PIOUS IMPRESSIONS AND SYMBOLIC FIGURES FROM THE MIRACULOUS IMAGE
These extraordinary impressions and mysterious figures bear upon them the seal of a supernatural power, whether we consider the manner in which this was done, or the symbols which they express.
As soon as the Rev. Laurence Lapedota perceived the prodigious sweat exuding in considerable quantity from the sacred image, he had the pious thought, or the inspiration, of covering it with clean linen, which would naturally absorb it, and thus preserve, this heavenly liquor. It will be remembered that the miraculous sweat occurred first on Monday in Passion Week, 1866, 19th of March, feast of St. Joseph, the adopted father of the Incarnate Word. On the following Good Friday, the same pious priest observed that the linen was marked with stains of blood, which was flowing from the sacred figure of the Bambino, and a cross had been formed in the center of the cloth as if it were erected on a little mound.
About the end of August of the same year, in changing the pieces of linen saturated with the prodigious sweat, the same reverend gentleman felt a strong desire to see impressed on the new, fresh linen the likeness of our Infant Savior. On the first of the following month of September, 1866, in removing the cloth from the sacred figure, the truly pious priest found, to his great delight, that his devout wishes had been fully gratified. From that memorable day to the present time literally innumerable have been the miraculous impressions made upon a variety of things of a pious nature, placed in the venerated cradle of the sacred image. All the emblems of our Lord's Passion have been produced many a time in various ways. The monogram of the sacred name of Jesus, the figure of his most holy heart, the monogram of Mary, the figure of her immaculate heart, the figure of the dove, emblematic of the Holy Ghost, the image of St. Joseph, and of other holy objects, have since that day been miraculously produced in such abundance, says Very Rev. Father Bruni, that it would fill a large volume, were any attempt to be made to describe them. These miraculous impressions have frequently been found conformable to the secret desires of devout visitors.
The Archdeacon Petruzzi has, however, been even more favored by the Santo Bambino (Holy Babe). This eminent ecclesiastic sent a small figure of the Divine Infant, reclining in a small cradle, adorned with artificial flowers, and covered with a glass shade, to protect it from dust. In conformity with his request, it was placed within the larger cradle of the miraculous image, covered likewise with a proportionate shade glass. Now, it is an undeniable fact, known to the whole metropolitan city of Bari, that this smaller image of our Infant Savior did receive on that occasion the impressions of the five wounds in the hands, feet and side. Moreover, it has, like the larger and more famous image, been occasionally seen to exude a miraculous sweat. These facts are taken from the report of the ecclesiastical commission presided over by Very Rev. Father Bruni. His Grace Mgr. Pedicini, Archbishop of Bari, naturally very cautious and prudent in everything, but more especially in these extraordinary events, being determined to ascertain in person the truth of these prodigious reports, on the 23d of March, 1867, hence more than one year after they began, sent a piece of linen, enclosed in a double envelope, and secured with several wax seals, bearing the Archiepiscopal arms. In obedience to Mgr. Pedicini's orders, this double envelope was placed in the cradle close to the miraculous image of our Infant Savior. It was soon after observed that this wax figure had miraculously moved over, and reclined upon the Archbishop's envelope. On the following day, a priest, charged with this duty, took the double envelope from the cradle, and found it moistened outside with a bloody sweat. In presenting it to the Archbishop, this illustrious prelate perceived immediately a very agreeable perfume exuding from it. Having carefully examined the seals on the outward envelope, and having found them intact, he opened it. He did the same with the smaller inward envelope. This also being carefully opened, an incomprehensible phenomenon presented itself to the Archbishop and to other ecclesiastics present. His Grace observed that this envelope, being moistened in some parts, was perfectly dry in others. Moreover, where the envelope was wet outside, it was dry in the corresponding portion inside; and where outside it was perfectly dry, it was moistened inside.
In extracting the small piece of linen from the interior envelope, Mgr. Pedicini found it soaked with a miraculous sweat; and,.although this wet cloth touched inside the whole paper envelope, yet this, as we have already said, was moistened only in some parts, and perfectly dry in others. Behold, here, already a chain of prodigies! ...
Miraculously impressed on this white linen was found a mysterious pine-tree, round which were entwined two ugly serpents, irritated against each other, one of which had the head of a horrid dragon. Both were transpierced with a sword. We will now give the very plausible and probable explanation of these symbols:
1. This mysterious pine-tree is evidently the figure of ecclesiastical authority. The essential authority, established, protected and defended by the power and wisdom of God, and perpetually guaranteed to His Church by the infallible promises of Jesus Christ, her founder and Divine Head, cannot be upset, and much less destroyed by the power of darkness, for the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. This magnificent tree, deeply rooted in the mind and heart of the most enlightened and most noble portion of mankind, strong in divine power, erect in justice, elevated in truth, and ever green with unflagging vigor of life, is the Church of Jesus Christ. Even in her greatest and most severe trials, this glorious Church is always as strong, firm, sound, green and full of energy, as the stoutest pine or cedar on Mount Lebanon during the fiercest storm. Nay, more, the Church is purified and strengthened by the persecutions of her enemies.
2. The serpents graphically represent the pride and hatred of Lucifer, and spirit of impiety and insubordination of the modern, anti-Christian revolution, coiled round the tree of the Church, eager to pull her down to the ground, or to squeeze out her very life. But, finding their united Satanic efforts and impious stratagems absolutely impotent and vain, in their bitter disappointment, they turn their maddening rage and fury against each other. We should, moreover, reflect that modern revolution or apostasy, like all other rebellions, being the offspring of proud minds and of corrupted hearts, bears necessarily within its bosom the germs of discord and dissolution. This fact is daily becoming more and more apparent in the divisions and subdivisions of political parties, and still more so in the endless splits of heretical and Masonic sects, which, like envenomed broods of scorpions, tear each other to pieces, and must consequently soon disappear from the face of the earth. The sooner they return to the pit whence they issued forth, the better for the general happiness of mankind ...
So far, however, we are obliged to acknowledge the existence in Europe of two leading parties, namely, Moderates and the Radicals, the Monarchists and the Republicans; in short, the Girondists and Jacobins of the French bloody revolution and impious apostasy of 1790. This is more particularly the fact in the present civil condition of unhappy Italy. The Ministerial and the Opposition parties in the Italian Parliament are in reality nothing else but the slow resuscitation of the defunct Girondist and Jacobin parties of horrible memory... Now, how could this wretched state of society have been more graphically and more prophetically expressed than by the terrible figures of the two horrid serpents entwined around the large, strong, and ever green tree of the Catholic Church? ...
A mysterious sword transfixes both serpents, and holds them together in writhing pain of agonizing fury. This deadly weapon represents the ever-effective and victorious two-edged sword of St. Peter. In this striking emblem we behold the marvelous effect of the definition of the dogma of the Papal Infallibility by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. The masterly blow has been well directed; it has been truly unerring in its aim, and shall prove decisively crushing in its inevitable consequences against the proud head of the infernal dragon, and against the impious spirit of modern revolution. The two wounded serpents, unable to injure the huge, sound tree of the Church, shall, in their rage of despair, bite and tear each other to pieces. During their fierce and bloody combat, and their violent contortions, they will cause sad havoc among the nations of the earth.But enough of this; we will return to our main subject of the miraculous and symbolic impressions.
The Reverend President of the seminary, Father Bruni, relates that on a certain occasion a pious ecclesiastic was allowed to place near the miraculous image a corporal-, which is a square piece of white linen, used by Catholic priests at the altar. Upon this cloth a cross was found engraven with blood, and over this cross was a crown of bloody thorns. At the foot of the cross, our Lady of Dolors is represented standing in an attitude of profound sorrow. At each side of the cross there are two hearts, one of which is surmounted by a small cross, the other is pierced with a sword. Above these appear the sun and moon. In different directions stains of fresh and vermilion blood can be seen. All this is very wonderful and significant. We should not forget to remark that the mystic Crown of Thorns is ever united to the cross of our redemption and salvation. Blessed Crown of Thorns, through which we obtain the diadem of eternal glory! .. .Our hope of salvation is strengthened when we behold at the foot of our Savior's cross his most holy Mother, shedding tears of love for him, and of maternal compassion for us; and with a heroic spirit of self-immolation offering to the Eternal Father her Divine Son's sufferings, and her agonizing sorrow, to obtain mercy and pardon for a sinful world ... The union, however, of the two most holy and most loving hearts that have ever animated, and warmed two human breasts is the surest and sweetest guarantee of our final victory. In this miraculous picture the adorable heart of Jesus and the immaculate heart of his Virgin Mother are united together in the same object of merciful charity. They are near the cross, and painted with miraculous blood. This blood seems clearly intended to announce the necessity of future victims of faith and love before the Church enjoys the full triumph of the Cross. The martyrdom of many of her children will be the Red Sea of her deliverance from her persecutors. These two hearts are the furnaces of Divine love, the source of merciful compassion for sinners, the centers of the sweetest and most exalted devotion. They are an expressive invitation to all the faithful to retire within them as the most secure and safest harbors during the fearful storm of the present anti-Christian revolution.
The sun and moon-are miraculously painted in the picture in characters of blood. We could interpret this prodigy as a mystic realization of our Savior's prophecy, that the sun will be changed into blood. But we prefer to interpret the symbol as indicating that the Sun of Eternal Justice is there to warm the heart and illumine the mind of the faithful; and the moon, the mild figure of Mary, is there shining for the guide and help of poor sinners encompassed by the dismal darkness and gloom of error and vice. The mysterious and significant stains of fresh, living and vermilion blood, so-miraculously sprinkled in different parts of that white linen cloth, seem to foretell and announce that the blood of many innocent victims will soon be required by Divine justice to atone for the crimes of mankind, and to adorn the white tunic for the glorious day of her universal triumph. Let us, then, in union with the august Virgin, Mother of our crucified Savior, at the foot of this cross, send forth our fervent supplications to the throne of grace and mercy in the firm hope that brighter days and more happy years will speedily shine over the face of the earth.
We close this long, but, we trust, interesting chapter with another remarkable prodigy, related by the Rev. J. M. Curicque, mentioned more than once in the foregoing pages. "An engraving," he says, "has been shown to us by a pious gentleman with whom we are well acquainted. It was sent to him from Ban by a Sister of Charity, after having been placed in contact with the miraculous image of our Infant Savior. This pretty large steel engraving represents our Lord upon the cross, with St. Mary Magdalene weeping, in a kneeling position at the foot of the cross. Through its contact with the miraculous waxen image of our Infant Savior the following prodigious effects were produced on the engraving:
First. The head of our crucified Lord has been marked with traces of
blood diverging into four rays.
Second. Blood is likewise seen on the hands, feet and side of our Lord.
Third. The cross from top to bottom is literally covered with blood.
Fourth. But, what is more wonderful, is the fact that the prodigious blood
stopped flowing immediately above the arm of the kneeling
Magdalene, wherewith she embraces the cross, and over which
her head sorrowfully reclines. Not a drop of blood is seen upon
the loving penitent, but it appears again under her arm, running
down to the ground, all the way over the cross.
Fifth. The alabaster vessel engraved near the cross is entirely covered
with this prodigious blood.
Sixth. The side of our crucified Lord is deeply marked with a large bloody
semicircle, one side of which branches out in three mysterious red points or rays.
Seventh. The sun, the moon, and more than a hundred starry points
round about the crucifixion are formed with this miraculous blood.
Eighth. The inscription of the picture engraved at its bottom has the
monogram of Jesus marked with blood.
Ninth. And lastly, the central letter is surmounted by a cross of blood.
The pious writer concludes by saying: "We have been deeply struck and moved to contemplate this engraving, which receives from these miraculous bloody impressions a supernatural mark of originality. This prodigious event is evidently intended to recall to our ungrateful minds the sacred blood of our Divine Savior, who cries out to us from the cross: 'Ah! why do you abandon me, ye wretched sinners! Why will you remain obstinate in your determination of asking from impious and crafty impostors that water of life which can come to you only from me, your Lord and God, bleeding for your sake upon this cross.' Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this: and ye gates thereof, be very desolate ...For my people have done two evils. For they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have dug to themselves cisterns; broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jerem 2:12) In your utter disappointment, learn, my people, a salutary lesson; and return at last to my open arms, and to my wounded and bleeding heart, All ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you; and you under the shadow of my cross shall find rest to your souls." (Mt. 11:29)