Teresa Higginson, the School Teacher with the Stigmata

Servant of God, Teresa Helena Higginson (1844-1905)

-The schoolteacher mystic who received many supernatural gifts including Ecstasies with visions of Jesus Passion, along with the Crown of Thorns and the Stigmata, and who was called to promote the practice of devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus.

Born while on a pilgrimage at St. Winifred's Well, Holywell
Teresa Higginson was born on May 27th, 1844 in the shrine town of Holywell, England. She was the third child of Robert Francis Higginson and Mary Bowness. Right before Teresa's birth, her mother was in a very poor state of health, so she went on a pilgrimage to Holywell hoping to obtain a cure at St. Winifred's Well, where the healing waters known as the "Lourdes of England" are said to cause miraculous cures, and so it came to be that this child of special destiny was born at the ancient and famous shrine-- the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Great Britain.

She grew up in Gainsborough and Neston, and as an adult she lived in Bootle and Clitheroe, England, and spent 12 years in Edinburgh, Scotland and lastly in Chudleigh, England where she died.

"Will become either a great saint, or a great sinner"
From early childhood Teresa had a very strong nature and will, almost obstinate one would say, which of course caused her parents much difficulty and concern, so much so that one day they spoke to a local priest about her, and this struck her deeply and became one of her earliest recollections---

Her parents, speaking of the troubles they were having concerning her strong will, she overheard the priest say "This child will be either a great saint or a great sinner, and will lead many souls to God, or away from Him."

 Concerning this she later wrote:
"This I think had a great impression on me though he (the priest) did not think I heard it, yet it sank deep down in my soul, for that night when we received our parents' blessing, when Papa put his hand on my head, he sighed and it went through me. Then that same night when Mama came to check on us, she knelt down by my crib and cried, and when she kissed me the warm tears fell upon my face, and I was too much ashamed to open my eyes and felt unworthy of so good a mother. I mention this fact for it has never been forgotten, and I think our dear Lord had a great deal to do with it, though I did not then fully understand the meaning of it all, but I did beg of the dear little infant Jesus to help me to be more like Him and never to let me do anything that would make my dear parents cry, for I loved them so tenderly. I don't know how old I was then, but I must have been very young."

On March 3, 1854 Teresa and her two older sisters went to live at the convent-school at Nottingham that was run by the Sisters of Mercy. She was ten years old when she arrived with her two elder sisters. There was a beautiful chapel where Teresa spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament, and where too she made her first confession and communion and was confirmed.

With her tender heart, little Teresa felt keenly this first parting from her mother and, try as she would, she could not help being terribly homesick;
"Though I tried to bind myself very closely to Him and tried to love and serve Him better, yet at this time I seemed to forget everything and fret very much to go home again. Then the beautiful month of May came which was kept with very great devotion and then I began to settle and really love the convent, for I remember one of the dear nuns telling me that when our Blessed Lady was taken to the Temple at three years old, she never cried for Saints Anne or Joachim nor wished to go home again, and then I began to feel how ungrateful I was and self seeking and made acts of contrition and told our dear Lord since He had loved and thought so much for me, I could never love or think of anything out of Him and begged of Him to give me some little suffering as proof of His love."

She remained at the convent-school for 11 years. During this time she injured herself in two separate falls--one into a pit, and another not long afterwards when:
"On the feast of Corpus Christi all the cloisters and every place through which the Blessed Sacrament was carried was beautifully decorated, and archways were left till morning when fresh lilac, laburnum etc. were gathered, and I climbed up the tree to bend the branches for Sister to break off small branches, and when doing so I fell out of the tree and hurt myself."

It took her about a year to recover from this second very painful fall.

Dryness in prayer, her spirit of mortification and voluntary sacrifices out of love for God
Teresa writes:
"I think it was at or about this time, that I made the resolution of rising in the night for the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and half an hour's meditation and then go back to bed. This was very hard for me, and I was often tempted to give it up, especially when our dear Lord tried me with dryness which He frequently did and sometimes for months, but when I felt this very much I would prolong instead of shortening the time and looked carefully after opportunities of denying and mortifying myself, for I wanted to try and prepare well for my first Holy Communion.

"On one occasion we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and I went with the others to make a visit, and I had been very full of desolation and could not form a single prayer, which was a great trial to me; but I tried to adore and love Him and kept my eyes upon Him in the sacred Host, but I had no satisfaction in my prayer. And after we went out of chapel dear Rev. Mother asked me what I saw and if our dear Lord had told me anything, so then I told her how I had not been able to say my prayers etc. for a long time; that I had not seen anything, not even the angels which I frequently did, but that I had promised our dear Blessed Lord that I would not move or take my eye off Him. I was only therefore keeping my promise for so well I remember how I felt — that I could not make one act of love nor feel sorry about it. I was so indifferent that of course I took it as a sign that He had left me on account of my wickedness and sin, and as I could not adore Him in reality, I would at least do so as far as outward acts went."

"I did not undertake any regular corporal punishment until I was preparing for my first Holy Communion. Then I began to rise and lay on the floor under the bed (after Sister had put out the gas light and gone to bed) until the bell rang at five in the morning for the nuns to rise — then I used to get back into bed.

"During this time period I managed to get a piece of sacking and I pushed in bits of old knitting needles, little tacks, etc. I used to put it under me on the floor, but I did not do this long for fear of being found out. I was so often sick and the nuns took such great care of me that they seemed to notice every little scratch or mark, but I had an opportunity one day of getting some red hot cinders from the fire and I only just had time to pick them from the grate when Sister entered. I put them down my breast and they set my things on fire, but when I made the holy sign of the cross on the flames they went quite out, but Sister scolded me very much and told me never to do such a thing again. I begged her not to say anything so as she gave me her word I feel sure she never did."

"Later in the year of my first Holy Communion, towards the close, a great feeling of indifferentism came upon me and lasted for many months and what I went through then, our dear Lord only knows. I felt as if I had no power to do anything for God, that I really did not love Him, and I seemed to care very little about whether I did love Him or not, I used to think, 'Oh if I could only be sorry for not loving Him that would be a consolation m itself, but I was too cold and callous to really think of anything good, my prayer was hard to make and dry, and so far as I could see without fruit. I was sick too in myself, and I felt very weary and worn, tired of everything and seemed to have no power to exert my will to act or heart to love."

A remarkable recovery
"In 1860, when I was taken very ill and given up by the doctors. I was in bed, I think, for nearly nine months, I was anointed and received all the rites of our Holy Church, and the nuns were waiting for me to die. I was consecrated a child of Mary and then became unconscious and remained so for some days. On the 13th of December the Bishop and Rev. Edward Smith who was in Rome with Father Powell both said a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin for me. They all thought I must die and told me their little secrets that they wished me to ask our dear Lady to grant them when I died, but on the octave of the Immaculate Conception I came to myself again and began to get better. I consecrated myself again most solemnly to our dear Lord and His blessed Mother, promising to live and die for them, and begging them to let me work and suffer for the salvation of souls."

Her call to become a school teacher
In the year 1871, a terrible epidemic of smallpox and cholera broke out in Liverpool and the neighboring towns. One of the most severely affected was Bootle, where the schools had to be closed for a lack of teachers. The rector of St. Alexander's church at Bootle, the Rev. Edward Powell asked the training college at Mount Pleasant if they had any available teachers--due to the smallpox they had none, however Sister Mary Philip who was in charge there at that time recommended Teresa, for one of Teresa's sisters was a student there at that time.

 Teresa, far from being scared by the fear of infection, was delighted at this opportunity of sacrificing her life in the cause of charity and eagerly offered her services. Father Powell gratefully accepted the offer, and two souls destined to play a great part in each other's lives, were thus brought together. The appointment proved a great success. Teresa quickly won her way with the children and remained at Bootle for about a year.

Father Powell became more and more impressed with her as he recognized the great heights of virtue to which she had already attained, and the special graces with which Almighty God had endowed her. He allowed her to communicate daily, a thing most unusual in those days and one for which she was ever grateful to him. He soon discovered her wonderful gift for teaching. When she was giving her catechism classes on a Sunday he used to watch the benches fill with grown-up people as well as children, all listening to her with rapt attention. After a time he told her he thought Almighty God was calling her to serve Him as a certified teacher, and sent her to consult the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Sister M. Philip told her that she would require a year's study before going in for the necessary teachers examination, but Father Powell, finding that one was to be held in the following week, told her to try and take the examination. She obeyed and successfully passed the exam. As we shall see, she became a school teacher and remained a teacher for her entire life, right up to her holy death in 1905.

Fasting and ecstasies
Thus she began teaching at the St Mary's Catholic school in Wigan. The little staff of St. Mary's school were on very happy, intimate terms. One of the things which attracted their attention with regard to Teresa was the strange attacks of weakness to which she was subject early in the morning, prior to receiving Holy Communion. She went to daily Mass but was often so weak that she had almost to be carried to the altar rails; then, after receiving holy Communion, her strength returned and she would walk back unaided to her place and be able to carry out her duties for the rest of the day as though in normal health. They noticed too, how rigorously she fasted. There were times when she seemed literally to live on the Blessed Sacrament alone, for three days at a time taking no other food.

Towards the end of 1873, a new teacher was appointed to the staff---Miss Susan Ryland. She spent a day at Wigan to visit the school, and Teresa told her later how, before her arrival, the Devil had tormented her, saying that she would no longer be able to keep her secrets as the new teacher would soon find them out. Miss Ryland took up her duties on January 5th, and Teresa soon recognized in her the friend Father Spencer had promised her our Lord would send her in her need. For the next eighteen months they were seldom parted, and during the holidays Miss Ryland accompanied Teresa to her home. Mrs. Higginson met her with open arms, saying: "I have longed to meet you. You are the only friend Teresa has ever had."

Concerning Miss Ryland, before continuing with the story it is interesting to note that being very much edified and influenced by all of the remarkable and extraordinary events she experienced during the 1-1/2 years that she spent with Teresa, Miss Ryland went on to become a nun (a professed religious). 

Miss Ryland and Teresa lived in a building attached to St. Mary's school, where they occupied the same room and even slept in the same bed. Poorly lodged and poorly paid, there was a good deal of sacrifice in the life of the Catholic teacher of those days. The year 1874 was to be one of the most eventful in Teresa's life, and our Lord had provided her with a friend after her own heart, loyal, silent, and above all not inquisitive. Living in such close intimacy it would have been impossible to hide all traces of the mysterious events of those months, and though she almost never spoke of her inner life, Miss Ryland was the silent witness of many marvels concerning which she drew her own conclusions.

"I became acquainted with Teresa", Miss Ryland writes, "at the end of December, 1873. It was on January 5th, 1874 that 1 began my life with her. I remained with her at Wigan until July 1875. During that time she received to my knowledge many favours from God; visitations from the evil One in person, also from our Lord, our Lady and the saints. In Lent, 1874, she was granted the following of our Lord in the details of His sacred Passion, the Crown of Thorns, like St. Rose of Lima, the sacred Stigmata and many other favours."

Miss Ryland soon began to suspect that there was something very remarkable about her. Her first experience of anything out of the common was after she had been at Wigan a fortnight. It was about 10:30 and they were going to bed, when she looked round and found Teresa lying on the floor, unconscious. Being unable to move her she called for help and lifted her on to the bed. She saw that this was no ordinary illness, and when, by 1pm the following day there was no change, she went for Father Wells. He came at once though she was surprised to see the calm way in which he took the matter. Teresa was still unconscious, but when he gave her some Lourdes water she immediately came to herself. He then sent Miss Ryland for the doctor, who expressed astonishment at Teresa's excessive weakness and could make nothing of the case. Miss Ryland herself soon realised that these strange illnesses were supernatural — Teresa was in fact in ecstasy, a condition which became very constant at this time. Her friend has described her outward appearance on these occasions:

"There were two ways in which Teresa was taken. In one the body was supple and she showed either excessive grief or excessive joy. In the other the body was quite rigid and it was almost impossible to move her. That state did not last long. Twice she was like that in the street. Fortunately it was in a lonely part or it might have proved awkward. I could do nothing but stand at her side till she became conscious.

Louise Lateau- A contemporary mystic who appeared to Teresa
Louise Lateau, 1850-1883
Louise Lateau, another contemporary mystic, appears to her

Her roommate and fellow schoolteacher, Miss Ryland continues:
"During the early part of 1874, there was something in the paper about Louise Lateau in France being in ecstasy every Friday and we passed the remark (I mean Miss Woodward and I), 'That is nothing to this house. It is a daily occurrence here', which it really was at that time.

"Teresa must have had some kind of communication with her, for she said one day after coming to herself: 'Louise Lateau told me to read something in the life of St. Teresa.'

So I brought the book to her but I don't know exactly what she was told to read in it.

Being friends to a saint is not always easy
"When we said the rosary together she would suddenly stop and I had to wait a long time for her, so I made up my mind not to wait but to continue taking both sides. That night in the middle of the first mystery, she stopped and began again when I was finishing the fourth. She touched me gently when I began the fifth and said: 'It is only the second.' I replied: 'It is the second for you, but for me it is the fifth, and I don't want to be here all night.' That sounds irreverent, but I was dealing with her then not as a saint but as a familiar friend.

Appearances of the Virgin Mary
Miss Ryland continues:
"On four occasions, to my knowledge, our Lady appeared to her. I give an account of two. I saw she was talking to someone. Of course, at these times she was unconscious of anything else. When our Lady went away she said to me: 'Isn't she beautiful?' I asked: 'Who?' 'Our blessed Lady. Didn't you see her, dear?' When I said no, she was very quiet and only said: 'She has told me I love Him more than I can tell.'

"The second apparition was at a time when she was very ill and not able to help herself. I was kneeling by her side when she sat up and said: 'Our Lady says I am cured, and I shall go to holy Communion on Thursday morning.'  That was Tuesday night, and I wondered why not the next morning since she was better, but in the morning I found she was weak as ever. I got her up before dinner and brought her downstairs. After dinner she became unconscious again. I had to leave her and go to school. Miss Woodward remained with her. A little before four o'clock, she (Teresa) came up to the school to me although she had to mount a flight of stone steps. I said:  'You have no right to come up here when you have been so ill.'  She said: 'What God does He does well. I am all right', or words to that effect. She had also been to church, and to see Father Wells. Miss Woodward told me that at three o'clock she came to herself and said: 'Didn't our Lady say three o'clock?'  She then put on her hat and came out, going first to church.

"St. Joseph was with her once and St. Peter once. There were other visions which she only told me of, but I mention only those which I was present for."

Little miracles
Miss Ryland continues with some wonderful short stories about Teresa:

"At the request of Father Wells she cured a child of some chest disease. She used common lard (as an excuse I suppose). The child's mother asked her afterwards for some of the ointment. Teresa said to me: 'What shall I do? It is only common lard.'

"Another time I had forgotten, or did not notice, that there was no wood in the house. In the morning I wanted to light the fire. Teresa was in bed. I went in to her and said: 'We have no wood and I want to light the fire.' She said: 'There is plenty in the sacristy.' But I said: 'The church is not open yet.' 'Very well', she said, 'ask St. Joseph for some.' I said: 'You ask him, he won't do it for me.' Then she said: 'Have you been to such a cupboard?' I said: 'Yes, and there is none there.' 'Well, go and look again.' I went and found a quantity of nice pieces not like the wood we bought.

"One day the key of our school was lost. We kept it in the house, and it was not to be found. I searched the house for it, so did she. She then went up to the parlour and I knelt by the table. Afterwards she came out with the key in her hand and looking very pale. I said to her: 'What on earth is the matter with you? You look frightened to death.' (It was unusual to see her like that.) 'Yes', she said, 'I was frightened because I saw nothing, but a white hand put the key down.'

"Another day after coming from Holy Communion she lighted the fire on the spur of the moment by making the sign of the cross over cold cinders. She said: 'This would warm the children's cans.' Then made the sign of the cross and I saw the flames come into the cold cinders. She did the same thing at home. Her sister Fanny said to me in Teresa's presence (they, like myself, used to tease her sometimes): 'Our Tess is very clever, she can light a fire without coal or wood.'
I asked Teresa what she meant and she told me her Mama was ill that morning and Fanny wanted the fire quickly. Hence the result.

Her brother said to me one day: 'Tess can do wonderful things. She can send up a tray before her.' He was teasing her. I asked her what he meant. She told me she was going to bring up the tray but it was too heavy for her, so her guardian angel took it from her and put it into her brother's hands at the top of the stairs, while he saw her at the bottom of the stairs.

Attacks from the devil
"Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places", says St. Paul, and often the greater the saint, the harsher will be the conflict.

Rev Alfred Snow who eventually became her spiritual director, ordered Teresa to write about certain topics to describe her experiences, so he would better be able to spiritually guide her. Concerning the  attacks from the malevolent spirits she thus wrote:
The following letter describes some of her experiences in this respect.

"A M D G et in hon B V M et Bt. J.                           
"Bootle, June 20, 1880

"Dear Rev. Father,

"In honor of the Seat of divine Wisdom and in the holy name of Jesus and Mary I will relate the principal temptations at Wigan by which the Devil by the permission of God assailed me.

"I think the first visible temptation which I had at Wigan was as soon as I went. I think you know that without any permission I used to rise as soon after midnight as I conveniently could (I had not a bed to myself) to make my meditation etc. and each time I commenced the Devil used to beat and attack me, and spit horrible filth upon me in the face and eyes, in fact, completely cover me which made me very sick, and the stench was almost poisoning. And this I told to Rev. T. Wells who told me he thought I had a very fertile imagination, and as far as I can judge he did not believe me, but he told me to tell him each time I fancied it, and when he saw that it still continued he asked me could he write to some priest of great experience about it. But in the meantime, he said, you must not rise to make your meditation. Night is the time to sleep and rest so that you may be able to do your work as duty requires.

"And so I did not rise intentionally, but several times I found myself rising, and when I at once returned the devils would shriek and yell and laugh in a most dreadful manner and mock me and say: 'Most obedient maid how firm are your words of promise to the King of heaven!' But I did not notice him. Of course each time I found myself getting out of bed I told my confessor as soon as I could see him and he said if the will was really desirous of being entirely obedient he did not see how I could be so continually rising; but I begged and prayed our Lord and His blessed Mother to help me to accomplish perfectly and promptly whatever my director would wish, cost it me what it would.

"And so by degrees I did not rise, but I seldom slept, I could not help myself making my meditation though I think I strove hard to resist, and so I told Father Wells. Then he said I must sleep a certain time, I forget now but I think he said four hours, and under obedience I did so, and when I slept the Devil would rouse me. Sometimes he cried as though some poor child were out upon the doorstep; sometimes he used to throw me completely out of bed, throw things at me that were in the room, and make awful noises, and I used to be afraid at first that Miss Gallagher or the people of the house would hear. And several times when I awoke I perceived a smell of something burning, and the house being filled with smoke and brimstone, I thought surely the house was on fire.

"Other times I saw the whole bed and room full of flames and heard the crackling and I am afraid in this case I proved a coward, for I was frightened more than I can tell at first for there was no holy water: the Devil threw something against the bottle and broke it. But Mary and St. Michael were ever near and when I called upon her I knew he had no power to hurt. But I thought the house might really be burnt and I think it was the Devil so I told Fr. Wells that I felt afraid and he said I must tell the Devil he must not do it again. And any temptation I always noticed stopped at the command of my director. Fr. Wells told me to ask our b. Lord to change the temptation.

"When Fr. Wells told me not to make my meditation I thought that was just what the Devil wanted, but I did not say so for I knew that obedience and giving up my own will was more pleasing to our b. Lord and more to my own good than anything else.

"Our Lord kept these temptations secret till we went to the school-house and then they were soon known. The Devil knew I did not like anyone to know these things and so he often told me he would let the other mistresses see and know all; but I knew he had no power of himself so I never heeded him, and I used to say to our dear b. Lord when he said these things to me: 'Thou know best oh Lord what is good for me. I am Thine do with me what Thou please."

"At length Miss Ryland (who is now a nun) and Miss Woodward (at Burscough Hall) soon saw and heard everything almost; at least I don't know what they knew, but as they were frightened Fr. Wells told them the Devil could not hurt them etc. I think I had temptations against every virtue while there and I seemed entirely abandoned by God and His holy Mother, and at these times Fr. Wells on more than one occasion would not hear what I had to say. He used to tell me to go to holy Communion as usual which was then only four times per week.

"I think the reason why the Devil used to spit and throw that abominable filth of such awful stench at me was because at that time I resolved to mortify the senses more rigorously and never to gratify them in the least, or rather to do all that I could that was disagreeable and hurtful to them. Certainly at times I was almost suffocated but the holy and strong God never forsook me and Mary was ever a tower of strength against all the wiles of the wicked one. And when ever our dear good God accepted my poor prayers and little nothings in behalf of poor sinners he, the Devil, used to be infuriated, and beat, drag and almost choke me. He used to tell me it was no use me trying to save souls when my own was lost, that God had already given him power over me, that it was far better for me to live a very ordinary life, that such things that I took upon myself were more than the greatest saints attempted, that it was mad presumption on my part to expect that God would work continual miracles in my behalf...

"When our dear Lord tried me with great desolation, he appeared with numberless demons and tempted me as I think they would tempt the poor souls whose guilt I took upon myself, with, I think, every description of sin — against charity, with envy — hatred I may say, and against holy Purity, against Faith and to a dreadful despair. For when I was really worn out with continual struggling and I knew not whether I had sinned or no and I cried out to God for pity and pardon, and to Mary, Joseph, and St. Michael for protecting help, the fiends laughed and cried as with one voice: 'Where is now Thy God who has hitherto helped you? In what a true friend you confide, see now what effect your prayers have. Most compassionate friend, generous and charitable soul, perhaps now you will learn that charity begins at home. Learn wisdom if it is not too late; see what a reception you will have, angelical Teresa, humble and beloved Spouse of the Almighty One. Who will now help you? Where are the souls you have saved? Where is your loving Mother now? Where the God you thought to serve? Where is your God?'

Teresa Helena Higginson in 1904
"And bowing to the august and thrice blessed Trinity I answered the wicked One by saying: 'Ah my Jesus, my God, my only Hope! Surely Thou art here in Thy Justice. Spare me not oh Lord, but save them whom You desire I should help. Remember Thy most Precious Blood is the price of each soul! Look on Thy gaping Wounds! See Thy Mother's heart is breaking. Look on the work of Thy Hands, and when Thou look have mercy and spare!'

Miss Ryland, her roommate and school teacher friend (and whom afterwards became a nun) was of course frightened at times with some of the noises and other goings on by the demons directed against Teresa, but Teresa would say that it was best to not be afraid and to pay as little attention as possible to the devil when he tried to torment her — he just wanted to be a distraction and to be noticed!

Her ecstasies and participation in the Passion of Jesus
A well-known feature in the lives of mystics/victim souls is how in mystical visions they accompany and participate with our Lord Jesus in His Passion. In the case of Teresa, Miss Ryland gives a very detailed description of what took place in Holy Week of 1874, though she says the same happened on other occasions also. Teresa was quite unconscious, but was evidently following our Lord step by step in all His sufferings, as was clear to those who watched from her actions and expressions, and from the exclamations which fell from her lips. The following are some extracts from these notes:

"Holy Thursday. April 2, 1874

"Commenced at half-past four by asking our Lord to come to her. 'When wilt Thou come oh Lord? I am a sinful creature. Wash me in Thy Precious Blood oh Jesus. Ah Lord never permit me to betray Thee. I will never leave Thee.' Leans her head as St. John. 'Here let me rest oh Lord.' Raises her head a little. 'Ah Lord never permit me to betray Thee. Let me go with Thee. Oh my Jesus I will not leave Thee, oh let me. Oh Lord I cannot stay, let me go.' Head drops forward, slightly convulsed, shuts her eyes very closely as if to shut out some sight. 'Oh Eternal Father, if it be possible let this bitter chalice — Oh my God, my God, desert Him not. Ah pity Him. Thy Will be done oh Eternal Father, oh Angels come and help Him. Oh that I could help Him.' Groans for a few minutes. Head falls to right. 'Let me watch with Thee oh my Jesus.' Head falls on breast. Convulsions, head falls to right. 'Stay oh my Jesus.' Offers to hold Him. 'Hide. Hide, let me go.' Groans and works dreadfully, stretches out her hands. 'Oh Jesus stay. Stay for Mary's sake.' A look of great disappointment and groans. 'Do not permit them to rise again.' Turns her head from side to side with looks of horror. 'Ah my Jesus canst Thou bear this ingratitude?'

"Sees Him bound in the garden, stretches out her hands and begs to be bound instead. Blow on right cheek by the mouth. Blow on left eye. Heavy groans. A blow on mouth. Pulling of beard. Holds her chin. Low cries of pain. Sickness. A blow on left side of head. Beard is pulled. Appears to hear blasphemy, puts hands to ears to shut it out. Rests with head to right, hands to ears again. A blow on the right eye. Sickness, rests, head being inclined to right. Fingers to ears. 'Oh wicked Herod. Oh God of Wisdom. Clothed with scorn. Oh my Jesus.' Sickness, rests two seconds. 'Rest oh my Lord. Oh God Thou sees and knows all things.' A blow on the right cheek. Rests, closes her ears, turns head away as if to shut out some sight. 'God of infinite Mercy show that there is no cause in Thee.' Turns head away. Rests for about three minutes. Turns aside in horror, gasps. Buffeted about the head. 'Canst thou stand with Him. Oh let me go with Thee, Lord Thou art too weak.' Turns in horror. 'Strip my heart of every affection. Oh let me, Lord Thou canst not bear it.' A tear drops from left eye. A blow on the face. Stretches out her hands in agony and begs for pity for Him. Writhes in fearful agony, apparently being scourged. Rests. A cry of pain, writhing again, rests, fearful writhing, rests.

'Oh see how torn He is, Ah find me something soft for mercy's sake.' Dreadful agony. 'Oh King of Heaven and earth, oh let me hold it for Thee. Ah King, God of Heaven and earth.' Puts hand to head with a look of great pain. 'Oh put it on me, You have done enough.' Crowning with thorns. Groans and writhes and clenches her hands. Raises her hand to her head and then to left cheek in great pain. 'Oh angels of Heaven adore Him.' Calls out: 'Show them all Thy wounds oh Lord and soften their hearts, oh lift Thine eyes blind with Thy Precious Blood, oh deafening yells.' Tries to shut them out. 'Oh Lord they know not what they do.' Is quite still for three minutes. Sees the drink offered. 'Oh take it Lord.' Calls out in agony. 'Oh help him Lord.'
Newspaper report from 1928


"Stretches out her hand for the Cross. 'Oh Lord let me bear it a little while. Thou art too weak. Oh lean on me. Thou art too weak oh Jesus lean.' First fall to the right. 'Oh Jesus let me raise Thee.' A blow on left cheek. 'Stand back.' A blow on right cheek. 'Oh Mary. Oh Jesus! Support her. Oh Jesus oh Mary?' Stretches her hands in agony. 'Oh Lord let me bear it, I can.' Lifts her right hand. 'Let me wipe it.' Sinks back. 'Lord I was not worthy.' Second fall. Five fearful blows about head and face, one on the mouth. 'Oh stand back! Oh trampled under. Oh my heart will break. Oh Eternal Father raise Thy Son.' A blow on the mouth. 'Oh how canst Thou forget. Oh compassionate heart, oh well may they weep. Oh lean. My Jesus lean. Let me guide Thy tottering steps, do not break the heart of Thy blessed Mother.' Fearful fall. Calls out in pain. Seven blows about head and face. One on the stomach. 'Stand back! Remember He is thy God.' Two blows. 'Raise Him gently.' Stoops to the ground.

'Oh Jesus, lean on me Lord.' A blow on the right cheek. 'Oh lean on me Lord. Take it off.' Head falls to right. Rests about four minutes. Seems to see drink offered. 'Take it Lord. Oh Mary bid Him take it.' Stripping off garments. Begs to be allowed to take them off. 'Oh take them gently. Oh pure God.' Appears to feel garments torn. Holds them at the waist. 'Oh holy and pure God. Most keenly felt by Thee oh my Jesus.' Turns her head aside in anguish. Moans. 'I will not let Thee go.' Cries of agony. 'Oh Jesus say not Thou must go. I cannot leave Thee Lord. Oh Mary bid Him stay. He never disobeyed thee. Oh Jesus for Thy Mother's sake.' Goes prostrate and is still as death."

Teresa receives the Stigmata
It was in this same year 1874, during Holy week that our Lord Jesus conferred upon His chosen servant the special marks of His Sacred Wounds. In a letter written some years later in obedience to Father Powell, she thus simply tells him of the fact:

"And when I was at Wigan in 1874, on the Friday morning in Passion Week, my Lord and my God gave me the marks of His five Sacred Wounds which I earnestly begged of Him to remove, but to give me an increase if possible of the pain. During all the following week they bled, and Fr. Wells saw one of them on the Good Friday, after which that disappeared, the others having done so earlier in the morning, and on several occasions they have reopened. This I think I have mentioned to you before but as I am not quite certain about it I thought it better to do so here."

Again in another letter she says:

"I have suffered much in the head, chest and side since 1860 but the pains have been much greater since 1874 when our dear B. Lord conferred the great favor I told you of and in the centre of the hands, feet, head and heart they are at times very excessive, but I am relieved always when they bleed which does not happen very very often. I also have a severe pain in the shoulders. I feel ashamed of calling them pains for I know they are excessive favors which I could never merit or have anything to do with. They are all Thine oh my God as are all the favors Thou hast bestowed on me. I did not at first think what was the cause of these favors but some ten or twelve years back I noticed they were always worse on Fridays, feasts of our Lord and during Lent. I have always reaped great spiritual strength and benefit from them and often when I felt I could not overcome poor human nature in some way I have pressed these parts which were as fountains of life to me and I was always able to overcome. I mean my Lord gave me great help when I did so. But during this eclipse which last took place in the soul, our dear B. Lord has not pleased to give this help, they have appeared to me, vile coward, as mines of untold and almost unbearable suffering and torture. Yet oh Lord I know they are the pledge of Thy love to me, and I value them perhaps more than any other gift Thou hast bestowed. May Thy Holy Name be forever blessed."

For her part, Miss Ryland gives a most interesting account of what she herself witnessed at this time:

"To begin with the receiving of the Crown of thorns. It took place on Passion Sunday, 1874. I was the only person present. She asked me to come upstairs in the afternoon. She was apparently suffering and she went to lie down. She asked me to pray that she might be able to go to Sunday school and at night she would bear all our Lord wished. She added: 'He gave me this pain Himself.' She was able to get up, and went to Sunday school and also to Benediction. Towards night she got very weak and after we were in bed became very ill. I wanted to go for Miss Woodward who slept in the next room, but she would not let me so I returned to bed. All at once she sprang up and I am sure she left the bed, for I sprang up too to pull her down. For a while she spoke to her heavenly visitor. Then she put out her right hand towards our Lord (for it was He) and said aloud: 'No, not that, the thorny crown, give me the thorny crown.' Then in a few moments she fell back just as she had got up. I said to her: 'Teresa are you going to die? If you are I must go for Father Wells.' She did not seem to wish to get him up so I left it alone. Then she said to me: 'Our Lord has given me His Crown of Thorns, and also the Wound in the shoulder.' I saw no signs of it next day, except I thought there were pimples on the forehead, but I could not say whether they had anything to do with it or not.

"On the eve of Palm Sunday after going to bed (I think I had to take her as I often did on account of her weakness), I was kneeling by her side and she was unconscious (at least so far as I was concerned). She was speaking (to herself) to someone present. She raised her right hand and held it up quite firmly for a minute or two. Then she let it drop. I did not examine it. I was strangely wanting (as I think now) in curiosity about these things, but the next morning she kept it closed, placing her thumb in the middle. I think she washed herself that morning with the left hand but I forget. However, when she handed me back the towel it was stained with blood. The morning after both hands were closed. I washed her and she said to me: 'I can wash my own hands, dear.' So I gave her the same towel and she returned it to me again spotted with blood. This happened every day...

"On Good Friday we went to the morning service leaving Miss Higginson in bed and the house door locked. When we returned we both ran up to her at once and found her stretched on the bed, her arms extended in the form of a cross, and wounds in her hands. As usual I did not go very near. I saw Miss Woodward lift up the clothes at the foot of the bed to see if the feet were the same, and I ran off to bring Father Wells. He came. She was still the same, and he said to me: 'Run for the doctor.' I went and when I got back accompanied by Dr. Hart she was natural again and talking to Father Wells. Dr. Hart found her extremely weak, but, as Father Wells said, he did not at all know what was the matter with her."

Her mission to spread devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus, Seat of Divine Wisdom
Space does not permit here to go into details concerning the revelations from heaven in what would become her calling to spread devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus, Seat of Divine Wisdom. The SacredHead.org website goes into wonderful details explaining this devotion and Teresa's own story and the special revelations that she was given concerning it, and the Promises for those who honor the Sacred Head of Jesus.

Her holy death
Teresa remained a school teacher throughout her entire life. In 1904 while preparing to return home for the Christmas holidays she suffered a stroke. The chaplain found a Catholic nurse, Miss Casey, to attend her during her last illness. This nurse wrote about her experience caring for Teresa in detail and  she was very deeply inspired and edified by Teresa's demeanor in her last days. On February 9th Teresa said goodnight to Miss Casey, thanking her, and added:

"Do not fear, dear child, but put your hand with loving confidence into your Father’s hand and He will guide you through every path. And where the road is rough and stony, He will carry you in His arms."

Shortly after this she fell into a coma. She passed from this life six days later on February 15, 1905, after several hours of apparent suffering. She was buried at St Winifrede’s Church, near her family home in Neston.

Her cause for Beatification/Canonization
Teresa’s Cause for canonization was accepted by the Church in 1937. Thus she is officially recognized as a "Servant of God". On February 21, 1938 Monsignor O’Brien--the vice-postulator of her cause--was sent a letter from the Secretary of the Congregation informing that the Holy Office had pronounced the 'Non Expedire' on the introduction of her Cause, meaning it was put on hold until further notice. However, a letter from the Vatican in February 1949 confirmed that there was no insurmountable obstacle to the Cause progressing. A Professor named Paul Haffner recently visited the offices of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome, and was told that her Cause is still 'on the books' - awaiting its time. A miracle attributed to her intercession could very well jump start the cause once more.

One of Teresa's favorite sayings was: "Its the small branches that show which way the wind blows", meaning that it is the little things that we do which prove our attitude towards God.

Much of the information for this article was taken from the book "TERESA HELENA HIGGINSON--SERVANT OF GOD, "THE SPOUSE OF THE CRUCIFIED" by Cecil Kerr, which can be read in its entirety for free here.

"Oh Wisdom of the sacred Head of Jesus, guide us in all our ways, Oh Love of the sacred Heart, consume us with Thy fire! -Teresa Higginson
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4 comments:

mike said...

There were many miracles after her death it would be helpful if you published them.
the rite of her sanctification was about to happen but was stopped by a statement I have read often since God does not want another devotion to Him he has enough already.
Teresa's devotion is really to Divine Wisdom which has been a long practiced English historical devotion.
Find the promises of Christ to those who detracted her. the theologians who made the statement against her cause and see how truthful were Christ's statements of the rewards of those who were foolish enough to call His bluff. By the way I have seen the wound on the shoulder.

Glenn Dallaire said...

Thanks for your comments Mike. I would have loved to have added some of the miracles after her death that were associated with her intercession however as you can see the article was already quite long!

As far as her cause for canonisation so far not progressing past the initial "Servant of God" stage, I agree that it appears to be because of her fervent promotion of the devotion of the Sacred Head of Jesus, Seat of Divine Wisdom in that apparently some prevailing theologians were concerned about adding another devotion to Jesus--just like we initially saw with St Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion, until St John Paul II singularly kick started that devotion.

Who knows--perhaps someone or some group with influence will jump start the Sacred Head/Divine Wisdom devotion, if such is God's Will.

Thanks again for your comments and may God bless you and your loved ones.
-Glenn

Paul in Melbourne, Australia said...

I knew about Teresa, but your account presented her life much more succinctly for me.

It took quite a long time for Servant of God John Bradburne, war hero and the 'Vagabond of God', to achieve any recognition. This was due to the tireless efforts of his niece and grandniece.

Thank you, again, Glenn

Anonymous said...


Its interesting how the lives of the mystics often follow a similar pattern of being born into poor families, serious injuries or health issues with miraculous cure, and disbelief and misunderstandings from those who know them, except for one or two persons who support them.

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