Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me (2016)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 31st January 2016 in Prague, Czech republic
Mysticism is the union of a soul with God in the most perfect manner we can reach in this world.
It is based on a special grace of God, it is confirmed in the prayer of contemplation, proven in the sanctity of life, accompanied by extraordinary inner or outer gifts as often and in as far as it pleases God.
Mystical manifestations are ecstasies, stigmata, bilocations, levitations, miracles and the ability of seeing into souls.
Today’s reading talks about such an ecstasy, the ecstasy of Saint Paul. He says that he was lifted into the third heaven and heard secret words in Paradise which are not granted for man to utter. (2 Kor 12:4)
In an ecstasy, God moves a soul so directly and so violently to him that it seems removed from the body. It falls into a death-like state and often does not yield to the natural force of gravity. The vital functions of the body drop down to a minimum. The breath is almost imperceptible, heart and pulse are weaker, the body temperature decreases, the sensory activity ceases and muscular rigidity occurs. During an ecstasy, the body is insensitive. People were stung and burned during an ecstasy, but did not react. Or a fly sitting on the white area of the open eye didn’t make the person wink.
The blessed people in the state of an ecstasy were given exceptional graces to look into divine things.
When saint Francis of Assisi was on the mount of Alverna, he wanted to know God’s will. For this purpose he asked one of his brothers who accompanied him to put his hand somewhere into the Bible. When he opened the Bible, the hand was there where the Passion of Our Lord was described.
Saint Francis asked him to do it again. And again – the hand was in the passage of the Passion of Our Lord. Finally, he asked his brother for a third time. And also for the third time the Passion of Our Lord was shown to them.
Then saint Francis fell into ecstasy and when he came to himself, he bore the stigmata of Christ. Our Lord gave him these stigmata to inflame the faithful to a greater love for Him. While the gifts of the Holy Ghost are especially given for the personal sanctification, the charisms are given to a person by God for the sanctification of others.
There are four different kinds of stigmatisation: imitative stigmata, epigraphic stigmata, figurative stigmata, invisible stigmata:
- Imitative stigmataWhich means the wounds resemble those of Our Saviour: hand wounds, foot wounds, scourge wounds and so on.If anybody has the five wounds of Our Lord, the wounds are usually like the ones we can see on the cross in front of which he got them. Some saints had the stigmata on the palm, others on the wrist.Some have the same large foot wound on both legs, some have different sizes. This depends on the position of the legs. If both legs lay side by side or on top of each other, the wounds are of a different size.
- Epigraphic stigmataThis means the stigmata have the form of writings.
- Figurative stigmataThe stigmata have the form of crosses, hearts, flowers, crowns of thorns.
- Invisible stigmataThey appear visible after death. They can be inspected after death.Saint Veronica Giuliani gave a paper to her confessor where she wrote down the characters which were plotted into her heart.After death her body was opened in the presence of witnesses. A doctor took out her heart from the body. Everything was exactly as saint Veronica had predicted and written down on the sheet she gave to the priest.
Stigma wounds can occur at any age. Saint Francis of Assisi got the wounds when he was 43 years old and saint Teresa of Avila when she was 45 years old. Both sexes, men and women, can have stigma wounds as Christ did call all people to follow him on the way of the cross.
Wounds bleed sometimes permanently, sometimes only on special days that have a connection with the sufferings of Christ such as on Fridays or on Good Friday. The wounds fester not. Sometimes they give off a pleasant smell and can act against the laws of physics, for example the blood flows upward or the blood is very hot.
Blood can also produce figures on the clothes such as on the sudarium of Veronica on which the Saviour impressed His face.
The Church commemorates only the stigmata of three saints in liturgy: those of Saint Francis of Assisi for the whole Church, those of Saint Catherine of Siena for the Dominican order and those of Saint Teresa of Avila for the order of the Carmelites.
Another charismatic grace is a gift of bilocation. A person can be and act at the same time in two different places. Father Pio is said that he used to be in two places at the same time; for example once he was in the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo and at the same time he was besides a dying man.
Some persons were blessed with a gift of levitation. It is the rapture of a person into the air. For example saint Philip Neri and saint Joseph of Cupertino both levitated in the air.
Others could see into the soul. Already Our Lord could see into a soul. He told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well how many men she had had. He gave absolution to others without previous confession, for example to the paralytic (Matthew 9:1) or Mary Magdalene (Luke 7:36). We can find this grace in the Cure of Ars, Father Pio or others.
One day an unbelieving professor of mathematics wanted to obtain the blessing from Father Pio. He knelt in front of him and asked him: ”Bless me, Father, and also my two children.”
Father Pio replied: “Your two children? Two and three are five, Mr. professor of mathematics, two inside and three outside of marriage!” The professor of mathematics was converted!
The touchstone by which all these phenomena are examined is the virtue of obedience.
When saint Nicolas, the patron of Switzerland, had eaten nothing for twenty years - he lived from Holy Communion – the bishop of Constance visited him to inspect his virtue and asked him to eat a slice of bread. Saint Nicolas took it and ate it in front of the bishop.
When saint Philip Neri was sent to examine a saintly nun, he ordered her to clean the dirty shoes. But that was too much for her. So he went back to Rome.
All mystically gifted people must have a great love of the cross. The visible manifestations of these people show us that they are united with God. The stigmata, the bilocation, the levitation, the miracles, the looking into the hearts are qualities we find with the Lord. And a person who is united with Our Lord produces the same effects.
All people are obliged to unite with God even if they have no visible manifestations.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.“ (Matthew 16:24)
We want to carry our cross not with grumbling but with joy.
There were two men besides the cross of Our Lord, one became a saint and one was condemned. They both had to carry a cross. We will pray that the daily cross will bring us to heaven.