Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns by a Passionist Father part 43.


Palma Maria, Louise Lateau, Sister Esperance of Jesus

Louise Lateau
God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, keeps bright beacons of brilliant sanctity in different parts of the earth for the edification of mankind. They are raised on the light-house of the Church to indicate the true harbor of safe refuge to minds in the darkness of error, agitated in the stormy sea of doubt. All these favorites of Heaven, all without a single exception, are sincere, devout, and eminently virtuous members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. During the nineteen centuries of Christianity, Catholic history records by thousands, we might say by millions, eminent saints and servants of God who have been endowed with supernatural gifts, and with the power of working miracles; whilst not a single one can be satisfactorily indicated outside the pale of the Catholic Church. The fact is that Protestantism and infidelity, despairing of seeing a miracle which is not a direct condemnation of their apostasy and impiety, boldly deny the existence, and even the possibility of miraculous events. They charge Catholics as guilty of imposture or credulity, when they speak of existing miracles. For our justification we are satisfied to appeal to God and to facts.

The growing materialism, wickedness and impiety of the present century have an extreme need of bright examples of living virtue, to rebuke vice, to correct error, and practically to demonstrate the reality of Catholic dogmas and doctrines to a perverse and infidel generation. Our calumniators exert all their skill and strength, their lungs and pen, to represent our Church as corrupt and corrupting, and this divine Spouse of Christ, conscious of her truth and holiness, with calm dignity, practically confutes their malicious or insane charges by multiplying before the eyes of mankind living models of Christian virtues and heroes of sanctity. The presence of such brilliant examples of holiness, illustrated by miracles, is a triumphant confutation and divine condemnation of schism, heresy, infidelity and vice. It is a solemn rebuke and warning to crowned tyrants and to earthly governments that harass and persecute the holy Spouse of Jesus Christ, the only mother of saints upon earth and in heaven. These living saints, with the eloquent voice of miracles, never cease exhorting sinners to speedy repentance, and animate and strengthen the attachment of true Catholics to their holy faith. So many eminent servants of God, decorated with the stigmata of the Passion, and crowned with the thorns of our Savior, distributed by him like heavenly sentinels at the most important points of his Church, are a sure presage of speedy victory and triumph for Catholicity, and a certain warning of inevitable and fast-approaching defeat to the enemies of our holy religion. In this firm hope and confident expectation, we proceed to give a brief notice, of the three living wonders announced at the head of this chapter.

The first is Palma Maria Addolorata Matarrelli, of Oria, Kingdom of Naples. The second is Louise Lateau, of Bois-d'Haine, Belgium. The third is Sister Esperance of Jesus, of Ottawa, Canada. We begin with the first and most wonderful: Palma Maria, of Oria, Italy.

 Palma Maria Addolorata Matarrelli
Palma Maria Addolorata Matarrelli was born on Thursday in Holy Week, March 31st, 1825, in the episcopal city of Oria, province of Lecce, Apulia, Kingdom of Naples. The name of Palma is rather singular among Catholics, who at baptism should receive the name of a saint recognized by the Church. Her second name, however, fully satisfies the requirements of religion. Moreover, the name of Palma, meaning Palm, was evidently given to this privileged child in a Providential manner; for it signifies victory and triumph after a fierce combat. It seems that God has chosen Palma Maria as an effective living instrument for obtaining great victories over Satan and his infernal legions in human shape, fighting against his holy Church. By her extraordinary mode of life, by her severe penances, continual prayers, by her heavenly lights, prophecies and miracles, this wonderful woman has already contributed much to the edification of the faithful, and will, we hope, accelerate the fast-approaching universal and lasting triumph of our most holy religion.

Palma Maria seems to possess the marks described by the Apostle for her grand mission. St. Paul says: "See your vocation, brethren, that not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he might confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He might confound the strong; and the mean things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that He might destroy the things that are; that no flesh should glory in His sight." (1 Cor. 1:26) This is a masterly portrait of our Palma. Daughter of a poor shepherd, she was married to an humble shepherd. Totally illiterate, she knows not how to write or read a single letter of the alphabet. This fact should not be overlooked by those who attach more importance than necessary to the material education of children, especially girls of the poorer class. Knowledge of our holy religion is by far more essential and useful. At twenty-eight years of age Palma Maria was left an orphan and a widow. Her father and husband died, and her three infant daughters were taken home by their Heavenly Father. Extremely poor, weak and suffering, absolutely unable to work, she, with her aged mother, entirely depends on the charity of a Christian family. A pious gentleman, Federico Mazzella, by urgent request induced Palma, with her mother, to make their residence in his hospitable house, where his virtuous daughter, Antonietta, is day and night entirely devoted to her father's guests. That house will be very likely changed into a future sanctuary, and the name of this charitable family will be forever associated with that of one of the most remarkable servants of God in this century.

Palma Maria is apparently a living miracle. During the last twelve years she has never swallowed a morsel of food. Her only nourishment is the Bread of Life. By the Bishop's permission, a large room contiguous to her humble apartment has been transformed into a private chapel, whither every morning Palma is carried, seated upon a chair of suffering, to assist at Mass, and to receive from the hands of the priest the Holy Communion in company with the pious Antonietta, her visible guardian angel. After Holy Communion Palma Maria is ravished into an ecstasy of grateful love. for about fifteen minutes. Brought again to her room, she is ordinarily visited three or four times everyday, and also during the night, by our Lord, by some angel or saint, from whom she visibly receives again the Eucharistic Sacrament. Thus, by a singular privilege, as far as we know, never granted before, this extraordinary woman receives Holy Communion several times daily. Her prudent and saintly spiritual director, Father Francis della Pace, and other ecclesiastical superiors, at first objected to these unusually frequent Communions. But our Lord manifested to Palma Maria that he had two objects in these frequent and visible Communions to her. The first was to rebuke the growing infidelity and the skepticism of the age, the coldness and indifference of Christians, and to stimulate a more lively devotion towards the Holy Eucharist among well-disposed Catholics. His second object was to communicate the needed strength and courage to herself, who had to endure a continual martyrdom of the most intense sufferings for his honor and glory, for the welfare of the Church, for the conversion of sinners and infidels, and for the salvation of souls. Palma has since been permitted to communicate as often as her Divine Spouse judges best for her spiritual welfare. In reality, she has need of these extraordinary helps. Her sufferings are beyond description, and above human comprehension. To deliver souls from purgatory she often endures in their behalf, the pains to which they are condemned by the justice of God. She occasionally suffers the sensible torments of hell to obtain the conversion of some great sinners in imminent danger of being eternally lost. She has the stigmata of the five wounds, which, however, at her earnest request, our Lord has made to disappear, being visible and bleeding only during the Fridays in Lent.
Sister Esperance of Jesus
But from the Crown of Thorns blood flows frequently in great quantities. This blood, falling in drops upon, or being wiped off with any cloth, leaves upon it the impression of crosses, of various instruments of our Lord's Passion, or other sacred emblems. The same and more wonderful impressions are occasionally produced upon her ordinary clothes, or upon other articles, as white handkerchiefs, which have been applied to her body and chest. In writing this sketch we have before our eyes these wonderful impressions, which have been photographed. They represent more than fifty different figures or signs. The principal and more striking of these are Calvaries, crosses, nails, hammers, pincers, crowns of thorns, scourges, monstrances with Hosts, hearts in large numbers and of different dimensions, some figures of our Lady of Seven Dolors, frequently the number seven in Arabic figures, often figures of roses, long rods with branches ending with thirteen stars, rods branching out with seven lines, the same with two lines, a cross of thin green branches; the cross of La Salette, with hammer and pincers; a longer branch, with twelve stars on each side, ending with another on the top of it. The letter "L" is seen very frequently, and some other emblems, the meanings of which are fully understood by Palma Maria. She explains them to her directors only, who write her words down for future reference. We venture to give the following explanation:

Naturally speaking, there is a mutual relation between the mind and sense, the soul and body. The mind draws its ideas from the senses, and the strong affections of the soul react upon the body. When these mental affections or emotions are very intense they seem to pervade the entire frame of our being, and to infuse a mysterious fluid in our very blood, from which, on some peculiar conditions, emblems will be produced, indicating the state or disposition of the soul.

We can understand even better this explanation on supernatural grounds. Divine grace, principally intended for the soul, acts also on the body. This is particularly the fact with some of the seven Sacraments. Moreover, for our final glorification and admission into heaven, not only the soul, but also the body, must undergo some process of preparation, and sanctification. This is one of the motives why self-denial, mortification and penance are so often and so strongly recommended to us in the Bible and in Christianity. Lastly, as our Lord in his glorified body retains the bright stigmata of the five wounds, and the glorious impression of the Crown of Thorns, so the bodies of the elect will be adorned, with glorious emblems, representing the virtuous labors they have performed, the privations, sufferings, pains and tortures they have endured for God's sake, and in God's service. Now, a Christian soul raised to a very high degree of perfection is very near her final state of glorification, and consequently very conformable to the image of her glorified Head, our risen Savior. But if our Blessed Lord left the marks of his sufferings upon his glorified body, and the bodies of the elect will be adorned with heavenly emblems in reward of their physical labors and sufferings, we have no great difficulty in believing the fact of the miraculous emblems produced on different articles of dress that come in contact with the body or blood of Palma Maria d'Oria. If these emblems are miraculous, they are consequently the effects of Divine interposition.

We do not hereby pretend to forestall the supreme judgment of the Holy See; we merely express our humble opinion. We are inclined to believe and to hope that the emblems we have enumerated are intended by God for our instruction and edification. He may wish to make us understand what is the habitual state of the soul of Palma Maria. Her mind and heart seem thoroughly penetrated with the grand and affecting mystery of our Lord's sacred Passion. Like St. Paul, Palma Maria glories in nothing but in the Cross of Christ. Her whole being, like a sponge, appears penetrated and saturated, as it were, with the Passion of her Divine Spouse. Oh! what wonder that this living sponge of Christ, when slightly pressed, gives impressions of the emblems of the Passion. Being continually on Calvary, steadily at the foot of the cross, her looks fixed on Jesus crucified, and her heart and body crucified with him, what wonder if Palma Maria leaves on what she touches the impressions of Calvaries, crosses, scourges, hammers, nails and crowns of thorns? She has been for years steeped in them, she is impregnated with them in mind and heart, in soul and body. With St. Paul, she can truly say:

"I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body." We say the same in relation to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Palma has passed not only hours daily and nightly before our sacramental Lord; but this wonderful mystery of love is, we may say, the subject of her continual meditation, and the object of her most ardent aspirations and seraphic love. How ardently must she love our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to deserve from him, as we are informed, the singular privilege, never known to have been granted before to any living saint, of receiving him several times daily? Again, how must these frequent Communions, if really from God, make her seraphic ardor of devotion blaze forth into immense flames of love. This heavenly fire in fact becomes so intense, not only in her soul, but also in her body, that the cold water she is forced to drink to cool her, and which, burning interiorly, she cannot retain more than a few minutes in her stomach, comes out of her mouth literally boiling and steaming; and her inside dress is singed and burned as if her body were a red-hot iron. When we consider, these facts, we may be surprised, but we should not be incredulous about the figures of Hosts, remonstrances and other emblems impressed on her clothes. In explanation of these figures, we are of opinion that the number seven is intended to express her ardent devotion to the seven dolors of our Blessed Lady. The thirteen stars may signify her great veneration for the Apostles. The letter "L" means labor, suffering. The roses may be taken as the emblems of her burning charity, and of the odor of her sanctity. The cross of La Salette is a miraculous confirmation of the reality of that apparition. Moreover, a certain mysterious liquid, like honey, occasionally issues from her mouth, which, by order of her spiritual director, being collected and enclosed in bottles of clear glass, is gradually transformed into large Hosts, like those used by the celebrant at Mass.

These prodigies can be witnessed at Oria, and Dr. A. Imbert Gourbeyere solemnly testifies having seen these as well as other astonishing wonders. Twice he saw her miraculous Communions and the wonderful Host on her extended tongue. He witnessed her ecstasies, the bleeding of the Crown of Thorns; he perceived the smell of her burning clothes, he saw them burned and covered with emblems. He had them photographed, and brought with him to France some handkerchiefs miraculously emblematized. Palma Maria is supernaturally bi-located, or transported to distant and different nations, to assist some privileged souls either in their severe sufferings or at the point of death. She often assists at the ecstasies and sufferings of Louise Lateau in Belguim. She is acquainted with living servants of God and other eminent Catholics living in different parts of the world. She speaks of a little girl living at present in Paris, near the great Convent of the Sisters of Charity, who is destined to become a famous saint, whom she calls Rita. She is stated to be in frequent spiritual communication with the celebrated seer, Melanie de La Salette, now called Sister Mary of the Cross, who lives at Castellamare, not far from Naples. She mentions a holy person living in Jerusalem, called Pasqualina, who has been stigmatized. Palma Maria seems to have the spirit of prophecy, by having foretold events before their realization, and this on several different occasions. She speaks of trials in store for the Pope, for Rome, and for the Church in general. She has announced impending massacres of priests and religious persons, especially in the kingdom of Naples, as also the three days' darkness, and other terrible calamities, which will be speedily followed by brilliant victories and the universal triumph of the Catholic Church. These biographical details we have compiled from the French work of Dr. A. Imbert Gourbeyere, mentioned several times in the preceding chapters. Since our compilation. We have heard that Palma Maria, on account of these truly extraordinary phenomena, is kept under a cloud. But we are personally inclined to believe that this is only a temporary, though very severe trial, permitted by God for the final purification of her soul, and for a great increase of merit for eternity.