A young girl was playing in her uncle`s orchard with a cage of little birds that had been given to her. She wanted to clean them, so she gave them a bath: they died! Heart-broken, she was burying them, when suddenly, in the depths of her heart a very clear voice uttered these words: "This is how everything passes! If you will give me your heart, I shall always remain with you." She was never to forget this voice and her life became the dramatic illustration of these interior words.
Who then was this child?
What became of her?
The family was Lebanese, originally from Damascus, and belonged to the Greek-Melkite Catholic rite. They lived in the hill country of Upper-Galilee, where persecution had forced them to take refuge. The mother, Mariam Chahyn, was from Tarshish; the father, Giries (George) Baouardy, lived in Horfesch: two Palestinian villages peopled with Arabs and Druses, Moslems and Christians. As his name indicates (Baouardy means a man of baroud, of powder), the father manufactured powder. He was poor, but hard-working and honest, devoted and patient. One day he was accused of a murder committed in the vicinity of Tarshish, arrested by the Ottoman police and thrown into the prison of Saint Jean d'Acre. He accepted the trial with Christian courage until at length he was found innocent and released.
An even greater sorrow weighed on this fine Christian couple: they had had twelve sons born to them, and all had diet in infancy. Their grief was immense. Broken-hearted, but not despairing, the mother had an inspiration that she confided to her husband: "Let us go to Bethlehem on foot, and ask the Blessed Virgin for a daughter. Let us promise Her that if our prayers are answered, we will name her Mariam and will offer for the service of God a quantity of wax equal to her weight when she is three years of age."
Full of confidence, the husband and wife left for Bethlehem, a trip of 170 kilometers. We can guess their anxiety and fervor as they prayed at the Grotto of the Nativity, where the Mother of God blessed them by grating their request. A little girl was born to them in Abellin where the couple resided after George`s false accusation of the murder and his imprisonment.
Abellin, named Ibilline by the Israelites, is situated on a height overlooking the road from Nazareth to Saint Jean d`Acre by way of Shefamar. Today it is a charming village where most of the houses have been rebuilt and the two parochial churches of the Byzantine rite have been enlarged. It would seem that in the past Abellin had been a city of some importance, for either the biblical city of Zabulon mentioned in the Book of Joshua (19, 27) or the Talmudic village of Abelim was located there. When I visited this little town for the first time, fifty years ago, it resembled the miserable village that Mariam knew, with even dirtier lanes, and houses still more dilapidated, into which some 600 inhabitants were crowded.
I can still see it. We reached the town from Shefamar along a pebbly foot-path that wound along under the olive trees flanking the hills. At the end of a climb up a sunny ramp we came in sight of a poor village: small houses - white cube-like buildings - bread ovens, mezbeleh or heaps of refuse, wandering dogs, squalling children in narrow and sordid lanes, donkeys waiting for their masters, curious women, bronzed and suspicious men. The whole scene transfigured by that incomparable magician of the Orient: the sun. Abellin was a village like so many others that are to be found in Turkish Palestine.
Of the home of George and Mariam Baouardy I saw only a heap of stones, a few walls almost completely in ruins from the action of sun, winds and winter rains. In one corner lay the shaft of a hollow cement column, which was used by the father when preparing the powder. It was in this place that Mariam was born, the eve of the Epiphany, January 5, 1846.
From the home of her birth, I went over to the Greek Catholic church. It was quite modest: an empty hall approximately fifteen by six meters, with a worn, uneven floor, and cracked, spotted walls. In the center, facing the altar concealed by a humble iconostasis, stood a stump of a column, about one meter high topped by an over-turned capital on which the baptismal tub was placed. It was there that the daughter of Giries and Mariam Baouardy, the miracle child of Bethlehem, was baptized on January 15, ten days after her birth. The ceremony was performed by immersion according to the eastern liturgy: the pastor plunged the child three times in the tepid water, and immediately afterwards administered confirmation. Then, lifting her in his hands, he went around the baptistry three times while chanting Alleluia. Here is the official record of the ceremony: "We, the undersigned, James El:Yamyn, parish priest of the village of Abellin, at the request of Mgr. Agapios, bishop of Saint Jean d`Acre, declare that Mariam Baouardy, legitimate daughter of the late George Baouardy and the late Mariam Chahyn, both of the Greek-Catholic rite, was born January 5, 1846, was baptized and confirmed according to the same rite ten days after her birth by Rev. Joseph Kudad, parish priest of the church of St. George of the same village. The godmother was Miss Therese sister of the parish priest Rev. Jean."
The panorama of Abellin is incomparable. From this rocky peak the whole of Upper-Galilee can be descried. These were the horizons which were to fill the eyes of the little Galileean girl and for which she would feel a nostalgia all her life, until several months before her death when she would have the joy of seeing them once again. To the north, the lofty mountain chain serves as frontier with Lebanon and ends at the northeast with the mighty dome of the Great Hermon (2,814 m.) the Sheikh of the Mountain as the Arabs call it. To the east, fleecy waves of hills slope down toward the Lake of Tiberias; and to the south the opulent plain of Jezrael or Esdrelon stretches out until it meets Mount Carmel. To the northwest beyond the sand dunes, between Haifa and Saint Jean d`Acre, sparkles the Mediterranean. Was it not while beholding these wide and luminous horizons that Mariam felt the awakening of her love of nature, whose naive fervor recalls that of the poverello of Assisi, and still more that of the incomparable Palestinian artist of imagery, Jesus of Nazareth ?
Two years after Mariam`s birth, a little boy came to brighten the Baouardy home. He was named Boulos (Paul). At last, everything seemed to smile on this family, yet sad to say, trial, like a hungry sparrow-hawk, was hovering over the Abellin household. The mother and father both died, within a few days of each other. An aunt later related to Mariam her father`s last words. Looking at a picture of St. Joseph, he had murmured: "Great saint, here is my child; the blessed Virgin is her mother; deign to look after her also, be her Father."
A maternal aunt, living in Tarshish, took young Boulos into her home; as for Mariam, she was adopted by a paternal uncle at Abellin. The brother and sister were never to see each other again.
Mariam received every care and attention in her uncle`s home, where the situation was one of comfort. But could she forget that she was an orphan ? Those first shocks had left their mark on her. Of her years in Abellin a few fioretti have come down to us, which Mariam confided to her companions after she entered the cloister; they reveal her soul. If the life of man is sometimes the realization of certain dreams of his childhood, we can see in the conduct and dreams of the young girl of Abellin, premonitory signs, symbols in the biblical sense of the word, bearers of future hopes of an exceptional life. Let us remember the scene of the little birds` burial.
Despite all the attention and love lavished on her at Abellin, Mariam, from the age of four to eight years, appeared to be a dreamer, a thoughtful child, one in search of solitude the better to think of God. She loved to be out in the orchard because it was out there that she found the reflection of the Creator: in the trees, flowers, insects, and birds. She never attended school, nor did she learn to read or write, because at that time, in Palestine, young Arab girls were obliged to apply themselves only to household duties and to prepare themselves for marriage by the age of twelve.
In this child, lively and intelligent by nature, the absence of a literary education would but heighten her consciousness of the interior life and reflection. The Holy Spirit was to fashion His little masterpiece in a way that would be quite apparent. Like an echo of the voice she heard when she buried the little birds, she would often say: "Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing, dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved!" She was already engrossed in this thought whose depth she would never cease plumbing to the last morning of her life.
When her foster parents interested themselves in caring for her attire, she could not have cared less. And God knows what coquettes little girls can be, the orientals in particular! "How can you dream of adorning yourself in such a way, you little bit of dust destined one day to become the food of worms!" One of her favourite games was to scoop out graves in the garden with her little hands, and then stretch out in them, trying to live her own death and rapid destruction. When she happened to get her dress dirty in the game, she reprimanded, but the thought of death and her nothingness was stronger than she, it haunted her. She later recalled the memory of the two old men who made an impression of her childish eyes and heart. The one, a relative of hers, was a bishop. He often took the little girl on his knees, and with tears flowing from his eyes he used to speak to her of God Whom we should prefer to everything, and of the contempt we should have for all the rest. The other old man was a passing hermit. Before leaving the house that had given him hospitality he asked to see the children to bless them. Noticing Mariam, he became troubled, he took her hands which he pressed in his own, and after a long silence he said to the uncle. "Oh, I beg you, take special care of this child, take care of her, take care of her!" Then he left, and was never seen again. At the remembrance of these two old men, Mariam confided to her superiors. "No doubt they were saints and God made known to them what a sinner I was, perhaps they were fearful for the salvation of my soul!"
The following is a dream that she was to remember. She saw a merchant come into her uncle`s house and offer a fine big fish for sale. She understood that the fish was poisoned, then she woke up. "It was only a dream!" she told herself. But in the morning a man did present himself to sell a fish just like the one in her dream. She warned her uncle, who nevertheless stubbornly persisted in waiting to buy the fish. Mariam insisted, she wept, she maintained she should take the first bite, happy to sacrifice herself for the others. In the face of this insistence, they opened the fish> it was true, the fish was indeed poisoned, it had swallowed a viper!
One morning Mariam was in her room, lying oriental fashion on a little divan and eating, all the while thinking of God. A snake, attracted by the coolness of the room and the odour of the leben (curdled milk), glided over the child. Unafraid and even laughing, she picked it up and plunged its head into the bowl so that it could drink its fill. Just then a servant opened the door and seeing the snake and the child, he screamed. Mariam let go of her hold, the snake escaped, and people came running. Then everything resumed its calm. During her life Mariam often had a vision of snakes, and her very life as a Carmelite was to be a fierce and at certain times, tragic battle against "the ancient Serpent", who is called the Devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, (Apoc. 12, 9.). But like the Woman of the Apocalypse, she would emerge victorious.
The Blessed Virgin was to envelope with much tenderness this young girl whose parents had asked for her at the grotto of Bethlehem. Mariam was to be the privileged child of Our Lady. In Her honour, from the age of five, she fasted every Saturday, taking only the evening meal, and always being ingenious in hiding her "little game". In the springtime she would gather flowers choosing the loveliest and most fragrant from the garden or on the hills of Abellin to place before the icon of the Blessed Virgin. And what was not her surprise one day to find that the cut flowers had taken root in the vase? She informed her uncle who, in turn apprised the pastor, fearing for the child`s humility, scolded her as though her sins were responsible for this phenomenon! Mariam fell on her knees, humbled herself and asked pardon.
"What do you think will become of this child?" wondered the pastor, the relatives, and the neighbours at the sight of such spiritual precocity. So it was, in days gone by, for the little John the Baptist in the village of Ain Karem ( Luke 1, 66).
Happy days at Abellin! "The child increased in wisdom, in age, and in favour with God and men" (Luke 2, 52). Why was Mariam to be uprooted from this inspiring hill of Abellin where God and heaven were so near, where everything called to mind the holy family of the Galileean village of Nazareth?
We do not know the uncle`s reasons for deciding to leave Abellin with his family and to settle in Egypt, in the neighbourhood of Alexandria. Mariam bade a touching farewell to her native village, to the hills, the flowers, the birds and the trees of that fascinating Galilee. She was not to see Abellin again until a short time before her death in 1878, but she remained an authentic Galileean whose mentality and attractiveness she possessed and made charming. Mariam was eight years of age.
From the time she was seven years old, Mariam went to confession every Saturday, and already at this early age she was tortured by hunger for the Eucharist. But what could be done to advance the official age for communion? How could she live without Jesus in her heart? How was she to resist those urgent desires that were becoming more and more ardent and violent? After each weekly confession, she asked the priest for the favour of receiving communion, and each time the priest would answer. "I wish it also, my child, but a little later." Some months passed. Then, one Saturday, at the child`s repeated request, the priest, no doubt distracted, forgot his restriction. "a little later." Mariam believed her request was granted. Enveloped in her large veil which concealed her youth, she slipped into the line of communicants. The priest, who according to the Byzantine rite held in his hand the chalice in which were steeped the particles of consecrated bread, held out to Mariam the little spoon containing the sacred species. she relieved the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The young girl was radiant with happiness, and later acknowledged she had seen Jesus give Himself to her under the appearance of a most beautiful child.
The following Saturday, she renewed her request to her confessor. The priest then realized his distraction, but in the face of such innocence, and upon reflection, he dared not deny this grace to the precocious child. However, he asked her to use discretion in going to communion until she attained the required age, so as not to attract attention. When she was twelve she made her Solemn Communion, dressed in beautiful festal-clothes. From then on she received the Holy Eucharist as often as possible. Anticipating the demands of Pope St. Pius X, she was never to cease, as a Carmelite, recommending frequent and even daily communion for the nuns.
Mariam was nearing her thirteenth birthday, and according to the oriental custom her foster parents - without consulting her and in order to assure her future - had promised her in marriage to an uncle, her aunt`s brother who lived in Cairo. The wedding date had been set and the whole family was invited to the marriage which was to take place in Alexandria. Some days before the ceremony, Mariam received the engagement ring, and she was clothed in costly dresses and jewels. Her aunt acquainted her with her approaching wifely duties, but this revelation was a terrible shock for the child. She did not sleep that night. From the depths of her heart came the voice she had heard years before in the garden in Abellin. "Everything passes! If you wish to give me your heart, I will always remain with you."
Her decision was made. She would have but one spouse, the one whose voice she had heard in her heart, Jesus. And already we can guess the title she was to add to the name of her spouse, it would be the crucified, Jesus Crucified. Jesus would be for her a spouse of blood. Mariam spent that night, the eve of her wedding day, in prayer before the icon of the Blessed Virgin. Having dozed off for a moment, she heard within her a voice which murmured, "Mariam, I am with you, follow the inspiration I shall give you, I will help you."
Upon awakening she felt uplifted by an unknown joy. Without hesitation she cut off her long braids and entwined them with the jewels she had received from her fiance and relatives. When her uncle perceived these signs of her intention to remain a virgin, a pathetic scene ensued, outbursts of rage, screams, slaps, but nothing could change the young girl`s mind. They called in her confessor, and even a bishop who was a friend of the family, to convince her that she was thus disgracing her family by refusing obedience to her guardian to whom she owed everything. Nothing moved the obstinate little one. Wild with rage, the uncle decided to treat her as a slave. He sent her to the kitchen, telling the servants to give her the hardest work and to treat her without consideration. She was descending the first steps of humiliation, there she was alone, without support, without affection, without even the encouragement of her confessor, who went so far as to refuse her absolution and to forbid her to receive communion because of such a disobedience. The drama lasted three months. No one gave in. The situation and hearts became harder. In her immense desolation Mariam thought of her young brother Boulos, who had remained in Tarshish, Galilee. He was eleven years of age. How she would like to see him again! The desire haunted her, and she secretly dictated a letter to invite him to visit her at her uncle`s home. She knew that a former domestic of family, a Moslem, was getting ready to leave for Nazareth, so one evening she stole out and went in haste to find him.
Mariam was welcomed with joy by the man as well as by his mother and his wife. It was their meal time so their invited her to share it with them. She refused, but they insisted, so she accepted. She told them her troubled. Outraged with such treatment, the Moslem`s fanaticism was aroused. He reproached the young girl for remaining in a religion whose members were so hard, so ruthless. Gradually, insinuated conversion to Islam, when then suddenly Mariam realized the enormity of the proposal. With even more pride and disdain than during the scene of her hair and jewels, she proclaimed aloud her faith in Jesus, "Moslem! No, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, and I hope by the grace of God, to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one."
The fanatic, furious at seeing himself put in his place by a little Christian, became violent. His eyes flashed, hatred convulsed his heart. He could no longer control himself, with a kick he knocked the girl down. He unsheathed his scimitar and slashed the little one's throat. Believing her to be dead lying there in a pool of blood, he wrapped her in his large cloak, and with the help of his mother and his wife, he went and deposited the body in a dark alley.
This drama took place the night of September 7-8, 1858. As a religious, Mariam was to celebrate on this feast of the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, the anniversary of her bloody nuptials.
Years later, when obliged by obedience to relate her martyrdom, Mariam affirmed that she was really dead. To her mistress of novices at Marseilles, who asked her if she had undergone the particular judgment, she replied, "Oh no, but I found myself in heaven. I saw the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints receiving me with great kindness, and I also saw my parents in their company. I saw the brilliant throne of the Most Holy Trinity, and Jesus Christ in His Humanity. No sun, no lamp, but everything was so bright with light, Then someone said to me, "You are a virgin, it is true, but your book is not finished. "We are reminded of the description of heaven in the Apocalypse of St. John.
The vision disappeared and Mariam found herself in a grotto, near her was a religious in azure clothing. The latter told her she had picked her up on the street, brought her to this shelter, and stitched up her slashed neck. This mysterious sister of charity in the blue habit displayed an extraordinary tenderness. She spoke very little, she induced her to sleep. She had no resemblance to any other religious.
How long did Mariam remain in this secret shelter? She later spoke of one month, but like a true oriental, she never had much notion of time. One day, the unknown nurse prepared some soup for her that was so delicious the convalescent greedily asked for more, and all her life she was to remember the taste of it. On her death bed she was heard to say tenderly, "She made me some soup! Oh, such good soup! There I was a long time, looking, and never ate soup like that. I have the taste in my mouth. She promised me that at my last hour, she will give me a little spoonful of it."
Toward the end of her sojourn in the grotto, the nurse outlined for Mariam her life`s program, "You will never see your family again, you will go to France, where you will become a religious. You will be a child of St. Joseph before becoming a daughter of St. Teresa. You will receive the habit of Carmel in one house, you will make your profession in a second, and you will die in a third, at Bethlehem." When the wound had healed, the religious had Mariam leave the grotto, she led her to the church of St. Catherine, served by the Franciscans, and called a confessor. When Mariam came out of the confessional, she found herself alone. The nurse in azure clothing had disappeared.
Who was she? In 1874, on the Feast of our Lady's Nativity, the anniversary of her martyrdom and miracle, Mariam was to say in ecstasy, "On this same day I was with my Mother. On this same day I consecrated my life to Mary. Someone had cut my throat, and the next day Mary took care of me."
Some time later, in August 1875, when she was on a boat going toward Palestine, she recounted what she remembered to her director, Father Estrate, and she stated precisely, "I know now that the religious who cared for me after my martyrdom was the Blessed Virgin." During the stopover at Alexandria with the group of Carmelites who were to found the Carmel of Bethlehem, Mariam took the little caravan to visit the church of St. Catherine and the little grotto which she found transformed into a hall by the Greek Catholics.
What guarantee do we have for admitting such a marvel? It is certain that we have but one testimony, that of Mariam. The murderer obviously never made himself known. The religious who took care of the child never revealed her identity, we may guess why! As to the orphan`s foster parents, knowing nothing of the tragedy, they thought that Mariam had run away to escape the ill treatment, and perhaps to give herself up to a disorderly life in the city of Alexandria. They had every interest in keeping silence about this unfortunate child. She could only bring them dishonour.
This leaves Mariam`s testimony. And this testimony is confirmed by the seriousness, the sincerity, and humility of her whole life, as witnesses have attested. Several details were to be confirmed later by her brother Boulos, he had in fact received his sister`s famous letter. He replied to her appeal by making the trip to Alexandria, but not finding her at his uncle`s home, he returned to Galilee.
There is still, however, one undisputed fact, the scar on her neck. It was confirmed during Mariam's illnesses by the doctors and nurses at Marseille, as well as at Pau, Mangalore, and finally at Bethlehem. This scar measured 10 cm in length and 1 cm in width, and marked the whole front of the neck, the skin there was finer and whiter. Several cartilaginous rings of the tracheal artery were missing, as the doctors at Pau attested June 24, 1875. The Mistress of Novices was to write, "A celebrated doctor at Marseille, who had taken care of Mariam, had confessed that, although he was an atheist, there must be a God, for from a natural point of view, she could not have lived." As a result of this deep cut Mariam`s voice was always hoarse. The martyrdom of the little Arab had not been a dream, it remained inscribed in her flesh.
In the grotto of Alexandria , Mariam had received in its broad outlines, the revelation of her life`s program. Here it is with the exact happenings that brought about its realization,
May 1865 - June 1867, Novitiate of the sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition at Marseille,
June 1867 - August 1870, Carmel of Pau,
August 1870 - November 1872, Carmel of Mangalore.
November 1872 - August 1875, Carmel of Pau,
September 1875 - August 1878, Carmel of Bethlehem.
But before taking up the great rhythm of her cruising from port to port Mariam was to experience the zigzags of a turbulent adolescence, the storms - not only in a figurative sense - of a capricious Mediterranean, the anxious groping in search of her true vocation.
The spirit is pleased to make the path of His elect difficult to discern, no doubt to accustom them to set their sails to His breath alone, to allow themselves to be guided solely by Him. It is difficult for us to follow Mariam in this life of adventure, the more so since, as I have said, like a real oriental she was scarcely concerned with chronology, furthermore, in her confidences, she was more aware of details about this period of her life than about others. Obedience alone impelled her to complete openness with her superiors.
She was thirteen, she was without roof or family, left by herself in the church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. A Franciscan took an interest in the orphan, and found a place for her as a domestic in a Christian family. What was not Mariam`s surprise to learn that they were distant cousins! Fortunately, they did not recognize her and she wanted to keep her anonymity. They put her to work in the kitchen and gave her charge of children. She was not well cared for that she wondered how she could realize her vocation under such circumstances, so she left this house to work for another family, where she remained only six months. Above all she sought to remain unknown. She lived as one of the poor, with just one dress, and her salary was given to the poor, except for a few piastres to provide oil for the little lamp that burned before an icon of the Blessed Virgin. Her spare time she devoted to the less fortunate. She left the service of one rich lady of Alexandria to give her services to a family reduced to misery by illness. She changed their poor pallets, and was ingenious in procuring every possible care, not hesitating to beg in order to buy food and clothing, and going so far as sell the little that she had. At the and of five weeks the family was back on its feet, so Mariam, in spite of their urgings (to stay), left them to exercise her service of charity elsewhere. But once again we see her obsessed with the desire to see her brother Boulos. Taking a boat at Alexandria, she wanted to go d`Acre from where she could get to Tarshish, but a storm cast the ship on the reefs of Jaffa.
At Jaffa Mariam went to work again as a domestic, but only for a few days as she wished to go further. Intending to go to Jerusalem, she joined a caravan of pilgrims on their way to the holy city, and once there, a priest found her a position with an excellent family. During the seven years of adventure preceding her entrance into the convent, she was to make the "ascent to Jerusalem" several times. We do not know when she made her vow of virginity at the Holy Sepulchre, but the following gives at least the principal circumstances.
One day, in the streets of Jerusalem, a young man, very handsome, and with an air of sincerity, accosted her and began a conversation. She was fifteen years of age. The conversation was one of great delicacy, the young man spoke to her in praise of perfect chastity. Some days later he met her again, said his name was John George, and offered to show her the way to the Holy Sepulchre. Having arrived at the holy place, she promised her mysterious guide that would take a perpetual vow of virginity if he would do the same. And thus it was that at the sacred edifice, on the very place of the glorious tomb of the risen Lord Jesus, these two young people became "children of the Resurrection" by pronouncing the definitive vow of chastity. Before taking leave of Mariam, John George recalled to her the main stages of her life as the Blessed Virgin had sketched them for her in the grotto of Alexandria. Ten years later at Mangalore, India, Mariam was to see her "spiritual brother" again, this was shortly before her perpetual profession in Carmel. The young religious then understood that John George was an angel that the Lord had sent her, as he had in former days to the young Tobias.
Her pilgrimage finished, Mariam returned to Jaffa to go from there to Saint Jean d`Acre. She had no sooner left the city than two individuals overtook her, they came, they said, to arrest her. She was accused of having stolen a diamond from the woman who had given her lodging. Taken into the souks (market-place) of Jerusalem, the young girl was thrown into a foul prison where she found herself in the company of women of evil lives. The truth became known two days later when a poor half-crazed black woman was running through the streets of the city trying to sell the stolen jewel! Mariam was released and she departed again, happy to have experienced some of the Lord`s shame in the city of His Passion. One step more on the staircase of humiliation had just been descended.
Obviously, the winds and the were not favourable to Mariam! Having once more taken ship at Jaffa she could not disembark at Saint Jean d`Acre because the sea was to rough, and the boat was rerouted to Beirut. Here again the young girl was alone in an immense port. As was her habit, she took refuge in a church, and asked to see a priest to whom she disclosed her problem. He found her a position in the home of a certain Madame Atalla.
Some days later the Jerusalem scandal was reenacted, the young servant girl was accused of having stolen a valuable object. The police were called but Madame Atilla`s brother declared himself the culprit. Thirteen years after that, in July 1873, Mariam, then a Carmelite at Pau, asked the Mistress of Novices to recite a psalm of thanksgiving, not in memory of her recognized innocence, but of her humiliation which so closely identified her with the Crucified. She remained with Madame Atalla approximately ten months.
Two exceptional facts stand out during this period. She had been working for scarcely six months when suddenly she was struck with total blindness. This lasted for forty days. Once again Mariam turned to the Blessed Virgin, "See, my Mother," she said, "all my trouble I am cousin this house, I was never better cared for by my parents. Oh, if it would please you and your divine Son, give me back my sight!" Immediately something fell from her eyes and they opened, she could see.
Some time after that, when she was hanging clothes on the terrace, she fell. At first they thought she was dead, her bones seemed to be crushed, and the doctors gave no hope of recovery. Her employers cared for her as for their own child. A month later, in front of her little night lamp, she saw - as did Therese of the Child Jesus later on - the Blessed Virgin smile at her, recommending three things to her, obedience, charity and confidence. A perfume and light filled the room. Mariam was cured, and she was hungry. The family and neighbours came flocking in, and at the sight of the prodigy everyone, Christian and Moslem, went down on their knees, giving thanks and proclaiming God`s miracle through the Virgin Mary.
Six years later, in 1869, the prioress of the Carmel of Pau wrote to Sister Gélas, superior of the Daughters of Charity of Beirut, asking her to verify the accuracy of these facts. The following is the reply she received.
"The Beirut House of Mercy, October 16, 1869.
"The information we obtained from the Atalla family, and which was given to us by the same lady with whom your young protegee lived, conforms entirely with what you mentioned to us. Further, we have a number of other details, not less interesting, that greatly edified us. What the young girl could not tell you was, that wherever she went, she left a perfume of virtue, especially of candour, and of a piety so striking that those who came in contact with her were always deeply impressed by it... I am happy to be able to give you such a good reply. It is so rare that lives that have been thus tossed around are without reproach!"
Once again, Mariam noticed the veneration that was lavished upon her. It was too much happiness! Was this not a snare, a temptation? The Blessed Virgin had not promised to make her happy on this earth any more than she had Bernadette. The Spirit refined her, sculptured her, urged her to detachment from all things. She decided to leave Madame Atalla, and even Beirut. She wrote to her brother Boulos to inform him of her approaching visit. But God`s plans were not the plans of Mariam. The courses were still confused. The mysterious zig zags were to continue. A family by the name of Naggiar, whose daughter was living in Marseille invited Mariam to come and work for the latter in the great French port. France! That name produced a shock in the soul of the young Arab. Had not her voices predicted to her that she would go to that enchanting country, there to live the first stages of her religious life? She accepted the offer. She left Lebanon with Mr. Naggiar and they arrived at Marseille at the beginning of May, 1863. She was eighteen years of age.
There she became Madame Naggiar`s cook. She was so young and so ingenuous that her mistress forbade her to go out alone, even to the church. The order was too severe, for Mariam needed her visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Feeling that her soul was in danger, she left her mistress to work for another Arab family. There she remained for but a short time, for Madame Naggiar promised her more liberty. She had confined her only to keep her from harm! In the morning Mariam usually went either to the church of St. Charles or to the church of St. Nicholas, the latter being of the Greek Catholic rite, her rite. In this church she once again enjoyed the sumptuous ceremonies of the confessor she chose Father Philip Abdou, the rector of the church, a Lebanese.
During one of her first communions there, she was rapt in a wonderful ecstasy. Her mistress, when informed of it, came for her in her carriage. The phenomenon lasted four days, and the doctors did not know what to make of it. Mariam acknowledged later that, as on that tragic night in Alexandria she had gone through heaven, hell and purgatory. While in ecstasy she received the order to fast for one year on bread and water to expiate the sins of gluttony in the world, and to wear poor clothing to expiate the sins of immodesty and luxury.
Let us recall that in the marketplace of Jerusalem she had been approached by a handsome young man who gave her excellent counsel. In Marseille, one morning when she was going up to Notre Dame de la Garde for Mass, she saw she was being followed by a man who was holding a child by the hand. This happened several times. Troubled by such persistence, Mariam approached the stranger and asked him to stop following her like that. The stranger answered with a beautiful smile, "I know that you want to enter the convent. I will follow you until you are in convent." From that moment onward, Mariam felt herself called to the religious life. Who was this stranger? The young girl had no doubt, It could only have been St. Joseph!
In her efforts to follow her vocation, Father Abdou was of great help to her. But, as always, the stages were many and laborious! The young Palestinian went first to the Daughters of Charity and applied to enter. Forestalled by Madame Naggiar, who did not want at any price to be deprived of her cook, they refused under the pretext that she was a servant! Mariam then went to see the Poor Clares, whose style of poverty and silence appealed to her immediately. But her delicate health did not allow her to enter the cloister, she had been so greatly weakened by her fast that she had been given the sacrament of the sick. But once again, rapidly and contrary to all expectations, she found herself cured.
A fresh attempt, at the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, founded by Emily de Vialar. The motherhouse and novitiate were located at the Capelette in the suburbs of Marseille. The little Palestinian could neither read nor write, she spoke only Arabic. She was accepted, however, because the novitiate counted a few Palestinians among its numbers, and the Congregation had several communities in the East, especially in the Holy Land. Thereafter, she was familiarly called Mariam the Arab, or the little Arab. She remained a postulant for two years. She was not yet out of the labyrinth of the Spirit! However, the first part of her program had been realized, She was a daughter of St. Joseph.
Her conversations, in butchered French, amused the community immensely, but they were marked by such candour and spontaneity that they edified the young postulants and novices. Her services were greatly appreciated, she was always the first at work and managed to choose what was hardest and most humble. When she was asked the reason for so much eagerness, she replied, "Me to do that, because me to have the time."
One day she had a fall, and tumbled down the stairs, upsetting two buckets of water. As if she felt nothing, she got up, with a beautiful smile said, "Thank you, my God!" If she she had failed in some point (of the Rule), she knelt down saying, "Pardon, me very bad. Thou to pray for me." As in good Arabic, she never succeeded in distinguishing Thou from you, she would mix them together in delightful expressions, but the theeing and thouing, normal in Semitic languages, would get the better of her. She used it for everyone, for superiors, bishops and patriarchs! That only added one charm the more to her sparkling French, which was often made up of strings of phrases and an infinity of verbs.
Two women of great virtue were directing the Capelette at that time, the Superior General, Mother Emily Julien, and Mistress of novices, Mother Honorine Piques. They were not slow in noticing some strange phenomena in little Arab. The ecstasies of the church of St. Nicholas were multiplied, with some disturbing peculiarities. Thus it happened that in January 1866 - the postulant was twenty years of age - Mother Honorine came upon Mariam in the dormitory, prostrate, with her face to the floor and her left hand covered with blood. From Wednesday evening to Friday morning each week, the ecstasies had an added curious phenomenon, the stigmata. We will only mention it this time, for we will return to it in detail when presenting the charismatic herself.
Faced with such facts, Mother Honorine acted with as much prudence as understanding. Obedience being, in such cases, the touchstone par excellence, she forbade Mariam to have ecstasies during the day and the presence of the religious. Even during the night she was not to get up, and she was not to attract attention! Mariam obeyed. The Mistress of novices, seeing that she had to do with a person fashioned by the Holy Spirit, asked the child to relate for her what she remembered of her childhood and adolescence. Everything was put in writing. One copy would later be sent to the Carmel of Pau with this note of Mother Honorine, "I am sending you copy of what I myself have gathered together from what she related to me, not without much resistance, but complying solely through obedience. She asked of me the greatest secrecy which I have guarded until this day... I have omitted everything I did not entirely understand, because of the difficulty this dear child experienced in explaining herself in French."
The following is the testimony of a companion, Sister Marie Rose Dupuy, "During our novitiate, Mother Honorine wrote the life of Mariam the Arab. While we were busy writing our exercises or else studying, Mariam was in corner of the novitiate close to the Mother who was questioning her in a low voice, and then writing the naive replies that Mariam made her, without suspecting anything."
Mother Honorine fell ill, and was replaced in the novitiate by Mother Veronica. This religious was to hold a large place in the life and heart of Mariam. She was English and a convert from Anglicanism. After seventeen years of religious life with the Sisters of St. Joseph, she was to enter the Carmel of Pau with Mariam, and it was in her arms that the little predestined one would die, at the Carmel of Bethlehem. Mariam, had foretold that, contrary to all expectations, Sister Veronica would become mistress of novices at the Capelette. She held this office for one month, until the reception of the Indult permitting her to enter Carmel. At the latter`s wish, Mariam`s stigmata disappeared at Marseille, and in accordance with the prophecy of the stigmatist, they would not reappear until the following Lent, at Pau.
As may be guessed, in so large and diverse a community, Mariam became an object of contradiction. To be sure, the majority of religious were favourable to her, but a group of opposition was soon formed, especially among the older, too classic religious. Was a person with such strange manifestations suitable for an active congregation? And then, with regard to such phenomena, were they authentic? The day came for the votation for admission to the novitiate. Of the seven eligible to vote, there were two abstentions, two in favour and three against. Mariam was not admitted!
It was a hard blow, first of all for Mother Honorine, who had good reasons to believe in her manner of life. As for the Superior General who, absent at the time of the votation, declared later at her return that had she been present, that would never have happened! On December 12, 1868, she she wrote to the Prioress of the Carmel of Pau, "Our ecclesiastical superiors did not believe we should keep her in our midst, saying that the cloister had the privilege of hiding such souls. Our sisters obeyed. You now have this privileged soul. May God be praised for it!"
Obviously the blow was hardest for Mariam. What was to become of her? Unknown to her the Spirit was preparing the next course of action for her. Mother Veronica, who had received from Rome the authorization to transfer to the Carmel of Pau, proposed to her dear child that introduce her to the Mother Prioress. She wrote, and the reply was immediate- and positive. In her letter of introduction, Mother Veronica had passed over in silence Mariam`s privileges, but she had added, "She will obey even miraculously."
The two religious presented themselves at the door of the Carmel of Pau on Saturday, June 15, 1867, in the middle of the afternoon. In the choir, the Carmelites were chanting the first Vespers of the Feast of the Blessed Trinity. Mariam knew nothing at all of Carmel or of St. Teresa. But that day she understood that the mysterious words of her miraculous nurse of Alexandria were realized, "You will be a child of St. Joseph before becoming a daughter of St. Teresa".
(From "Mariam the little Arab; Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified; 1846-1678", by Amédée Brunot S.C.J.; Published by The Carmel of Maria Regina, 87609 Green Hill Road, Eugene, Oregon 97402)
The charisms that flowered at Pentecost in the year 30, have been called "the wedding gifts" of Christ to the Church His spouse (Gutjahr) St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, that, Gospel of the Spirit, and St. Paul in his Letters, present and give in detail that eruption of the Spirit on the young communities of Palestine and of the diaspora. Israel was charismatic people par excellence, with its patriarchs and prophets, its judges and its liberators, its wise men and its poor ones of Yahweh (Anawin). At the summit of these spiritual lines, like the keystone at the juncture of the pointed arches, appeared Jesus of Nazareth, eminently the possessor and bestower of the Spirit. Since the vigorous springtime of the first Christian Pentecost, the charisms, far from deserting the Church, have not ceased to flourish and to bear fruit in it with an unbelievable diversity. Monks and nuns, ascetics and mystics, have been at all times and everywhere the privileged ones of the Spirit. They have savored spiritual intoxication and they have given the relish of it to others. Has not Teresa of Avila been called "the Corsair of the invisible and the adventuress of ecstasy"?
In this history of the charismatic Church, Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified appears like a summit toward which converge practically all the charisms that we see shedding light, in so many witnesses of the Spirit. It has been said of her that "her whole life, from her birth to her death, had been but a tissue of marvels." (Fr. Estrate). Cardinal Sevin, Archbishop of Lyon, wrote on Dec. 6, 1915:"Why did God raise up the great soul in our midst? First to oppose to our secularized lives, a life that was truly supernatural, and such that the desert had never known anyone as marvelous, She was, and will remain unique in the Annals of Christian sanctity." Bishop Lacroix, in a letter of Dec. 16 to the Most. Rev. Bracco, patriarch of Jerusalem, presented the little Arab as "a miracle of the grace of God."
Before seeking the explanation of so many phenomena, we must first explore this place of marvels. We will dwell upon the ten principal charisms, making use of the authentic testimonies of witnesses worthy of belief. With the modern theologians, we will make a distinction between the mystical life and the extraordinary phenomena that, following St. Paul (1 Cor. 21-24), are called charisms. The mystical life, which ought to be normal for every Christian, is the harmonious development of the baptismal grace under the motion of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; these govern the modalities of the theological virtues and incline a person to be docile to the divine touches in the various circumstances of life. Thus, the whole Christian life is essentially mystical: it has to make the discovery and progressive experience of God, while the grace of baptism germinates, comes to light , and expands in it. Ascetism is the methodical and persevering effort to assure this spiritual growth. In such a context , the charisms appear like exceptional gifts of the Spirit to a few privileged souls. Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified was one of these extraordinary souls overwhelmed with the joyous splendors of the Spirit, she who spurned,, we know to what a point, the jewels of human nuptials!
All her life the little Arab was an ecstatic: from her early childhood, in the garden, in her home, and in the church of Abellin; during the bloody night at Alexandria, at her employers in Beirut and Marseille. In the church of St. Nicholas she was rapt in an ecstasy that lasted four days. But it was especially from the time she entered religious life that the phenomena began to be intensified. At the Capelette, when she was with the Sisters of St. Joseph, she was found in ecstasy in the chapel, at recreation, and especially at night in the dormitory.
After she entered Carmel, we note a crescendo, to the degree that at Mangalore the ecstasies occurred almost daily: she had as many as five a day. At Bethlehem, during her last years, they were still more frequent, but at the same time more serene and more painful.
And what a variety! At Pau, July 29, 1873, after reaching her place in the refectory, she raised a glass of water to her lips. She immediately went into an ecstasy, and seemed to be listening to a concert, Suddenly she began to sing, improvising, as was her habit, both words and music. With one hand she beat time, with the other, she held the glass without spilling the water, notwithstanding the rhythm she kept with her body. A simple word of the prioress brought the ecstatic back to earthly reality.
On August 29, 1873, she went into ecstasy while wiping dishes. Let us listen to the mistress of novices: "One cannot imagine how interesting she was, with her radiant face, her shining eyes that seemed fixed on the heavenly vision that was enrapturing her. She smiled, she trembled with joy, she sang, often making the motions of washing with the dish rag and plate." On July 31, 1877, it was in the laundry that she was enraptured : "She was delightful", noted the same witness," and as we watched, we saw the clothes she was washing becoming white in her hands."
The ecstasy would sometimes occur suddenly, at other times progressively. "There are times," she said, "when I can do absolutely nothing: no matter what I do to prevent it; and at other times I can distract myself a little in order not to go off." In fact she did struggle against the raptures. In her candor and humility she did not even suspect the privilege she enjoyed. She spoke of it as sleep!
She fought against going to sleep! She begged Father Manaudas, her director, to forbid her to this sleep."My child," the priest replied, "do not worry; you can go to sleep in all security." She began to cry.
She made the same request to Bishop Lacroix, who ordered her to abandon herself to God instead of struggling against such a sleep. It was in fact a real struggle. In order to resist the rapture she moved around, she shook herself, she dashed to the fountain to wash herself, she worked more diligently. She even tried pricking her skin with pins, and in refectory she put burning hot food into her mouth. Nothing helped.
To the mistress of novices, who asked her how she could easily go to sleep, she replied innocently: "I feel as though my heart is open; as though there was a wound in it; and when I have certain ideas and impressions of God which move me, it feels like someone touched the wound in my heart, and I fall in weakness, I lose myself."
During her professions ceremony at Mangalore, November 21, 1871, it required an order of the prioress to awaken her so that she could pronounce the vow formula.
On June 28, 1873, at Pau, the prioress went into the little one´s cell after the recitations of matins. The latter was seated before the open window: she was in ecstasy. She said to the mother prioress: "The whole world is asleep, and God so full of goodness, so great, so worthy of all praise, no one is thinking of Him! See, nature praises Him, the sky, the stars, the trees, the grass, everything praises Him, and man, who knowledge of His benefits, who ought to praise Him, sleeps! Let us go, let us go and wake up the universe!" She skipped out of her cell: "Let us go and praise God, and sing His praises. Everyone is sleeping, the whole world is asleep, let us go and wake them up. Jesus is not known, Jesus is not loved. He, so full of goodness, He who has done so much for man!"
At certain times, one would think she was in front of the burning bush. "With whom are you?" - "With the Beloved." - "What fever do you have now?" - "The fever of love´s languor." - "And what do you have, my sister?" - "I have Love." - "My sister, where are you?" - "In Love." At intervals, she sang, she uttered little cries, her whole being thrilled with joy, she improvised poems and melodies.
During her ecstasies, her body sometimes remained supple, sometimes it became rigid, remaining in the same position it was in at at the beginning of the ecstasy. Then nothing, no one could make her move. It was impossible to have her sit or make her walk, to take her from her any object she was holding, or to lower her raised arm. Only obedience could overcome this immobility.
The insensibility was complete. Once, having injured her knee with a nail, she was limping. Suddenly rapt in ecstasy, she stopped limping and remained two hours on her knees. On November 30, 1874, she began to sing "in a clear and strong voice", although since her martyrdom her voice had been hoarse. On January 7, 1875, a violent blow on the head resulted in one eye being injured. Mariam, "later being rapt in ecstasy", wrote the faithful secretary, "we brought a light near her injured eye, which we had not yet been able to examine. It was open, and although quite inflamed, it remained steady when we put the light in line with its gaze." Another detail to note : When she came to herself, the ecstatic had no remembrance of what had transpired. With one exception however: the memory of it returned to her when authority asked her to give an account of what she had seen and heard. " I remember these things," she acknowledged , "to tell them to whom I should. " The Holy Spirit likes to wrap His privileged ones in the veils of humility.
A sign of the authenticity of these ecstasies: the doctrinal wealth of the teachings and thoughts of the little one communicated at these times, the good sense of her observations, the practical aspect of her remarks concerning community life. Such teachings have been compared with those of St. Teresa, St. Mary Magdalene de´Pazzi, and St. Catherine of Siena. And let us not forget that the little Arab was illiterate: even after she had made some progress during the months she was a choir novice, she expressed herself in terribly butchered French.
Here are a few confidences gathered during her ecstasies:
"I am in God, and God is in me. I feel that all creatures, the trees, the flowers belong to God and also to me. I no longer have a will, it belongs to God. And all that is God´s is mine.
"Only love can fill the heart of man. The just man is satisfied with love and a pinch of earth, but the wicked man, with all the pleasures, honors, riches (he can acquire), is always hungry, always thirsty. He is never satisfied.
"Pay attention to little things. Everything is great before the Lord. The Lord does not want robbery in the holocaust. Give Him everything.
"In heaven, the most beautiful trees are those that have sinned the most. But they made use of their miseries like manure around the base of the tree."
"Be very charitable; when one of your eyes sees what is not right, shut it, open the other one! Do not say: the water is bad; no say: on this side it is good, and I am bad. Change everything into good.
"If you love your neighbor, by this I will know if you love Me. Each time you look at your neighbor without seeing Jesus, you fall very low."
The following are several replies to questions asked her by her companions during some of her ecstasies. They reflect good balance, the sense of an intelligent adaptation, and the primacy of the spirit over the letter. She was asked to consult "our Mother St. Teresa on some points of community life. Thus the provisor, who obliged to leave ( the choir) a quarter of an hour before the end of prayer, would like to know if she know ought to begin a quarter of an hour before: "No," replied the ecstatic in the name of St. Teresa, "because when coming all together, Jesus is content, He blesses everyone. The provisor leaves through charity, to aid the white veil sisters so that everything may be ready for the lambs. Jesus will count it, He will make up for it."
May we sit down during prayer? "Mother Teresa says that when a sister has worked hard
like the gardeners, the turn sisters, who have to run much, she is permitted to sit down a half hour at her place, but the novices should remain kneeling the whole hour. For the infirmarian, Mother Teresa said that she should always look after the lambs to see if they are suffering, and that she ought to take good care of them; but not to concern herself about their soul, and never question them about their interior life."
May chocolate or coffee be served at breakfast? "Mother Teresa said that when the superiors had forbidden chocolate or coffee they were at that time very rare and costly; it was only the well to do who could afford them. But it is different now, they are not more expensive than other things. She especially permits these for the sick."
Is it necessary to keep the habit of Mother Teresa? "For that matter, habits are not that important. Mother says that (they are ) not exactly like hers but(she is) satisfied as you are."
Must we go barefoot or ware shoes: "She says that it is not wrong to ware a little more because times have changed."
We will return later to the poems and hymns she composed when she was in ecstasy.
To conclude this presentation of the phenomena of ecstasy, we quote the judgment of an expert in mystical theology, Father Garrigou-Lagrange: "These ecstasies do not in any way have the character of morbid stimulation. It is a movement of her whole being, soul and body, toward the divine object appearing to her. It is in a great calm, the absorption of the soul rapt out of its senses by a mysterious force following a vision received in the imagination or intellect. The end of the ecstasy is the return to the natural state in a calm manner, with a simple regret at the disappearance of the vision and of the heavenly joy that it gave. These ecstasies recall those of Saint Bernadette Soubirous and those of the ecstatics most worthy of consideration in the Church."
Oliver Leroy, historian and specialist in levitation, thus describes the phenomena: "The human body would be capable, in certain individuals, at certain time, of rising in the air, and at times of moving about in it, without visible support, without motion controlled by any physical force." In spite of the rarity of the charism, all of two hundred cases have been verified in Christian hagiography. The most celebrated is that of Saint Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663). While, ordinarily, the ecstatic was raised but a little above the ground, Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified was the only one, with Saint Joseph of Cupertino, to make real flights.
The phenomena was verified for the first time on June 22, 1873 in the garden of the Carmel of Pau. Noticing her absence at supper, the mistress of novices looked for her in vain in the cloister and the orchard, then another nun heard a song: "Love!Love!" She looked up and perceived the little one balancing herself without support at the top of an enormous lime tree. Advised of this, the prioress arrived; and confronted with this phenomena she did not know what to do. After a prayer she addressed the little one: "Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, if Jesus wishes it come down through obedience without falling or hurting yourself." At the simple word obedience, the ecstatic descended in fact "with the radiant face" and perfect modesty, stopping on some of the branches to sing Love."Hardly was she on the ground, "noted a witness, "and as if to make amends to our mother and sisters for our anxiety in looking for her and in seeing her perched up so high, she embraced us with a sort of enthusiasm and affection impossible to express."
Eight ecstatic levitation were duly noted: on June 22, July 9, 19,25, 27, 31, August 3, 1873 and July 5, 1874. "How did you manage to climb like that?" the mother prioress asked her. And she replied:" The Lamb held out His hands to me:" Some of the nuns wanted to make sure of this; they spied on the little one. One day a lay sister who was working in the garden was witness to the flight: "She had taken hold of the tip of a little branch that a bird would have bent; and from there, in an instant, she had been lifted on high." On July 5, perched on the lime tree, she addressed the mother prioress: "I was on that one there and I came up here. Look, see, my alpargates are still there."
On July 19, 1873, when the order was given for her to descend, she hesitated a moment. She begged to be allowed more time with the Lamb. "No," insisted the prioress, "through obedience, come down." She obeyed, but the shadow of hesitation had been fatal: the vision had disappeared. "The Lamb went away." Sighed the sister, "He left alone to come down." In fact, it was with effort that she got down to the ground and for four days of grief she expiated that unhappy moment. On July 25, the levitation lasted from four to seven o'clock in the evening; on July 31, it lasted from the end of recreation, which follows supper in the evening, until nine o'clock. This phenomenon occurred only at the Carmel of Pau.
In a letter dated February 14, 1927, Father Buzy, the Carmelite´s biographer, wrote the following statement to bishop Oliver Leroy: "Sister Mary used to raise herself to the top of the trees by the tips of the branches: she would take her scapular in one hand, and with the other the end of a small branch next to the leaves, and in the twinkling of an eye, glide along the outside edge of the tree to its top. Once up there, she would remain holding on to branches normally too weak to bear a person of her weight. The following are some depositions given by witnesses at process: Sister E., deceased, told me that one day, when she happened to be in the garden with the servant of God, the latter said to her: "Turn around." She had hardly turn her head when looking back again, she saw the little one already seated on the top of the lime tree, on a little branch, balancing herself like a bird and singing divine love. Another person declared: "Once I saw her in ecstasy at the top of the lime tree, seated at the tip of the highest branch, which, normally would never have been able to support her. Her face was resplendent! I saw her come down from the tree like a bird, from branch to branch, with great nimbleness and modesty."
One day she said very pleasantly: "If me to obey quickly, the tree became like that," and she put her hand almost flat on the ground. At one time or another her alpargates would be left hanging on the branches. On one occasion it was her rosary that left dangling at the top of the lime tree. As after her other ecstasies, when she came to herself, the little one remembered nothing.
Since St. Francis of Assisi, the stigmatist of Alverno in 1224, the reproduction of the wounds of which Christ was the victim in His passion, have been called corporal stigmata. The sufferings that the compassionating person experiences, the wounds that his body bears, affect the same parts that Christ pointed out in His Paschal apparitions: "See My hands and feet" (Luke 24, 39). "He showed them His hands and His side" (John 20, 20). "It is a commonly consistent law, " wrote J. Ribet, "that the grace of the stigmata is not granted to the imperfect; it is the privilege of advanced souls, on whom God confers it as the recompense of perfect love or as a supreme stimulant to the consummation of love." Ordinarily the stigmata are impressed on the body during the course of an ecstasy, and often exude sweet odors.
"The study of corporal stigmatization," wrote professor Jean Lhermite, "leads us to penetrate a somewhat disturbing region, often disconcerting for the historian, the theologian, and the biologist." Once again we will proceed with prudence, while examining the facts verified by trustworthy witnesses and recorded by attentive secretaries.
First let us read, in the memoirs of Mother Veronica at the Capelette, the description of the first stigmata of the little Arab: "On the first Thursday, May 2, 1867, when I went to see Mary, I found her sitting near her bed in great pain. She showed me her side, her feet and her hands. On these latter, in the place where they had been imprinted, that is to say on the upper part, there was a sort of blister, which formed the head of the nails, and in the palms the spot was black and swollen. At the place on her side, a little above the heart, there was the form of a cross all red and inflamed; and in the middle three small blisters with a little hole I spent the night near her, and at five o'clock in the morning blood flowed from the wounds in her hands which I bathed, and the pain seemed to be alleviated. The blood flowed from the palm. The fingers were contracted and curved around, as if the nail had really gone into the palm, she could not extend them, nor take hold of the glass when I gave her a drink from time to time About nine o'clock blood flowed from the crown of thorns all around her head. I can solemnly attest that I saw blood coming from the holes of the thorns, one of which, in the center of her forehead, opened before me, and blood gushed from it. While I was washing it, it closed again, leaving her forehead without any mark, except the traces of blood. Her feet were white; one would have said the feet of a corpse, and the toes were stretched like those of one crucified. The wounds on the upper part bled, as did the wound on her side. After three hours she was completely herself again, experiencing only a little weakness. I told her to get up, which she did by herself, and that evening she came to supper with the community."
In the notes of the Carmel of Pau, we read that on Thursday, February 27, 1868: "She could not get up, she was suffering so much in her hands and feet. We took her to the infirmary. All that evening when passing near there, we would smell a strong sweet fragrance, but we could not detect its source. The novice´s veils and mantle also had a pleasant odor. The night was a bad one for her and the next morning blood began to flow from her feet and hands. The crown of thorns bled profusely at two different times, then the wound in her side, all with unspeakable pain. At noon all the bleeding stopped but the wounds remained open and became deeper each day, which prevented her from walking or putting her feet on the floor, for forty days.She could hardly bear any contact with the linens used to wrap her wounds, especially on Friday and Saturday. From that day until the following Friday, the wounds only oozed, but on Thursday of each week, a large pimple formed, black likea nail, which grew in size until Friday, then at the hour she designated in advance, this sort of blister fell off and the blood flowed; afterward the wound closed until the following week."
During the Mangalore period, we have above all the testimony of Father Lazare, a Carmelite and her director. On November 24 and 25, 1871, he attentively examined the stigmata. From his report we selected some precise statements: "The hands were swollen on the palm and the wounds were open;but all around the edge of the wounds there was a little coagulated blood, no doubt because this wound had begun to open several days before. On the inside of the hand there was a sort of button, forming the head of the nail. The flesh of the palm seemed to have been separated violently; it was torn, if I may thus express it, on the inside there were no tears, only the head of the nail was visible. The feet were similarly pierced through and through. The wounds were fresh, the flesh torn perhaps more than on the hands. One of the perforations was exactly in the middle of the sole of the foot, and there it ended with a quite newly formed small round hole, just as if the point of a sharp nail had been driven through it and then pulled out. It was the same with the other foot." Lastly, for the Bethlehem period (1875-1878), we have chiefly the testimony of the mistress of novices, mother Mary of the Child Jesus. The stigmata appeared during the Lent of 1876. On March 3, the first Thursday of Lent, the little one called the mother into her cell and said to her: "See my humiliation; I don't anyone to come here, look at my hands." And the witness stated precisely: "We were able to ascertain that the blackish swelling, that looked like a large nail in the palm of her hands and also on the top of the hand, was formed much more quickly than during the Lent of 1868. Towards nine o'clock, the marks were still darker and more extended; her contracted fingers prevented her from using her hands. At noon, we saw the same thing on the upper part of her feet, but she absolutely refused to let us cover them with linen, which would greatly increased her suffering." The following day the stigmatist was covered with a sweat of blood. Friday, March 10, the mistress of novices and the sister infirmmarian saw the crown of thorns take form on her bloody forehead. The same phenomenon on Friday, March 24: "About five thirty, her head, all around the front of it, bled; she had a sort of crown of little buttons, some of which were still open as we looked on while she stanched the blood from them. She got up right after that and trace disappeared." Holy Week was frightful. Every part of her was bleeding: head, heart, hands and feet. During the course of her life she came to relive and act out certain scenes of the passion. She became the crucified spouse of a crucified God! Identified with her Spouse to the very details of Good Friday! "When she was in the state, she could have been called an ecce homo, " declared Mother Honorine, in 1867 at the Capelette.
At Pau, on Good Friday April 10, 1868, the stigmatist was truly on the cross; all her wounds reopened and the blood flowed from her head as well. We cannot conceive the intensity of the suffering she experienced. First she felt her legs pulled one after the other; and the same with her arms; then she felt her nails being driven in Later, the heart bled as usual, and immediately after that, the wounds began to heal. She remained very weak all week and continued to suffer from her knees which were injured, swollen and full of tumors, perhaps resembling those our Lord must have had after all His Falls.
At certain moments, even her cheek became red as if someone were slapping her in the face. The most terrible scene took place on Friday, April 14, 1876 in temporary Carmel of Bethlehem. Let us once again allow the mistress of novices to speak: "She was groaning and she trembled in her whole body. It was heart rending to see her like that. She often repeated these words: "My God, do not abandon me; my God I offer it to You! Pardon, my God, pardon!" At a quarter past two in the afternoon she began a painful agony; we were all around her. Her legs were stiff, her feet down and crossed one over the other; her arms extended in the form of the cross, were supported by two of the sisters; her chest was distended, she even emitted a few sighs, as though she were breathing forth her soul After three and a half hours, she had a little relief and spoke again to those "children" (angels) saying to them: "Have pity on me, call me today." She also experienced transports of desire and love: "Call me so that I may leave this earth!" The "children" said: "Fiat, Jesus!" We then had the impression that the crucified one was descending from the cross and from Calvary in order to prepare for the Easter joys."
Don Belloni, confessor of the stigmatist at Bethlehem, asserted that when holding one of the little one´s hands against the light, the flesh appeared transparent at the place of the stigmata.
After these realistic descriptions of the phenomenon of the stigmata of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, let us now see them in relation to the principal stages of her life.
The stigmata of the heart was the first to be manifested. She was twenty years of age, and it happened in August, 1866 at Marseille. She was praying in the chapel one evening, when, in the tabernacle she saw Jesus, who appeared to her with His five wounds and the crown of thorns. It seemed to her she saw coals of wrath in His hands. She heard Jesus say to His Mother prostrate at His feet: "Oh, how My Father is offended!" The little postulant then sprang toward Jesus, she put her hand on the wound of His Heart, exclaiming: "My God, give me, please, all these sufferings, but have mercy on sinners." Coming out of the ecstasy, she saw her hand covered with blood, and she experienced a severe pain in her left side: the latter would bleed every Friday.
On March 27, 1867, the other stigmata appeared. The privileged one of the Crucified confided to the mistress of novices:" It seemed to me that I was gathering roses to decorate Mary´s altar: these roses appeared to have thorns on both sides, and the thorns were thrust in my hands and into my feet. When I came to myself, my mouth was very bitter, my feet and hands swollen: in the middle of my hands and on my feet there were black pimples." The following day, Thursday, the sufferings continued to increase until Friday. It was the Feast of the five wounds of Christ. In the morning, about ten o'clock, the black scabs fell off, the crown of thorns appeared on her forehead, blood flowed from her head and feet. The prodigy was renewed during the months of April and the first two weeks of May. It ceased upon an order of the mistress of novices.
This latter, in order to put an end to the rumors that were circulating in the community, asked the postulant to obtain from God that nothing would appear exteriorly. To the great joy of the stigmatist, the wounds closed and healed up. Besides being deeply grounded in humility, she was far from suspecting the charism: she looked upon it as an illness and begged God and Blessed Virgin to take from her what she called "the wretched marks."
According to her prediction, the wounds reopened the following Lent, at the Carmel of Pau. They caused atrocious suffering and flowing of the blood. That was renewed every Friday during the Lent of 1868.The Carmelite nuns were admitted to see the prodigy; and the superior of the Carmel, Father Saint- Guilly entered the enclosure. He verified the phenomena, he put his finger on one of the wounds: at this contact the novice´s entire body shuddered. On Holy Saturday the Stigmata disappeared.
The wounds appeared again at Mangalore. On November 20, 1871, the eve of her profession, the little one confided to the mistress of novices: "If I tell you something will you keep my secret?" - "Yes." - "Look, this illness that I fear so much has returned." And she showed her her swollen hands and feet. The day after her profession the stigmata bled profusely. Frightened, the sister earnestly begged God to cure her. This time again she was heard. For more than four years she experienced nothing.
The last period of stigmatization took place at Bethlehem in April 1876. It was the longest and most painful. It made witnesses think they were on Calvary before the spectacle of Crucifixion! The sister said while in ecstasy:" Do you know? Five rosebushes are blooming, quick, quick. They have given the roses to others, and the thorns to me." And she added with a smile: "We do not like that; we give at least a few roses! And not to let me smell the perfume at all, nothing but thorns! Oh, well - I do not deserve it! That Jesus may be content, that is all I desire. I accept all the thorns on my body, but tell the master of the rosebushes to close the roses." After these red flowerings at Marseille, Pau, Mangalore, and Bethlehem, the five roses were closed for the last time on April 26, 1876. "God made perceptible in the body," thus did Stanislas Furnet define stigmatization, transposing the words of Pascal.