Primary source for this article is the book "Helen Pelczar- A Forgotten Stigmatic" by Reverend Fr. Bernard Jarzembowski, Cleveland, 1936 (Polish), republished in English in 2014 by the Rosemarie Publishing House.
Within the first few weeks after arriving in Ohio, USA, Helen began suffering, as usual, from her “strange sickness”. When she got “sick”, she would lose consciousness; she couldn't move, and she ate and drank nothing. She often experienced intense pain throughout her body during these periods. Once her "sickness" lasted for more than ten days. When she finally recovered consciousness, she was exhausted and felt pain all over her body. She especially felt immense pain in her right side which was all bruised I appearance. She often remained in this state from three to five days. Sometimes after coming out of these prolonged ecstasies Helen would be overcome with exhaustion, and would fall asleep for a few hours. Afterwards, she would feel quite well and would immediately get back to her work.
HELEN IS GIVEN THE STIGMATA
Upon arriving home after Vespers on Christmas Eve, Dec 24, 1917, Helen began suffering very strong pains in her hands and feet. On Friday December 28, painful dark round stigmas appeared on both her hands and feet. She also felt pain in her right side, all the way through to her back, which like her hands and feet also turned deep blue. Alarmed by these events, her Aunt asked Doctor Smigiel to come as soon as possible. After careful examination of the wounds, Dr. Smigiel wrote an official opinion in which he claimed that her sickness could not be explained from a medical point of view. These initial stigmata’s lasted for 3 days.
On February 10, 1918 Helen began to suffer pains once again in her hands, feet and side, with each passing day the pain seemingly became even stronger. On Ash Wednesday, 13th February 1918, she was almost bent in agony due to an intense pain in her side. On Thursday evening, Helen became unconscious up until midnight. During this time she had an incredible vision of which she later told her family about.
A VISION AND MESSAGE FROM JESUS
In ecstasy she saw Jesus who was shedding an amazing light upon her which emanated from His Sacred Heart. The Savior told His humble servant the following:
"Apologize to your godmother [as Helen called her aunt] for anything you could have offended her with and ask her to let you attend Mass every day, if your health allows you. You shall refrain from eating or drinking anything from Thursday noon until Saturday noon. Also from now on, you shall not eat meat any longer. I shall bless you with a special gift by which you will be able to recognize sinners, for whom you should bear the sufferings I will send upon you. You will experience as much affliction, misery and pain as I did during my agony on the Cross. Due to your great love for me, you will offer all your torments for sinners whom I myself will point out to you”
After these words Jesus gave Helen His blessing and then disappeared.
THE STIGMATA OCCURS A SECOND TIME
The next day was February 15th, the first Friday of the Lent, 1918. Helen suffered great pain in her body and stayed in her bed. Around 12 noon, purple and red marks started appearing on her hands, feet and right side, with the wounds opening gradually, beginning firstly upon her right hand and foot, then on her left hand and foot. It is worth adding, that before her wounds started bleeding, an unknown, unseen force had placed her right foot and left one so that the wounds of both feet “lined up”, as if nailed together. Her family tried to split Helen's feet, but it brought her even more pain. About three in the afternoon the wound in her right side started to bleed as well.
Father Francis Duda was at that time a curate of St. John Cantius in Cleveland, Helen's parish Church. For two years, in 1917 and 1918, he was the visiting priest who gave Helen Holy Communion at home in the times when she was incapable of going to the Church herself because of her great sufferings. Thus, he had a privileged opportunity to observe Helen during these times. He testified that on numerous occasions he had seen the wounds on her hands and feet and how they were bleeding, however out or purity and chastity he did not see the wound in her right side though. Interestingly, when Helen attended the 7pm Mass herself, her wounds would not open.
The Blessed Mother appeared to Helen more than once. One time she appeared with two angels. One angel held on a pillow a Golden Crown richly encrusted with diamonds, and the other a Crown of Thorns. The Blessed Mother spoke to Helen asking her to choose one of the Crowns. Helen, feeling unworthy of holding a Golden Crown, she chose the Crown of Thorns.
As a reward, the next day, the Blessed Mother returned with an angel on one side of her and Helen's mother on the other. Her mother had been dead for 25 years. As a reward for having chosen the crown of thorns, signifying pain and suffering, the Blessed Mother now held in her hands the Golden Crown and said to Helen, “This is the Crown that you will be crowned with in Heaven.”
Helen’s own mother encouraged her to embrace her suffering with love saying:
“My child, suffer with happiness and love everything that the Lord Jesus sends upon you, for you will soon reunite with me in heaven.”
On Thursday, October 17th, 1918, Helen was once again suffering intensely. The flesh of her hands, feet and right side started turning blue and red again, as which normally occurred in preparation for the next bleeding of her stigmata. On the following day, a Friday, around three in the afternoon, a wound on her forehead opened unexpectedly, right above her left eye. It was almost two inches long, and it bled copiously.
Her cousin, Francis Wiernasz, a witness of these events, was under the impression that there were two holes inside the wound. At the same time Helen's left eye became heavily swollen, and the skin around it turned bluish and was quite painful. It seemed to her that an invisible crown had been placed on her head, although no other marks on her head could be seen other than the gash above her left eye. Yet, Francis noticed that blood appeared on her forehead, neck and around her ears. Her aunt, Julie Wiernasz, was deeply moved by this new manifestation, and she could hardly bear the very sight of the painful wound. Crying, she left the room and went to the kitchen.
On March 22, 1918, Helen once again experienced strong pains. Suddenly in a great brightness there appeared to her the Mother of God, carrying the Child Jesus in her arms. This particular apparition was extremely painful for Helen, because the body of the baby Jesus was badly wounded all over, and the Virgin Mary was bent over the Child in pain. Crying, She said to Helen:
"Look, My daughter, how sinners treat My Son:'
Then before Helen's eyes a painful vision of the Passion of Jesus appeared, which began with Jesus in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, until the agony on Calvary. Helen moaned tearfully while watching some of the scenes, such as the scourging of Jesus, .
A PAINFUL VISION OF THE EUCHARISTIC HEART OF JESUS
Between June 13th and 18th, 1918 Helen experienced another period of suffering. On Friday, June 14th, between three and five in the afternoon, Helen had a vision of Jesus unspeakably battered, tired and completely devastated. His Heart was open and wounded, as if pierced by a dagger. Blood gushed profusely to the ground. On the left side of His Heart a shining Host could be seen, from which three large rays radiated. The Host and the Heart formed a whole. The Host suddenly started to move, and it seemed as if it wanted to break away from the Heart. It inflicted the Heart of Jesus with pain, and divided it into two halves, the Host seemingly ripping from the left side of God's Heart.
Helen did not understand that sorrowful vision. She wanted to ask about its meaning, but the suffering of Jesus caused such a great pain to her that she could not utter a word. After a while, Jesus said to her:
"Do you see this sacred Host shaking on all sides and peeling away from my Heart? What is it, that hurts it so terribly? It is the weak and shaky faith of some Catholics. Many abandon the true Catholic faith, enter into various sects and forever lose their souls, for which I shed all my blood. You see me devastated; Yes it is me, who out of an infinite love for my people, humbles and wholly submits Myself to being really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament in all churches, yet some do not believe in My presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and moving away from Me abandon and reject the dearest treasure of true faith, and thus perishing forever.”
[Editors note: While perhaps some might have difficulty with the statement above purportedly from Jesus to Helen, it should be interpreted in light of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John: "Jesus said to them, 'Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)
Once again Jesus appeared to Helen on November 15, 1918. She felt the greatest of sadness, as the Heart of the Savior was bloodied and bruised by sinners. Jesus said to her:
"Pray for sinners. Ask me to increase their weak faith. Offer to Me your suffering for them, to make them convert, repent for their sins, make a sincere confession and thus escape from eternal damnation"
HER STIGMATA DISAPPEARS ALMOST INSTANTANEOUSLY
In 1919 the deadly influenza or "flu" pandemic was infecting people across the globe. Helena's cousin Francis, an eyewitness to the following miracle, relates the event in his own words:
"Going back to Thursday, Helena fell ill and had pains on both sides and in her chest. Helena had much difficulty withstanding the pain, and fearing that she got infected with the Spanish flu, an unusually deadly influenza pandemic taking its toll at that time, she asked for a doctor's visit. I called Dr. Krebs late Thursday afternoon. We waited for him until midnight, but the doctor did not come.
"On Friday morning it became apparent that Helen was getting the stigmata. Her hands, feet and side were already turning blue. Seeing this, I thought to myself that at least this time Dr. Krebs will see her bloody wounds (this particular Doctor had never seen her stigmata). But at 9:30 in the morning the stigmatic blue color suddenly disappeared. Then, at 10:00 o'clock the doctor arrived and examining Helena he asked her what hurt. But Helena did not answer because first of all she didn't understand English, and secondly, she couldn't speak during her stigmatic illness. I myself, therefore, told him about the pains in her sides and chest. The doctor examined her, he said she had a pleurisy and that she was quite cold. Therefore he wrote a prescription for a medication and ordered to apply a patch to her sides. I paid him and he left. But as soon as the doctor left, the stigmata came right back"
On another occasion, one Friday morning Father Duda brought Doctor Kocinski to examine the stigmatic. He wanted the physician to be a witness of mystical wounds and extraordinary suffering of Helena. It was a time when the usual stigmata were open and bleeding and she was in ecstasy. But that day, Helena got out of bed just before they came and began her household work. The priest was surprised, but apparently God did not want a doctor to witness Helena's suffering. When the guests left the house, she lied down and her stigmata began to bleed again.
Over the years Helen was treated by eight doctors from Cleveland and among them there were three Poles. They tried to help her the best they could, however the root cause of Helen's "illness" remained a mystery to all of them.
On Friday, March 7, 1919, Helen expressed through gestures the way she suffered. Her relatives recognized that she was speaking of the crucifixion. Some invisible force slowly stretched out her arms and legs so badly that all the bones crackled in her body, severely stretching her muscles and tendons to their limits. With her arms and legs stretched, her chest lifted so much that all the ribs were clearly visible. It seemed so that the skin of her body would be ripped in any moment now and all her bones would pop out.
As she described it, suddenly an Angel appeared right before her. He was wearing a beautiful white robe. Helen said that she had never seen him before, but she was sure it was an Angel of the Higher Order. His expression was serious, almost stern. He then spoke to Helen:
"Why are you so discouraged about the sufferings that Jesus grants upon you? You should know that no one in the world can help you with the pain. Do you still want to suffer willingly and lovingly, or do you want the Lord to take this grace away from you?"
Helen stated: "I was very frightened that the Lord will take the suffering from me and with great sorrow in my heart I promised the Angel that I will continue to suffer willingly and lovingly everything that the Lord Jesus shall send upon me. At the same moment I saw Jesus in His Crown of Thorns, terribly scourged and wounded all over, so that the pieces of the Most Holy Body were hanging off his bones. The Angel was standing behind Jesus and he held the fainting Jesus in his arms. Looking at Jesus so badly wounded, I thought that my heart will burst from grief and I fainted out of sorrow."
On this particular occasion, Helena suffered the pains of the Passion and Crucifixion for twenty-four hours. After a day of suffering had ended, exhausted she fell into a deep ecstasy in which she had another vision.
"You see how, my daughter, when you suffer with love, you comfort me and heal the wounds that sinners give to me."
THE HEAVENLY ASSISTANCE OF HER GUARDIAN ANGEL
On another occasion Helen was again exhausted from pain, which lasted all night until the morning. Since it was a weekday, Helen decided not to go for a morning Eucharist. Her guardian Angel came to her again. This time he was holding a big stick. He came up with her and hit her three times in the back, saying: "Get up you lazybones and go to the church."
The efforts and sacrifices which do not normally apply to ordinary people like majority of us is absolutely required of those like Helena whom God calls to important missions. Helena felt an intense pain in her back throughout the whole week, right in the place where the Angel had beaten her. Her guardian Angel continuously insisted that Helen not commit any sin, because she herself was called to make penance for the pain given to Jesus by other people with their sins. Thus her Angel was very strict with her in such matters.
Hearing this cry from her Angel she ran toward the voice and saw her Angel in a deep pit, into which he apparently had fallen into. Helen was deeply worried over his misfortune, and she immediately tried to reach down into the pit to help the Angel, but could not reach him. She began to cry, and the Angel was calling for help even louder and louder. Helen kept trying to help him, but in vain. She cried helplessly, as her strength completely left her. Then the Angel himself came up from the pit and looking at her lovingly, with a light smile on his face, he said:
"You see, child, it is in the same way that I have to toil with you to protect you from evils."
One day in 1919 the Angel appeared to Helen in the room next to hers. He tried to enter the bedroom where Helen was lying on the bed, but his wings seemingly kept him from entering. This apparent clumsy attempt to squeeze through the door aroused much laughter in Helen. Suddenly, the Angel flew through the door in a blink of an eye, got closer to Helen and sat on the bed, right at her head. He asked:
"Helen, why are you becoming discouraged in suffering today?"
Though she had complained to her self interiorly a few moments earlier she replied that she was willing to suffer more. The Angel replied:
"Do not lie, do not lie! He then showed her all of the various instruments which Jesus was beset with during his scourging and crucifixion. Helen deeply experienced this vision and it made an incredible impression upon her.
HELENA IS MYSTICALLY BILOCATED TO THE DEATHBED OF A YOUNG WOMAN
As we can see Helen's guardian Angel was a wise teacher, a true guardian and a constant companion. He protected her from committing sins and encouraged her to perform good works, penance and voluntary mortification. He supported her in order that she might worthily fulfill her mission as a victim soul and humbly accept the suffering sent to her by God.
HELENA'S TRIPS TO PURGATORY
One day the Angel led her to a huge hall, which walls could not be seen. There were countless numbers of souls there. Her Heavenly envoy walked with her through the middle of the vast space. It was filthy and was full of a horrible stench which Helena could hardly bear. They kept walking for quite some time and it seemed to have no end. Eventually Helena asked the Angel to take her from there because she was convinced that she would suffocate from the stench. The Angel turned to her and said:
"You can hardly stand it in here. See, the souls who do not have help from anybody reside here"
While walking Helena had carefully examined many of hem. She saw people of different walks of life, and among them there was also priests, monks and nuns.
Helen was touched with this painful sight, which gave her a renewed desire to sacrifice, suffer and pray to help to bring relief for these souls as best that she could.
Then he saw red marks that could had been left by a strong handshake. He asked, in amazement, what had happened. Helen answered that she would tell him about everything after they return from church.
After the Mass, Helen recounted her vision to Francis, which concerned the recently deceased Pope Benedict XV, who had passed the very same year (1922).
As he said this he held out his hand with the papal ring in her direction. Helen, while kissing his ring, noticed that his hands were burned and bruised. Helen was deeply touched by this sight and she could not hide her great astonishment. It was a Pope, after all! She wondered to herself: "Is the Pope also suffering in the Purgatory? Does he need prayers as well?"
Benedict XV looked painfully at Helen, then he turned around and walked into the chapel. He knelt at an iron kneeler, rested his elbows on it, and prayed.
In 1918 the Blessed Mother appeared to Helen. She showed her the events that were about to happen in Poland in the year 1920. Specifically, Helen saw the Battle of Warsaw (August 13-25, 1920). This was a war in which Polish patriots defended the boundaries of their country against the Bolsheviks. Helen saw a figure of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, hovering over an army of young boys led by a young priest, identified as Chaplain Fr. Ignancy Skorupka. With a cross in his hands, he led a charge on the front lines and ultimately was killed on the field. When the invaders saw this apparition, they fell into chaos and began to withdraw their troops in great confusion. This became known as the "Miracle of Vistula". Polish independence was preserved and the Bolshevik Revolution was stopped at the borders of Poland. Thus Helena was given a vision of this extraordinary event 2 years before it actually occurred.
Her aunt and cousin were the witnesses of this particular incident. Helen did not speak much of such matters, but as she stood up they heard her say: "You may be pleased and think that I will quit or complain, but I will endure everything!"
For two hours one Saturday morning while she suffering and lying in bed, Satan continuously knocked on the door and windows of her room, terrifying her.
On another occasion, he stood up before Helen in a form of a black ape. He took her hand, pulled it and tried to molest her. She fought back against him and he disappeared only after she hit him with a rosary.
In order to remember these terrible events more clearly, Helen wrote an illustrated brochure titled "Hell". She herself read it often, because she wanted to do her best in preserving the holiness of her soul and salvation of others, always having the terror of Hell always in front of her eyes.
HELEN'S LAST YEARS-- SHE PREDICTS THE TIME OF HER OWN DEATH
Helen did not answer her question and pretended not to have heard it at all. Mother Superior repeated her question with emphasis. But again she did not reply, acting as if she did not hear the question. The nun did not concede and asked again, this time more in the form of a demand. To this Helen replied "In two years".
'Oh, how would I like to reap as well!' because as far back as she was living in Poland she learned how to harvest. She heard Jesus talking with His angels and she understood suddenly that they were talking about her. She then understood that she will die soon, and the fertile ears of grain, cut by the angels, symbolize her merits of her life, short yet full of suffering. Helen cried, but rather out of happiness than sadness, for she knew she would soon unite with her Heavenly Bridegroom. According to this vision, Helen foretold that she would die after three months from that date."
A LONG AWAITED RELIGIOUS HABIT
Francis described Helen's last moments as follows:
"On Tuesday morning we noticed that Helen was already very weak, so we didn't want do disturb her. But when the time for a Mass came, she ordered us to go to the church. She also assured us that she would not die during the time we were at holy Mass. When we came back from the Mass, we understood that Helen was fading away. We called our neighbors, lit up a Paschal candle and placed it near her.
"She kissed wounds of crucified Jesus twice, then she prayed quietly. We noticed that she was silently praying the 'Hail Mary'. Sitting upright on the bed, she sighed twice, put her head on a board and passed from this life while completely conscious. It was a quarter after nine in the morning ... "
Francis also wrote later:
"Several hours after her death, on her right side in the place where she usually got the heart wound, there was not heart wound anymore however something distended two or three of her ribs so much that her skin almost burst. Her ribs remained like that, yet there was no wound anymore. We do not know what caused her ribs to be distended, as no one could explain it. Nothing like that happened when she was alive."
We know that from the life of St Gemma Galgani for example that this distention of Helena's ribs was most likely caused by the enlarging of her heart which could not contain the presence of God without expanding--a mystical phenomenon found in a number of mystics which has been documented over the centuries.
|Photo credit: http://rozaniec.info/zapomniana-stygmatyczka-helena-pelczar/|
In 1936, that is about 10 years after her holy death, there were numerous reports of "miraculous music" that was said to emanate from her grave. The introduction in Father Bernard Jarzembowski's book specifically mentions reports of persons hearing the "Ave Maria". According to news reports at that time, it is said that thousands of people were visiting her grave hoping to experience this phenomenon. The news article above relates much of the story.
-Helen Pelczar, pray for us!