Friday, 4 September 2015

The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns by a Passionist Father part 44.

Louise Lateau, Belgium
Behold another admirable servant of Jesus crucified, living at the present time in Belgium. Louise is the youngest of three daughters of very poor and humble, but pious Catholic parents. She was born January 30th, 1850, in the small village of Bois d'Haine, diocese of Tournay, in Belgium. Her father died soon after her birth, and her mother a few months ago. She lives with her two sisters, Rosina and Adeline. Louise is a child of Providence. In her earliest infancy she was three or four times miraculously preserved from imminent danger of death. In the year 1866, when sixteen years of age, she already showed herself a heroine of charity, in attending her afflicted neighbors, stricken down with the terrible plague of cholera, and abandoned by their nearest relations, giving burial with her own hands to those who succumbed to the disease, carrying the corpses upon her weak shoulders to the public cemetery. In the same year she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. During the month of April, 1868, Louise had a very severe attack of illness, when her death was every moment expected, but, according to her prediction, she recovered suddenly early in the morning, and was able to go to the parish church to receive Holy Communion. She was incipiently stigmatized on the 24th of the same month, after an apparition from our Infant Savior. The stigmata became complete in a few months. On the 20th of September of the same year, being the third Sunday of the month and Feast of the Seven Dolors of our Blessed Lady, Louise received the Crown of Thorns. From the beginning of her stigmatization, and of the impression of the Crown of Thorns, Louise suffers a repetition of these stigmatic pains every Friday during the year, the wounds bleeding profusely. After the long agony mentioned below, our Lord appeared to his brave servant, impressed upon her shoulders the wound caused to him by the weight of the cross, enriched her soul with new lights and gifts, among which is the gift of prophecy. Hence Palma Maria's predictions begin to be verified. During her ecstasies on Friday she accompanies in spirit our Lord through the different stages of his Passion. In the ecstatic state Louise is perfectly insensible to any sound, and does not feel in the least any wound inflicted upon her body. When placed by visitors in her hands she can immediately distinguish any devotional article, as, for instance, relics of saints, crosses, medals, rosaries, which have been duly blessed and indulgenced, from those that have not. She also recognizes instantly the hands of priests, whilst she takes no notice of those of any lay person. The loudest noise does not affect her, but she can hear the least whisper of any pious prayer. Her confessors or ecclesiastical superiors can recall her instantly from her most profound ecstasy, but she does not hear the loudest call of any other person, not even her mother or sisters. Louise is often visited in spirit during her ecstatic sufferings by Palma Maria d'Oria, who prophesies that she will work great miracles, when Belgium shall be in serious political convulsions and dangers. Hence we may hope that her precious life will be preserved by God for some years to come. Different accounts having appeared in the English and American Catholic periodicals, we refer our readers to them, and to Les Stigmatizees, first volume, for further information upon this subject. The following extract will be found interesting:

"We are enabled," says the Journal de Bruxelles, to publish some correct information concerning the stigmatized girl of Bois d'Haine. We have it from an eye-witness who within the last few days visited the humble abode of Louise, and who has given us the result of his observations as follows:

"On the afternoon of the 3rd of February, 1876, I knocked at the door of the cabin which now, more than ever, appeared to me like the sanctuary of some reparatory suffering.
Everything within was peaceful. A look of pain overspread the faces of Rosina and of her sister Adeline, who, for the last month, have been the victims of poignant sorrow, caused by their sympathy for the excessive sufferings of Louise. The subject of our conversation was suggested by these very sufferings. We spoke, but in a low tone, of all that had taken place in this abode for the last month; "Louise is so gentle and so resigned in her sufferings," Rosina said to me.

"I now went into the room where this holy girl has been agonizing for more than a month. Louise was stretched upon a bed that was remarkably clean; her face, a little pale at this moment, stood out from the white pillow like a virginal apparition. Though bearing traces of pain, it still retained its wonted sweetness and resignation. Her eyes, which were almost closed, opened only at intervals, when answering such questions as were put to her. There was no atmosphere of sickness in the little room; the air was as pure as in other parts of the House. Louise does not, as far as I could see, even during her most violent crises, have the slightest perspiration, nor that clamminess of the skin incident to prolonged sickness. Although confined to her bed for a month, in the same position, she does not feel any pain nor stiffness in that portion of her body stretched upon her poor straw mattress.

"The Doctor, who at this moment came in to see her, confirmed my observations; he found her pulse weak, quick, but regular. "There is no symptom of sickness in Louise," said he, "medicine fails to find a remedy applicable under circumstances like these."

"Louise constantly displays all the dolors of the Passion of the Savior of the world, from the agony in the Garden of Olives, to the crucifixion on the summit of Mt. Calvary. Her sufferings are only interrupted every morning during the presence of the Blessed Eucharist.
"On the following day, at 6:15 A.M., I accompanied the priest who had been authorized to give Communion to Louise.

"On our arrival in the room the stigmatized one appeared to be the victim of the most intense sufferings; these gradually subsided. Although the presence of the Blessed Sacrament had diminished the intensity of her pain, her difficult breathing could be distinctly noticed.
"Louise received her Communion with pious eagerness, and without opening her eyes, she consumed the Sacred Host.

"Immediately, and without a shadow of transition, it worked in her a complete transformation. Her suffering disappeared in the twinkling of an eye. The pale countenance of Louise brightened up with celestial rays and seemed overspread by a divine beauty. Everything was calm and motionless in that virginal body, which had become the tabernacle of the living God in the Eucharist. Not a wrinkle on her transfigured countenance, nor upon her lips closed in ecstasy. Even her chest was motionless; it seemed as if her heart had ceased to beat and that life was suspending its laws, through respect for the real presence of Jesus Christ.

"The eye could see in Louise at this moment only the mysterious quiet of death, but under this deceptive exterior one felt that a fullness of supernatural life was coursing, and that from the heart, as from a spring, it flowed into every part of this sainted girl's body. "How beautiful!" repeatedly exclaimed Rev. Father C, who, with tears in his eyes, was contemplating with me this magnificent spectacle. And indeed, I do not think it possible, on earth, to witness a more wonderful scene.

"We fell upon our knees to adore Jesus Christ, whose presence was so visibly made manifest to us, and we recited the prayer, "O good and most sweet Jesus." During the recitation of this prayer Louise opened her lips as if joining in with us; this was the only motion we could detect in her for more than ten minutes during which we were at her side."

There I was, when meeting a dear bosom friend of my sacerdotal youth, resolved at once to go to Bois d'Haine and see Louise. We started from Paris on the eve of Ascension Day, and arrived at Manage the same day, towards 3 o'clock P. M. There we inquired for the road leading to Bois d'Haine, which is about one mile and a half from Manage. After a walk of about three-quarters of a mile, on a good pleasant road, planted all along with fine trees, and undulating through fine harvests, we arrived at a small cottage, lying close to the main road, and we were told by a passer-by that it was Louise Lateau's dwelling. Who can imagine our emotions and joy at the mere sight of that dear little house in which we were to witness such great wonders! Not daring then to call in before being introduced, we contented ourselves with happily looking at the form and appearance of that fortunate dwelling. It is a brick house, having about twenty-four feet front, and eighteen feet depth, and ten of height. Its walls are very slightly painted a yellowish stone color, and the roof is covered with red shining tiles. There are in front, two windows, protected by an iron railing, and also by green shutters, which were then open. At an equal interval between is the door, also painted green. Exactly above the door is an enclosed opening, to go to the garret. This little cottage is divided into five little rooms; and it is only a few years since, that the two back rooms were added to the building for, previously, the house was scarcely ten feet deep. After we had gazed with some love on that humble, but neat cottage the scene of so many wonders from Almighty God, we pursued our course towards the church of the village, not without emotion, and as
if we had already been struck by something supernatural. Soon we arrived at Bois d'Haine, and after a visit to Our Lord to ask success for the object which had brought us there, we called at the parsonage, and introduced ourselves to the Reverend Pastor of the place.

Monsieur le Cure is a fine looking gentleman, of about fifty years of age, and bears on his face much sympathy and kindness, though he is very sober in words. Father Niels is his name. We could not resist his pressing invitation, and thus made ourselves at home at the parsonage. As I stayed four days at Bois d'Haine, I had fully the time of witnessing and investigating many things concerning Louise. O! happy moments, which I shall never forget!

Up to last January, Louise could attend to her daily work, and thus could go to church every morning, to receive Holy Communion. The only day of the week she was unable to do so was Friday. But on the three first days of January she was excruciated with such sufferings that it was thought that her last moments had arrived. In fact she was anointed on the 2nd of January, and her saintly soul was thought to have fled away from her virginal crucified body. Many times during those three days did her weeping sisters call her, but it was in vain; she had all the symptoms of death. But as soon as Father Niels called her: "Louise!" immediately, as by enchantment, she seemed to awaken from an ecstasy. She would soon fall again into the same forlorn position, and would be called back again by the priest's voice and, command. It was a kind of ecstasy different from her other ecstasies. Nobody can imagine what she suffered during those three days, either in her body or in her soul. Besides the excruciating sufferings of the stigmata, she felt then all the dolors of the agony of our Savior in the Garden of Olives, and had also what Father Seraphine, who is one of the examiners appointed by the Bishop of Tournay, calls "the deadly sufferings," that is to say, she felt all the sufferings which are previous to death, and had all the symptoms of a last agony. This explains why, at that time, several papers published Louise's death. Nevertheless, those intense sufferings abated afterwards, though on Good Friday it was also thought that she would die. But if Louise's sufferings abated, she has been unable to do any work ever since; and she is almost always confined to her bed, except a few hours of the day, during which her sisters help her to sit on a poor old family chair. Being thus unable to go to church, she receives every morning Holy Communion in her room. I have twice had the inestimable privilege of personally bringing to her our Lord, and once of being present at that great moment. The spectacle is always exactly the same, every morning, either before or after Communion. The only detail which is special to Friday is the bleeding of the stigmata. So, to have it complete, I will describe the scene of Friday. It is generally at six o'clock that the Holy Communion is carried to Louise. It is a walk of three-quarters of a mile. Oftentimes high personages, in order to have a chance of penetrating into Louise's room, are happy to carry the bell or the flambeau, or to escort the Blessed Sacrament: and there would be large crowds following the priest, if they could be admitted, which is not possible, as the room is exceedingly small. As soon as the priest arrives at the house, it is assured that the sufferings of the angelic maiden begin to abate in order to cease entirely when the Host is put on her tongue. Louise's room is quite small, and is perhaps not more than nine feet square. She lies on a small iron bedstead, and rests on her back. Her eyes are shut, and remain so during the whole ceremony. Her face at that hour is generally pale, but her cheeks are full. She seems to be the victim of very acute sufferings, causing on her face continual oscillations or vibrations. Her lips are half open, and she seems to be out of breath. Is that suffering caused by her mystical sufferings, or by her unspeakable eagerness to receive her Divine Spouse? It may be caused by both. As usual the Confiteor is recited; then the priest recites the Misereatur and Indulgentiam, she extends her tongue, which she advances far down on her lips, and as soon as the Host is laid on it, she quickly draws it back. I have been struck with the rapidity every time. Then her lips close up; you do not perceive any longer any oscillation or vibration on her face. She becomes as motionless as a marble figure. The colors of lily, which before were visible on her face, are united to rosy hues. Her eyes remain always perfectly shut. You cannot perceive any breathing, and you have to look very closely to notice a slight, slow heaving of her chest. A few seconds after Communion, I noticed once on her closed lips the last vibration of a murmured prayer. Her whole countenance seems to breathe her soul, and seems to be transfigured. I have never seen so beautiful a face. All of us were so struck with respect and wonder, that we remained many minutes on our knees uniting our weak adorations to the burning adorations of that loving, enraptured maiden. Her ecstasy is so perfect that her body is completely insensible to any piercing, however painful it might be.

Physicians, appointed to verify this fact, have repeatedly pierced her with sharp instruments in the most sensitive parts; but there was not the least contraction or oscillation in her body. During her daily morning ecstasy, Louise does not see any vision; but her soul is united to our Lord by the most intimate fusion; and she is enraptured with so many delights, that it is a beginning of the heavenly bliss, and she is rather in heaven than on earth. On her forehead there was only one large drop of blood, ready to flow. I must notice, that since last January her forehead has bled perfectly only three or four times. But previously, every Friday there was around her head, a crown of blood, two fingers wide. The blood begins generally to ooze from her stigmata at midnight, and sometimes at the time of Communion it was very difficult to lay the Host on her tongue, as the blood was trickling from all directions of the head, and there was danger that the Host might be sullied with blood before being received. The blood ran down in such abundance, that it flowed around her neck like a crimson collar. After a few minutes of silent prayer, we all rose up to leave that fortunate room. Towards the direction of her hands, the napkin which was put around her neck as a communion-cloth, was stained with fresh blood. Having previously asked from Monsieur Le Curd the permission of examining Louise's hands, I drew close to her and took off the napkin; I found some folded linen lying on her hands in order that the blood should not go over her dress and her little couch. These linens were entirely sullied and damp with blood. I also took them off, and, O my God! what a spectacle! It seemed that Louise was bathing in her blood: so great was the abundance of blood, either fresh or coagulated on her hands. Her fingers were connected together, and the palms of her hands rested flat on her chest. A beautiful crimson blood was oozing from her stigmata or piercings of both hands. These piercings are exactly in the middle of the hands, between the third and fourth fingers. After we had all contemplated with an unspeakable emotion that touching scene, I replaced the napkin, in order that Louise's sisters should not be aware of our curiosity; and, not without some regret we went out, after having addressed afew words of encouragement to Rosine and Adeline, sisters of Louise. This ecstasy of the morning lasts about half an hour. Then, suddenly Louise comes back to herself, and for several minutes does not feel the least pains of her previous sufferings. She recites then the prayer, "En ego, O bone Jesu, etc." Then her pains come back by degrees. During the forenoon, except on Friday, her sisters help her to rise, and to sit on a chair at the foot of her bedstead, and close to the wall. Thus she remains also a part of the afternoon, and sometimes the whole night.

A gentleman of the Germania, describing a visit he paid, on Good Friday, to Bois d'Haine, writes the following, concerning Louise Lateau:

"I have often seen the stigmatized lose a great deal of blood, but never as I did to-day. The blood, which literally gushed out of her hands, was absorbed by a quantity of large white pieces of cloth that were lying on her bed. The blood-stains showing themselves on her cap and the garment thrown over her shoulders, indicated that the head also and the right shoulder were bleeding much. Her eyes were not quite closed, and seemed to be fixed on the wall. From her continual sighs, the violent shaking of her hands, and the exclamation, 'Mon Dieu,' which escaped her from time to time, it was evident that the sufferer had to bear immense pain. In the afternoon, towards two o'clock, I went in again, soon after the ecstatic state had set in. I found myself in the company of the Belgian Minister of Justice, a doctor of Brussels, the director of the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Paris, a professor of Tourcoing, in France, and several French and Belgian noblemen. A German who was dressed in every respect like alayman brought his hand close to Louise. Immediately a bright smile became visible on her face. "What's that?" whispered several. 'Monsieur est pretre,' said the cure. 'Ah, voila!' The same priest gave the doctor a picture which was not blessed. It was held up to her, but she did not smile. Then the priest took it back, blessed it, and returned it to the doctor, who held it near Louise. Her face was at once lighted up with a strikingly bright smile, which lasted as long as the picture remained near her. With regard to visitors, the writer says that very few laymen are admitted, and that ladies are not allowed to enter the house at all. Only last week the Grand Duchess of Toscana and the Duchess of Aremberg, who begged hard to see Louise Lateau, had to return home, without having their wish gratified. On the other hand, Count Perponcher, German Ambassador in Bruxelles, got permission to visit her. It is now thought that she is really approaching her death."