Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Theresa Neumann the mystic and stigmatist

Theresa NeumannThe mystical life of the Catholic Church is rich with a variety of experiences. Let’s think of many men and women through the ages: Francis and Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio, Catherine of Genoa, Hildegard of Bingen, and Sister Nazarena, to name a few. There are those who, because of God’s will, bore the wounds of the Lord’s holy Passion, not for their own designs but to bring others closer to the Savior. This is key. Yet this is a remarkable claim to make. I am sure there frauds but the people I am mentioning here do not fall into this category. I can think of Francis of Assisi, Catherine de Ricci, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Gemma Galgani, Rita of Cascia. In the history of salvation the Church can name more than 300 persons, most of them women, who bore in their body the wounds of Jesus.

The Servant of God Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) is one such person who is known to be a mystic and stigmatist. She is a person who trusted deeply in the Lord. The teaching of the Church says mysticism is that “intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire.” Mystics are intimately connected with what we believe about the Holy Spirit and discernment. And by “mystic” I do not mean Theresa Caputo the Long Island Mystic who is a fraud.

This afternoon, at the request of my friend Glenn, I watched a 50 minute film on the life of Theresa Neumann, a German mystic and stigmatist who faced controversy and yet was resolute in doing what God asked of her. Glenn studies the mystical phenomenon found in the Church. Without Glenn’s encouragement I wouldn’t be drawn to this form of discernment.

For looking for the remarkable, many are intrigued that Theresa Neumann subsisted for 36 years only the Eucharist; it wasn’t that Neumann lived on nothing –she lived on the Savior. She said, “The Savior can do all things. Did He not say that “my Flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink?”

Her visions were spontaneous and biblical; she was convinced that her life was guided The Little Flower (many of Neumann’s own healings coincided with Theresa’s beatification and canonization). Neumann experienced the Lord’s Passion 780 times except during the liturgical season of Christmas and Easter. For what it’s worth, Churchmen and scholars, laity and professionals say that they felt her visions and stigmata were a genuine supernatural manifestation.

Some who met her attested to Neumann’s visions being authentically biblical, even her speaking in the Lord’s tongue, Aramaic, and bestowing certitude in the Lord’s holy Passion and resurrection. But only in knowing Theresa Neumann could one say with certitude that she was doing the Lord’s work and not her own: knowing Theresa you came to know a woman who had a deep trust in God; skeptics left converted.

What I became interested in as a result of this film was Neumann’s humanity. Who was she as a person? Several things were revealed: she was not easily influenced, she was vivacious, warm, loved to joke and tease, a god mother, cared for the dying, loved nature and working, tended a garden and prefer the outdoors, not overly pious, loved horses, and like to travel. Sounds like a good woman to me!

What Theresa Neumann verified in her life with the wounds of the Passion was what Saint Theresa had said, “more souls are savers through suffering than by brilliant sermons.” She felt a deep responsibility to lead others to Jesus Christ, the Savior. And this central for us: do we feel the responsibility to show the face of Jesus Christ to others? Does our life lead others to a deeper communion with the Trinity?

All Souls Day and Purgatory

November is the month dedicated to praying for the Souls in Purgatory. A venerable and fitting custom of prayer and sacrifice for those of our families and friends who died, and those unknown to us personally. Don’t let these days go by without offering a prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, and visiting the cemetery.

The All Souls Indulgence is noted here.

Today is a fitting day to recall what the Catholic teaching of purgatory is: here, here and here. Plus, “Is Purgatory necessary?” may be helpful.

Pope Francis moves 2014 Spiritual Exercises away from Vatican

Pope Francis has entrusted the 2014 Lenten Spiritual Exercises to a Roman parish priest and popular spiritual director, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, 59. Since 2003, he’s been the pastor of the Basilica Parish of Saint Mark the Evangelist Church near to the Piazza Venezia.

The Lenten Exercises will be held 9-14 March closing the Curial offices and Papal meetings not taken. What theme Monsignor De Donatis will preach on is unknown.

The Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House) is operated by the Society of St Paul, located in Arricia, in the Alban hills, 30 miles from the Vatican. The Society of St Paul is a religious community of men founded by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, who also founded several other religious communities including the Daughters of St Paul; the work of Alberione’s Pauline family has something to do with social media and evangelization.

The change in location  seems to be the first since the Exercises were first conceived in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. The now retired Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone SDB,  sent a letter to curial officials saying the Pope wanted the Exercises made “in a recollected, silent fashion, away from the office.” By the looks of it, a smaller crowd is expected due to the size of the retreat facility.

Yet another example that Pope Francis is asking that the Curia and therefore, us, to take seriously the spiritual life.

Labor Day 2013

truck-thumb-250x162-13063The Christian finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted the cross for us. In work, thanks to the light that penetrates us from the resurrection of Christ, we always find a glimmer of new life, of the new good, as if it were an announcement of “the new heavens and the new earth” in which man and the world participate precisely through the toil that goes with work.

Blessed John Paul II
Laborem exercens, 27

Getting to the heart of what St Augustine teaches us today

The Church put on the lips of the priest, and also on our own lips, yesterday this prayer at Mass:

Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, that spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love.

I am stimulated by what we ask the Lord: to be filled with the same spirit as Augustine, thirsting for Him and seeking divine love.

Shortly into the papacy of Benedict XVI he went to pray before the relics of Saint Augustine in Pavia, Italy. When I saw this picture yesterday I immediately got to wondering why is Augustine so important to some, and irrelevant to others. Why does Augustine have such an crucial influence on us 1600 years after his death? The answer is still being formed but I think part of an answer is his capacity for friendship, and to relentlessly seek God.

The Augustinians are meeting for their 184th General Chapter and Pope Francis opened the Chapter with Mass. Here is a report on the gathering of the Augustinians with His Holiness.

BUT let me offer you an opportunity to hear what Saint Augustine’s spirituality is and how it is relevant to us today. I found a 2009 presentation on Augustinian spirituality given by Father Theodore E. Tack, OSA, who, at the time of his death in February (’13) been a professed member of the Augustinian friars for more than 60 years; he was the 93rd Prior General of the Augustinians, a headmaster, and until his death a high school teacher in Tulsa, OK. Tack gives a great overview of Christian life through the eyes of Saint Augustine.

Father Tack’s presentation, “The Relevance of Augustine for Young Adults Today,”  is a very good introduction to the person and perduring influence of Augustine of Hippo. Like the Pope visiting the relics, we need to visit a man who has a profound influence on the Church. Don’t be fooled by the title; his presentation is really for all. He offered this work as the opening presentation for the Society of St Augustine at Villanova University.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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