Blood writings from the stigmata of Natuzza Evolo (1924-2009)
-A fascinating investigation into the phenomenon of hemography in the life of the stigmatic and mystic Natuzza Evolo.
By: Glenn Dallaire
Hemography is the process whereby blood from the stigmata or bloody sweat is miraculously formed into christian writing, images, and symbols upon hankerchiefs, bandages etc., presumably through Divine intervention. As blood from a mystic bearing the stigmata is symbolic of Jesus' Passion, the images, writings and symbols themselves often symbolise the Passion and other mysteries of the christian faith, especially also the Eucharist, as seen in the accompanying photographs in this article.
At the beginning of this investigation I must confess that I was very skeptical towards this phenomenon because I have only found its presence in the lives of two alleged mystics, Natuzza Evolo and Blessed Elena Aiello, and in the latter it appears to have only occurred on one occasion, when after some blood from her stigmata accidentally splattered onto the wall next to her bed, a miraculous image of Jesus suddenly appeared on the wall, formed from the blood itself, and remained there for many months.
For sure, the authenticity of the hemographic phenomenon cannot be easily dismissed or discounted simply because this particular alleged mystical phenomenon cannot be documented in a wide range of persons, especially since in the case of Natuzza, we have hemographies occurring on literally many hundreds of occasions over the course of decades, and witnessed by a variety of scientific, medical and religious professionals, along with countless laypersons. Then too, in Natuzza we have a person of our modern age (died 2009) who has been studied and scrutinized by countless persons over the course of literally 75 years for the investigation of the variety of mystical phenomena which she is said to posess, yet she remains quite highly regarded amongst the Italian people from all spectrums of society.
Much of the scientific and medical study of Natuzza’s mystical phenomenon (stigmata, bilocation, interaction with the souls in purgatory etc.) is documented in the book “Natuzza of Paravati” by Dr. Valerio Marinelli, published by the Foundation Cuore Immacolato Di Mari Rifugio Delle Anime, -English translation, Vol. 1, 2003.
There is also an excellent scientific study available on the internet entitled “A Report on the Case Investigation of Natuzza Evolo” by Michael J. Nanko of the Southern California Society for Psychical Research (S.C.S.P.R.)
Position of the Catholic church
Although the Catholic Church has not made any pronouncements concerning her sanctity or the alleged mystical phenomena that occurred in her life, for most of her lifetime she had the strong support of her successive local Bishops, and at her death on the Feast of All Saints day (Nov. 1, 2009) there were six Italian bishops and more than 100 priests who concelebrated her funeral, along with 30,000 mourners from Italy and abroad. "For us she is already a saint, as she is in paradise," said Bishop Luigi Renzo of Mileto in his homily. And he continued “I am asked what the Church thinks of Mama Natuzza and the answer is in the participation in this ceremony of so many brother bishops and priests". See Zenit News article here.
Certainly all noteworthy persons have their detractors, however the above list of facts should give ample evidence to the esteem that is held in majority by the Italian clergy, laity and scientific community for the person of Natuzza Evolo.
A brief biography of Natuzza Evolo
Before we begin our study of the hemographic phenomenon in the life of Natuzza Evolo, it would be beneficial to give a brief summary of her holy life. Fortunata (nicknamed "Natuzza") Evolo was born on August 23, 1924 in Paravati, a small town near Mileto Italy, and she has remained in the town of Paravati all of her life.
Her father, Fortunato, emigrated to Argentina to look for work a few months before Natuzza's birth and sadly the family never saw him again. Therefore Natuzza's mother, Maria Angela Valente was therefore obligated to work to feed the family, and so at a tender age Natuzza sought to help her mother and brothers and was therefore unable to go to school, and so it was that she never learned to read or write. And this fact actually makes for an interesting addendum to the phenomenon of the stigmatic blood writing that is found in her life. In 1944 Natuzza married, a carpenter named Pasquale Nicolace, and together they had five children.
On May 13, 1987, with permission of Monsignor Domenico Cortese, the Bishop of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea, Natuzza felt inspired by heaven to form an association called "Fondazione Cuore Immacolato di Maria Rifugio delle Anime" ("Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Souls Foundation." The Foundation was later formally approved by the Bishop.
The foundation currently houses a chapel where Natuzza's remains are kept. As of this writing (2012), construction is well underway for a Church and retreat center as purportedly requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary to Natuzza. Those interested may see Foundation website here.
At age 14 in 1938, Natuzza was hired as a servant for the family of a lawyer named Silvio Colloca. It was here that her mystical experiences began to be noticed and documented by other persons. The first incident was when Mrs. Colloca and Natuzza were walking in the countryside when Mrs. Colloca noticed blood coming from one of Natuzza's feet. Doctors Domenico and Giuseppe Naccari examined Natuzza and they documented a “significant perspiration of blood in the upper region of her right foot-- the cause of which is unknown.”
This incident at age 14 was the beginning of what would become a lifetime of mystical phenomenon including the stigmata or “wounds of Jesus” on her hands, feet, side and shoulder, along with bloody sweats or “transudations”, numerous visions of Jesus, Mary and the Saints, along with countless visions of the dead (primarily the souls in purgatory), and many reported instances of bilocation. Many of these mystical graces are documented in the aforementioned book “Natuzza of Paravati” by Valerio Martinelli.
The blood writings (Hemography) which came forth from the stigmata and bloody sweats of Natuzza
We will now begin our study of the hemographic writings in the life of Natuzza. This mystical phenomenon reportedly first began in 1940 at age 16, and it continued in various degrees until her death on the feast of All Saints Day, November 1, 2009. The hemographies take place when her stigmata actively bleeds or when she sweats blood from various parts of her body (transudation), which is often during Lent and always on Good Friday. The phenomenon occurs when a handkerchief, bandage or garment touches the actively bleeding stigmatic wounds or bloody sweat.
The writings and the symbols of the hemographies are always of a Christian nature; never have there been any symbols, images or words that did not have a Christian meaning. Without a doubt this phenomena is not subject to Natuzza’s own will, as many times people have approached her requesting a blood writing but it does not take place, even after numerous requests and attempts.
Over the course of close to 70 years there is believed to be well over a thousand hemographies, but an exact figure is unknown. In his aforementioned book “Natuzza of Paravati”, Dr. Valerio Marinelli examined more than 100 hemographies, interviewing the persons involved and including many photographs of the haemographies in his book. The testimonies below are taken from this book.
Testimony of Mrs. Maria Mantelli, School teacher, second Friday in Lent, 1972:
“My cousin Rosetta Ursetta, Natuzza and I had arranged to hear Mass together in the church “del Crocifisso degli Angeli” in Vebo Valentia, where the devotion to Friday's in Lent is devoutly practiced.
It was the second Friday in Lent, 1972. We went to that church together with the nun named Suor Norina, who worked at Cantanzaro Hospital; we heard Mass but Natuzza didn't come. Upon leaving the Church we saw Natuzza was coming together with her husband; she was clearly ill, and her head was covered with a foulard, and she had some difficulty in walking.
She desired to attend the next Mass and we went back into the church with her. At the moment of the Elevation of the Host, I noticed that her face was beaded with blood and I said with fear: «Natuzza!». Then she took a handkerchief and wiped her face and immediately some haemographic drawings formed on it, but unfortunately I don't remember them any longer. This handkerchief was then given to Rosetta.
After attending the Mass, we went to Paravati all together; I remember it was very cold and a stove was switched on. At a certain moment we saw that a wound on her wrist was bleeding; so I took my white handkerchief, and keeping it folded, I put it on that wrist. She kept it there for 20 minutes and then afterwards she gave it back to me. I unfolded it and found a wonderful haemography inside. There was the writing PREGHIERA (prayer) at the top, a big monstrance with the letters IHS and CI on the left, a crown of thorns below and on the right, twelve figures representing mankind.
These figures appear to be men, women, children, priests in front of Christ who held his arms open, on the left there was the figure of Our Lady watching them. Just closer to Our Lord we can also distinguish a Saint, with an aureole. If we watch the figure of Christ carefully, we can easily see that it is made of two images, one laid upon the other; the first is Christ's image with His Head leaning on the cross, and just behind there is the figure of God, the Father.
Natuzza told me I should hold this handkerchief dear, because only one other like it had been produced through her, for Father Pio. [St. Padre Pio -editor]
I can definitely assure you about the authenticity of this phenomenon; that handkerchief was mine, I had just taken it out of my bag and, much more than this, the phenomenon had taken place under my own eyes. Moreover it had appeared in the middle of the folded handkerchief, perfectly traced, with no blood stains around; I really can't explain that!
I remember another occasion on which I saw another similar phenomenon. It was Lent and I was at Natuzza's together with my mother and Rosetta Ursetta. As my mother desired a haemography, I asked Natuzza to content her. As soon as Natuzza put a gauze on her wrist, the blood drew an image of the thorn crown and a host immediately."
Additionally it should be noted that Mrs. Rosetta Ursetta, an eye-witness, has fully confirmed Mrs. Mantelli's testimony above.
Mrs. Maria Mantelli, teacher, Lent 1974/1975
"During Lent in 1974 or 1975 -I don't remember which year exactly - I drove with Rosetta Ursetta and Natuzza from Catanzaro to Paravati. It was early in the afternoon; since Natuzza was sitting near me, I could easily notice that her wounds were visible but not open. I gave her a handkerchief of mine and asked if she could put it on her wrist. When we arrived at Paravati, she gave it back to me.
When we arrived at Paravati, she gave it back to me. Upon unfolding, the handkerchief showed drawings in the middle: there was a thorn crown, a heart made up of several little flames, the Host with the writing 'IHS' inside and a unknown figure".
Giuseppina Purrone, March 19, 1969
"It was Saint Joseph's Feastday. I had gone to visit Natuzza together with my son, Antonio, who was a student at Mileto seminary. Natuzza was suffering because of the wounds she had on her wrists, when all at once she fainted in a fit of pain.
Soon afterwards she recovered her senses and we helped her to sit on a chest. We noticed that a wrist of hers, I believe the left one, was bleeding. Around it there was a white gauze which became partly red in color; in fact the image of a thorn crown and a host with the letters 'IHS' had appeared inside. We ourselves removed the little gauze from her wrist and I still keep it".
Antonio, Mrs. Purrone's son, who was 12 years old at that time, told me he had got really frightened in seeing all that and added he was completely certain about the colour of the gauze which, from white, turned into red.
Anna Chimirri, Holy Week, 1969
"Ten years ago, during the Holy Week, my mother, my sister Carmelina, the chemist Amalia Giampa together with me and some other people decided to go to Natuzza in the afternoon.
We found her in a painful situation; she had some sore wounds on her wrists. We noticed they were wrapped in some rather rough bandages, which had been cut away from sheets; we all thought she would have suffered less if her wrists had been wrapped in softer bandages. I personally went to the pharmacy to get some bandages and gauzes. I then unwrapped the ones around her wrists, and I saw there were no haemographic drawings, then I put the new bandages around her wrists and bound up her hand.
While I was taking the other hand, the gauze, that I had put on her wrist jew minutes before, fell on her lap with the part which had been in contact with Natuzza's wound facing upwards towards us. So we instantly all saw that the blood had formed the drawing of a host with the letters 'IHS' inside.
It was, I want to say that again, the sterilized gauze I had just bought and personally put on her wrist and I affirm that there were no other gauzes under the old bandages".
This testimony was also confirmed by Anna's mother, Mrs Nerina Chimirri, and also by the pharmacist, Amalia Giampa.
Mrs. Giovanna De Chiara, teacher, Easter Monday 1975
Natuzza's was at my home in Catanzaro; there were also my sisters Nella Perrelli and Rosetta Ursetta. At a certain moment, we noticed that her wrist was bleeding, so we asked her to produce a haemography for our nephew, Andrea Perrelli.
Natuzza put a white handkerchief that I had given her before, on that wrist. She kept it there for ten or fifteen minutes then, she gave it to me. There were only some blood-stains on it; so I put it on the table and my sisters and I could easily see that the blood was moving by itself, writing letter by letter «S. Valeriano Martire». Then the rest of the blood mixed up and formed the figure of a Saint which we of course attributed to Saint Valeriano.
On this handkerchief there are also the figure of Our Lady holding the Rosary, Jesus' Heart pierced through by a sword, the Host with IHS inside and a thorn crown.
I can't say if these figures appeared contemporaneously or before or soon after the writing, because our attention had been completely caught by the blood moving and writing by itself.
When we read the name appeared on the handkerchief, Natuzza said aloud: «But who is this Saint?...Does he exist?".
Here Dr. Valerio Marinelli goes onto explain in his book: "Andrea Perrelli, the person to whom that haemography had to be given, told me that he had gone to Verona in the same year. There he had visited the Church of Fathers Pellegrini in order to see a statue representing Saint Valeriano, which, according to some people, seemed to have shed tears some time before. Moreover he told me that some of the Pellegrini Fathers, during a pilgrimage in Rome on the occasion of a Holy Year, found an urn in a church with this inscription on it: «The bones of S. Valeriano». On seeing that - he went on saying - they had become really sorry because they themselves kept a case containing S. Valeriano's bones, in Verona.
Once they returned, they prayed to the Saint to make them know something precise about the bones they were saving in that case. When their prayers were over, they felt an intense smell of lilies, even though no flowers were around and, all at once, the statue began shedding tears.
Because of this, Andrea had a really deep devotion for that Saint, but neither Natuzza nor his aunts were aware of this at the time of the haemography."
And so we have been presented with just a small portion of the eyewitness testimonies concerning the stigmatic blood writings that occurred through Natuzza. While these hemographies are perhaps seemingly strange or "odd" to our initial sensibilities, we can see that those who saw them occurring before their eyes were certainly inspired and edified, and also those who received them obviously treasure them as precious relics.
In conclusion one thing is for sure: if this mystical phenomenon is indeed authentic, then the symbolism that is represented through these images made of blood of the stigmata should inspire in us a deeper love, appreciation and devotion for the Passion of Jesus; for it is Jesus Himself in whose Passion the stigmatised mystically represent.
One of the documented hemographies contains a lengthly written prayer devoted to the Infant Jesus. We often see how Jesus chooses the simple, humblest and most childlike persons for His works of love and devotion--and in this case, should it be surprising then that He perhaps chose a woman who never attended school, and who cannot read or write, to manifest this possibility of stigmatic blood writings?