He immediately imparted to her his last blessing, and gave to her the desired command of holy obedience. Maria Rosa about noon September 10th, 1848, with an angelic smile upon her virginal lips, calmly closed the eyes of her body to the earth, to open those of her innocent and pure soul in the light of the beatific vision of God in heaven. A most joyful chime was heard over all the city of Francavilla from all the bells of the city churches. At her death Maria Rosa Adriani was 72 years, 7 months, and 20 days old. This brief but edifying sketch has been written by the spiritual director of this holy servant of God, who assisted at her death, and who is actually engaged in writing more fully her life. The following is his declaration.
Declaration Oria, Apirl 17th, 1872.
I declare that the Church has not yet given any decision on the subject of the deceased. God will in due time make her worth known by means of stupendous prodigies. I do hereby protest that all I have said about Maria Rosa Adriani has no other authority than that of a purely human historical record, and completely submit it to the decrees of Pope UrbanVII and of all the other Supreme Pontiffs. Father Master Francis Delia Pace, Minor Conventual Director (See Les Stigmatisees, Louise Lateau, 1. Vol. Appendice)
46. Venerable Anna Maria Taigi
Though we are not aware that this venerable servant of God suffered in a visible manner the impression of the Crown of Thorns, yet we believe that she deserves to be enumerated in this catalogue. Our object is to promote devotion to the Crown of Thorns of Our dear Savior. Now, as we have mentioned before, this holy woman had continually for forty-seven years this holy crown before her eyes. We humbly believe that, one at least of the objects of this wonderful manifestation was to promote a special devotion towards the crown of our Lord. The vision of the mysterious sun, fit emblem of the Eternal Sun of justice, who assumed human flesh, and came upon earth to enlighten those who sit in darkness, deserves some notice in this place. As we said above, Anna Maria was favored by God during forty-
seven years with a clear and uninterrupted view of a most brilliant sun. Around it shot forth rays 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. This we deem sufficient for this place. We may observe that this description admirably tallies with what we have just read about the long thorns in the head of Maria Rosa Adriani. A few details about Anna Maria Taigi will be agreeable.
She was born May 29th, 1769, at Sienna, in Tuscany. At six years of age she with her parents went to reside in Rome. In due time she was married to Dominico Taigi, or rather Taegi, a virtuous young man, but of uncouth and abrupt manners, which contributed much to her sanctification. She was the mother of seven children. Some died very young. The rest she brought up with the greatest care and diligence in the practice of their religious duties. One of her daughters is still living. Anna Maria was a perfect model of a pious Christian wife and mother. She was never idle, yet always praying. She led a life of continual self-denial, mortification and penance, yet she never neglected any domestic duty. She was full of active charity for the poor and indigent; and inflamed with an ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners, and salvation of souls. For the suffering souls in purgatory, she had the most lively compassion; and her devotion to the passion of our Lord, and the dolors of his most holy Mother, was boundless.
Through the supernatural light of his mysterious sun, this wonderful servant of God was enabled to see everything past, present and future. Nothing was hidden from her knowledge, which had relation to the Church, or the Pope. She knew in an instant, by a simple glance at the sun, the secret designs of governments, all the plots of secret societies, the intentions of individuals, their state of conscience, the doom of souls after their death. She possessed in a very eminent degree the spirit of prophecy, and foretold many important events to take place to the end of time, which, according to her knowledge, is fast approaching. Through her spiritual director she often warned the Pope and his ministers of the dangerous machinations of earthly princes, secret societies, treacherous officials, and malevolent individuals of any kind. She prayed and practiced severe penance for the conversion of the enemies of the Church, of sinners and of infidels, and succeeded in converting many. The conversion to Catholicity of the Emperor of Russia, Alexander I, his death on the 1 st December, 1825, and the salvation of his soul, were revealed to her on the same day; and she announced these events to the Russian ambassador in Rome at that time. Anna Maria Taigi died in Rome in great odor of sanctity, June 9th, 1837. The process of her beatification is progressing rapidly. She has been declared venerable by Pope Pins IX. (See her very interesting life by Edward H. Thompson, published London, 1873)
47. Sister Bertine Bouguillon
Bertine was born at St. Omer, France, 1800. When very young she became a religious in St. Louis' Hospital in her native city. At 22 years of age Sister Bertine was stigmatized in her hands, feet and side, and received the Crown of Thorns. These suffering and miraculous representations were manifested every Friday, and on the principal feasts during the year so long as she lived.
By order of the Bishop of Arras, Mgr. De la Tour d'Auvergne, theologians and medical men were commissioned to examine into the extraordinary phenomena manifested in the person of Sister Bertine, and after a most searching and minute inquiry they came to the unanimous conclusion that they had a supernatural origin; in short, that they were from God. The Bishop confirmed their decision by an official arid definite sentence. Sister Bertine died January 25th, 1850. (Voix Prophetiques by L'Abbe Curicque. 1. Vol. Paris, 1872.)
48. Maria Domenica Lazzari
This suffering child of the cross, was born March 16th 1815, at Capriani, Italian Tyrol. Maria Domenica was stigmatized in her hands, feet and side, January 1 st, 1834, and three weeks later she received the impression of the Crown of Thorns. Every Friday, until the year 1847, this victim of the passion suffered intensely; all her wounds and the Crown of Thorns bleeding profusely. She died on Easter Sunday, 1848. See Les Stigmatizisees du Tyrol, by Leon Bori, Paris 1840. Also, Louise Lateau. The Ecstatic of Bois du Haine, Belgium, by Shepard, London, 1872.
49. Crescenzia Nierklutsch
Crescenzia was born June 15th, 1816, at Cana, a Tyrolese village. She lived for some time at Tschermes, and more lately at Meran, where she received the stigmata of the five wounds, and the impression of the Crown of Thorns. In the year 1844 she was living in Meran, and is supposed to be still alive at the present time. Rev. Antonio Riccardi mentions her in his book with the other two Tyrolese stigmatized. Domenica Lazzari, and Maria de Moerl, the famous ecstatic. See likewise, the bleeding wounds of Christ reproduced on the persons of three Christian virgins actually living in Tyrol, by Veyland, Metz. 1844.
50. Dorothea Visser.
Dorothea was born at Gendringen, Holland, in the year 1820. When she was a very young child, a little boy miraculously appeared to her, informing the pious girl that some extraordinary things should happen to her. About the 23rd year of her life, Dorothea received the impression of the Crown of Thorns, and soon after she was stigmatized in her hands, feet and side, but in a new and singular manner. The five wounds of her stigmata were cruciform. The medical doctor Te Welscher published in 1844, at Borken a work about this servant of God with the title: "The Stigmatized of Gendrigen." Mr. Riko of Haye, who communicated this information to Dr. A. Imbert Gourbeyere, thinks that Dorothea Visser is still living in Holland.