|Little Rose, American Stigmatist booklet|
Thanks to EBAY I was able to obtain a copy of this very rare booklet entitled "LITTLE ROSE AMERICAN STIGMATIST" by Father John J. Thilges, S.V.D., published back in 1959 in only one edition of 15,000 copies.
Its a short and interesting biography on the holy life of the Rhode Island mystic and stigmatic, Marie Rose Ferron (1902-1936). Since this little booklet is so rare and long since out of print, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to post it here for the sake of posterity, that it may not be lost to the ages.
LITTLE ROSE American Stigmatist
By: JOHN J. THILGES, S.V.D. Divine Word Missionary
In obedience to the decree of Pope Urban V III and other sovereign Pontiffs, the writer declares that the graces and other super natural facts related in this volume as witnessing to the sanctity of Servants of God other than those canonized or beatified by the Church, rest on human authority alone; and in regard thereto, as in all things else, the writer submits himself without reserve to the infallible judgment of the Apostolic See, which alone has power and authority to pronounce as to whom rightly belong the character and title of Saint or Blessed.
1st Edition - 15,000
1959, DIVINE WORD PUBLICATIONS, Techny, Illinois
The relentless pattern really began with the birth of "her first child, whom she dedicated to the first mystery of the Rosary. She continued this practice until she had a complete Rosary-family, one child for each of the fifteen decades. Rose was dedicated to the Crucifixion!
Father Boyer, the biographer of Rose Ferron, who gave her touching story to the world in his book entitled, She Wears A Crown of Thorns, relates that Rose was a bright and alert child, always ready to skip and play, and no less inclined to pray.
"At the age of three," he discloses, "she had taken a particular liking to St. Anthony of Padua. If someone of the household lost something, she claimed the privilege of invoking her favorite Saint and with his help she always found ·that which was lost."
This unusual spiritual development at three is not astonishing. St. Therese was the same age when she resolved never to deny the good God anything. Little Rose was blessed with similar graces in infanthood. By the time she was four she had a vision of the Child Jesus.
"I saw Him," she said, "with a cross; He was looking at me with grief in His eyes."
This was the beginning of the mystical life of Marie Rose Ferron.
The Mystical Cross
As she had the day off Rose volunteered to carry a hot dinner to her father. Missing the trolley she walked both ways to and from the other end of town and was caught in the slush of a sudden spring thaw. Her feet were soaked and by evening she was running a temperature. In the morning her condition was much worse, and the family prepared to make a fight for her life. Rose recovered eventually but was left with a paralyzed right hand and left foot, necessitating the use of crutches.
It was ten years since Jesus had favored Rose with visits and special graces. The intervening years had been spent in ecstatic prayer. Now the time for preparation arrived. In the designs of Jesus the time of pruning had come. His bride entered upon the dark night of the spirit.
Why should a girl of thirteen, inexperienced, untutored, be selected for such an intense trial? Her devotion was deep and genuine, her desire to become a nun was intense. For what reason did Jesus frustrate her designs and lead her into complete darkness-of soul? Defeat of her ambitions, annihilation of her aspiration, crucifixion of her inner self - all stepping stones to sanctity, atonement for the sins of her fellowmen.
The night of the spirit is a cloud of darkness which humbles, enlightens, and purifies the soul. When the light of pure faith pierced the soul of Little Rose she was dismayed, crushed, confused.
Rose gives us an insight into her own feelings, as told to Father Boyer, "When I was seventeen, one summer day, as the windows were open, I heard someone chattering and laughing down below. I leaned forward to see what was going on. There were a number of girls of my age, my friends and sisters were there. They were all dressed up in their Sunday clothes and leaving for the church. I heard them laugh from the window, they chatted, laughed and joked. The life that bubbled from those young girls seemed to be the best the world could give, and when I contrasted their condition with mine, I was literally crushed. I saw myself, miserable, destitute, God-forsaken; I thought of my infirmities, of my crutches. I was heart-broken. I wept bitterly. Oh, if you only knew how I felt."
Nor was the extent of her physical disabilities the worst of her problems. She was practically without education and therefore had not the pleasures which the arts and sciences can bring to the bed of an invalid. "I felt as if I were blind," Rose reveals, "and groping in the dark, with nothing to look for and no hope to better my situation. My ignorance was constantly before me, and depressed me more than my
infirmities. Time that smooths out everything, even our sorrows, increased mine, they broke my heart. And to my confusion the very thought of my misfortune would cause tears to stream down my cheeks."
At the very time the rebellion of the Sentinellists against Bishop Hickey was at white-heat. Jean-Baptiste Ferron, for some strange reason, decided that he could better the economic condition of his family by moving to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The "Rose" of the French Canadians was being transferred to the flames of dissension which were flaring out of control in the diocese in which her father decided to settle.
No one realized the significance of this move at the time, in the year 1925, but Father Boyer was to point it out later in his biography of Rose, She Wears A Crown of Thorns.
"Whenever the Church is in need or in peril," he writes, "God in His mercy sends His messengers in the person of mystics; they are the victims, willing to satisfy the justice of God; they are the lightning rods that ward off the thunderbolts of heaven. Such were the vocations of Marie de Vallee. Louise Lateau, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, Catherine Emmerich, Maria Taigi, and St. Collette. Such also was the vocation of 'Little Rose' for the diocese of Providence.
The early days in Providence were unnatural ones for a young girl. She was lost without her old friends. Her brothers and sisters could go out and make new friends, while Rose was left at home, crippled and alone. Her new pastor, Father Gauthier taught her how to suffer for God and be reconciled to His will. To help matters along, Rose began to have visions again.
In one she saw a soul imprisoned in a body. The more the body was tortured, lacerated and soiled, the more the soul became pure, healthy, and holy. "It made me realize," she said, "that the health of the soul depends on the sacrifices endured in the body."
It was in this way Rose learned her fate, but as yet she did not know why-not until she had a visit from Bishop Hickey. He had prayed for help, Rose Ferron was sent to' him. He learned of the little mystic from the priests who attended her. She became his hope of bringing peace to his strife-torn diocese. .
Bishop Hickey knew that Rose was a victim soul, chosen by Christ to pray and suffer for the conversion of the Sentinellists. 'When they were alone he unburdened himself, broke down and wept like a child as he said, "My child, will you suffer for the diocese of 'Providence, for the priest, and for those I was obliged to punish?"
"Your Excellency, I will do what you want," Rose replied instantly. :'1 am willing to suffer as you wish and" for the return of those you have excommunicated. I accept at once. It will be my mission to pray for their return."
Overwhelmed with emotion Bishop Hickey walked out of her room. He could not trust himself to words. And Rose had to be given time to consider the extraordinary proposal. But Rose did not need time; she had already made up her mind. When the Bishop returned to her she gave him definite assurance of her readiness to pray and suffer for the conversion of the Sentinellists.
The task that lay before her was not so easy. Little Rose silently opposed a movement of her own people. Among the French Catholics there was a rumor of a National Church afloat and many believed it. Rose fully knew these French Catholics for she was one of them by blood and inheritance. She realized that speedy action and, especially, much patient suffering was needed to defeat this movement.
When St. Therese of Lisieux said that more souls are converted through patient suffering than by brilliant sermons, the saint merely stated a principle of Catholic Action. Little Rose accepted this principle and offered up her suffering for the return of the 56 church members already excommunicated. Quite correctly, she judged, that if, by God's grace these leaders of the movement would be converted, the movement itself would become a lost cause. Therefore she pleaded with Jesus:
"Take my speech away, if that will help... take my eyes... take my mind... take everything I have and cherish... I am willing to suffer until the last one returns, even a hundred years, if you wish it."
And what was the result of her sufferings and acts of total oblation? Would the pride of the opposition be broken by the humility of a helpless victim soul? Little Rose was waiting, hoping, praying. Soon there came a calm over the camp of the opposition. The Sentinellists began to realize the seriousness of the situation. Their stubborn resistance would lead only to spiritual tragedy. 'Would it not be easier to submit to Bishop Hickey and thus obtain pardon and absolution?
Divine grace, obtained through the prayers and sufferings of Little Rose, gradually enlightened their minds and softened their rebellious hearts. From the first to the last, they finally bowed their heads and their submission to lawful authority, they obtained forgiveness for their revolt and resultant scandal.
After the fight was over, Little Rose gave this version to Father Leonard, "The people do not know Bishop Hickey; I know him, he has a good heart. And Mr. Daignault is a good Catholic. Both mean well. Out of this conflict, both sides will reap good fruits, and with Jesus I rejoice."
A Victim Soul
In his biography of Little Rose, Father O.A. Boyer, S.T.L. enumerates in great. detail and with minute precision the various extraordinary mystical phenomena with which the soul of Little Rose seemed to be adorned. He devotes a chapter to her abstinence and spiritual gifts. Another chapter treats of her ecstatic phenomena, and still another of her stigmatization.
Too much emphasis should not be placed upon these unusual gifts as in themselves they do not make Rose a saint. The fact that she was an American stigmatist is interesting but not decisive for her sanctity. Sanctity consists in the possession of sanctifying grace. The greater the degree of sanctifying grace in the soul, the greater is this sanctity. Little Rose was saintly because of the exceptional degree in which she loved God and her neighbor.
Little Rose was also a mystic. To be a mystic one must be a great lover of God and man. Mysticism, or contemplation, has its degrees of intensity. The first degree of mysticism reveals itself in the passive realization of God's presence. The second degree affords a person a passive awareness of his union with God. In the third degree the soul reaches ecstatic union with God. But in the fourth degree, in the union of transformation, the soul has the passive experience of her permanent espousal to Christ.
appeared to Little Rose in her infancy, these appearances preparing her for ecstatic
union with Christ. Finally, after the dark night of her spirit, she achieved the
highest mystical union. Apparently, this happened some seven years before her death.
The extraordinary gifts which accompanied this degree of union accredited her as
Christ's chosen victim.
To be a victim of Divine Love is to surrender oneself to suffering of every kind. Nothing leads so quickly and safely to Divine Love as cheerful and joyful suffering. St. Therese of Lisieux understood this principle in all its perfection because she wrote: "To offer oneself as a victim to Divine Love is not to offer oneself to sweetness to consolation; but to every anguish, every bitterness, for love lives only by sacrifice; and the more a soul wills to be surrendered to love, the more must she be surrendered to suffering."
Little Rose, too, was convinced that suffering was her vocation, because Christ had chosen her to be His victim. In the beginning of her victim life she suffered with sadness, then by slow paces became a cheerful victim. Finally, she suffered with joy for the ransom of the souls. On February 5th, 1932, she wrote: "I will pray hard and my suffering will be always for souls. I give myself to our dear Jesus to do with me just as He pleases. '...I must ask you to pray for a very important intention. It is for souls and at any price I must have these. They are so dear to God."
Sister Mary Angela, one of her many visitors, testifies to the joyfulness and abandon with which Little Rose endured her sufferings. "Sadness and suffering had not embittered her," Sister Mary Angela declared in writing;" "though she had been suffering about ten years, and atrociously. She was always smiling, cheerful, even radiant." Sister claims that "in this respect Little Rose resembled the Little Flower of Jesus, St. Therese of Lisieux.
As a stigmatic, Little Rose was acquainted with intense suffering. The kind Sophie Daleiden, of Chicago, Illinois, who visited Rose frequently, gives this account, "I have seen not only the wounds in her head and breast, I have also seen her sweat blood, her eyes filled with blood, her cheeks full of bloody sweat, also her nose and mouth filled with blood. But throughout all her sufferings Rose kept a sweet, childlike directness and simplicity toward God.
During her agony on Friday one could hear her sing, only after Our Lord must have asked her for the third time. She answered twice that she was too weak and could not, but it seemed that Our Lord insisted; then she said that she would if He would help her. Her mother translated French into English, so that one could understand. She sang most beautifully and clear. She generally sang a hymn to her Jesus, one to his Mother, and one-to St. Joseph, His foster father."
The first stigmatic phenomenon appeared during Lent in 1927. Rose was twenty-five years old at the time. It made its appearance in the form of the Scourging. Two days later the wounds in the hands and feet appeared. When her mother discovered them she sent for the parish priest in her agony. When Father Boyer heard of the strange happenings, he visited the invalid girl in the company of the parish priest. He was to be one of Rose's most steadfast friends and spiritual advised, He made records and copied statements in addition to-making his own minute investigations of Rose, her spiritual state, experience, sufferings, ecstasies, and of her wounds.
of the heart came later; was about three and one half inches long and one-half inch
wide. It was the most painful of them all. The wound of the lance in the back was
exactly opposite that of the heart.
The stigmata of the thorn did not make its appearance until January 1928. Four little holes appeared in her forehead, two in front and one in each temple. Others developed gradually until she was unable to
rest her head on the pillow and generally rested with her arm under her neck. The thorn stigmata never entirely disappeared; It was always to be seen if Rose uncovered her head. In all her pictures her head is always bandaged. This was necessary as a red serum oozed from the wounds. The stigmata eventually developed into a crown like two heavy cords or branches encircling her head. The branches were outlined and intersected over each stigmata. After her death a photograph of Rose was taken on which the crown is plainly visible.
The wound on the shoulder was not always the same size but like all the others it pained a great deal. There was also a wound on her forehead which started near the hairline and ran down to the top of her nose dividing the forehead into two equal parts. Some of Rose's stigmata came to stay and were always with her, while other parts appeared only on Friday and disappeared the next day. All of the wounds were very painful on Fridays during Lent. Her sufferings became especially terrible as Good Friday approached. On that day her sufferings seemed to be beyond human endurance and she experienced terrible hemorrhages.
Rose was not the only victim in the Ferron household. Mrs. Ferron was the victim of her own vocation as a mother and housewife, as she gave birth to Rose and cared for her with true Christian fortitude during the long years of suffering.
Unlike Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Ferron were not sheltered in a private room, away from the enmities of the people. They had to go out on the streets, to church, to work, to market. They met neighbors, friends and enemies of their saintly daughter. Not everyone believed in Little Rose. Some said the stigmata were a trick, others charged Rose was hysterical and imagined things. The Ferron parents found it hard to bear such criticism of their saintly daughter.
The visits of Bishop Hickey to the Ferron household did little to add to the popularity of Rose among the Sentinellists, the very people for whom she was suffering, for whom she was offering herself as a victim to Christ.
Bishop Hickey was also a Victim. He, too, because of his vocation as a Catholic Bishop of Providence, was a victim in the hands of Christ for the salvation of the souls entrusted to his care.
In fact, every priest, diocesan or religious, has the two-fold vocation of priest and victim. Since Christ, the High Priest, was both priest and victim, it is clear that those who share in His priesthood have definite call to victimhood. Religious, too, because of their three vows are victims of Christ, the universal Victim of mankind.
Christ is in need of millions of victims who are willing to sacrifice, to suffer with Him for the salvation of erring souls. It was to enlist them that Christ addressed Sister Josefa Menendez in 1923 in the following words, "I need victims to repair the bitterness inflicted on My Heart and to relieve My sorrow. How great is the number of sins committed! .... How many souls that are lost." (Way of Divine Love, p.256.)
There are more than two billion souls outside the Catholic Fold. Christ invites each and "every one of us to become a little victim for the salvation of souls. You can do this if you keep your soul in the state of grace, if you suffer patiently whatever Divine Providence sends you, and if you offer your daily prayers for the intentions of the Sacred Heart in union with His Sorrowful Mother. This spiritual program will enable you to imitate Little Rose in her victim-life and bring untold blessings upon your own soul.
The Character of Rose
Defining the character of Little Rose is a very intricate problem as Rose was a mystic and mystics are not easily understood or evaluated. The major motives for their conduct are often hidden from the eyes of their admirers and seldom come to the surface. This is natural as the term mysticism implies something hidden, mysterious, and indefinable.
Rose seemed to have been fundamentally humble. But what is humility? This virtue is not easily defined because of its many semblances. The simplest definition is humility is truth. If we are truthful in our thoughts, words and actions, we are really humble. This implies the full realization of our nothingness and our complete submission to God. Little Rose was truly humble because from her infancy she lived in complete submission to her Jesus.
After Jesus became her personal Teacher during her ecstasies, Rose deepened her submission to Him Who asks us all to learn from Him. All that Rose wanted in this world was to be unknown, the least of all. "I don't want to expose myself and draw attention," she said many times, "for I do not know what will become of me. I am diffident of myself." She fully realized the danger of pride, since it pollutes the mystical life.
Diffident of herself and fearful of pride, Rose was prompted to ask Our Lord that her sufferings might not appear, that her stigmata would disappear. Christ finally granted her this request. Father Boyer gives a vivid and touching pen sketch of the humility of Little Rose:
"Humility and generosity mingled with a sense of humor made Rose one of the most charming characters you could meet," he wrote in his volume, She Wears a Crown of Thorns. "Her modesty and her deep humility, together with a fear of vanity, kept her from making a show of herself. Although she pretended not to believe in her ecstasies and would speak of them as dreams, nevertheless her parents were told to keep everybody away when she was in that. state. And she used still more prudence in the case of her stigmata. She was constantly holding back the curiosity of visitors, who were at times, ruthless, vulgar and boorish in their demands, and it was a most painful task for this delicate soul."
Another visitor who understood the character of Rose better perhaps than the majority of those acquainted with her, was Sister Mary Angela. Her account of the Ferrons is also charming. She relates, "I found both Mrs. Ferron and Rose very charming, simple, and friendly. The smile of Mrs. Ferron was something that I shall never forget."
In this respect Little Rose was a worthy companion of Theresa Neumann whose visits are usually impressed by her great humility and simplicity. Father Leonard gives us the following interesting account:
I learned this October 23, 1930, that a man from South Carolina had visited Theresa Neuman on a Friday and without knowing him she said, 'Why are you here? Why don't you go and see my little sister Rose Ferron, in your own country? Go and see her.' It's not so far as coming here.' And she gave Rose's address. After his arrival in New York, this man came to Woonsocket on a Friday. After explaining matters, the family called up Father X to ask If they should let him in; ...with his permission, he was allowed to see her. The stranger came out in tears, saying, 'I have seen as much here as in Konnerseuth.' The same fact was mentioned at the Ferron's while I was there the following November."
Though Little Rose never reached the fame which Theresa Neumann possesses, we may call her a true sister of Sister Neumann. Both are mystics of a high order who have accomplished much for the conversion of sinners by their prayers and sufferings.
Her Death and Intercession
In her union with Christ Little Rose was nailed to the cross with Him. For His intentions she suffered many agonies during her short life. She was thirty-three years of age when she died.
Rose knew that she was going to die at this age. She learned this truth on April 13, 1929 during an ecstasy witnessed by five persons. Father Boyer relates that she asked Christ how long she had to suffer and repeated the answer aloud, saying, "Seven Years." Then she counted on her fingers how old she would be at that time and stopped at thirty-three.
It seemed that Our Lord asked her if that was too long a time to wait for death as she replied readily, almost eagerly, "Oh no, come and get me when you want. I am willing to suffer a hundred years if you wish. It is my sacrifice."
From the time she was stricken with paralysis at the age of thirteen until she died at thirty-three, the intervening twenty years had been filled with a series of diverse illnesses and afflictions.
Father Boyer relates that on April 30, 1936, her sufferings appeared to be worse than ever. She could neither hear nor speak, and since Holy Week had been unable to see. No one could relieve her as there was no way of knowing what she wanted. She had a serious hemorrhage on that day which caused her to lose a great deal of blood. Her appearance, like her sickness, was continually changing for the worse. On May 2nd Father Raiche was called and she received the Last Sacraments.
Rose lingered until May 11th, 1936 when death seemed evident. She passed away shortly after the prayers for the dying had been completed, her white soul winging from her bed of martyrdom to the celestial regions.
The funeral of Little Rose was a spectacular event. From Tuesday noon when the body was laid out in the casket in her home, up to the time of the funeral, almost 20,000 mourners viewed the remains. 15,000 signed the register outside the sanctuary like room in which Rose was laid. Many of the mourners were nuns. On the night before the funeral the throngs surrounding the Ferron home were so great that the city had to detail special police to maintain order and reroute traffic. It was cold and raining, yet the long lines of people never wavered in the desire to look upon the radiant countenance. of the dead mystic.
An account of the funeral of Little Rose was carried in The Tribune, a secular newspaper: "More than 4,000 persons today attended the funeral of Miss Rose Ferron who according to popular belief, bore the stigmata of Christ upon her body. The funeral of the devoutly religious invalid drew as much attention as the mysterious nature of her affliction. The large church was filled long before the cortege left the Ferron home. Six ladies bore the casket. It was an unusual spectacle that attracted no little attention. The ladies were Children of Mary, all dressed in white, each had a lily in one hand and with the other assisted in carrying the casket. When the hearse arrived at the church and the body was borne into it, hundreds, unable to get into the edifice, for Mass, knelt on the steps or sidewalks as the body passed them."
More than 200 automobiles accompanied the funeral procession from the church to the Cemetery of the Precious Blood.
Her intercession in heaven began with her death. The moment she passed away; a friend was suddenly cured. This friend, who had been suffering for several years with an issue of blood, had implored Rose for relief and made Rose promise that as soon as she would be in heaven, she would touch the hem of Our Lord's garment for her. Shortly after Rose died this friend was cured suddenly and has remained well ever since.
Since the day Rose died innumerable favors have been obtained, some being very remarkable. A woman suffering from cancer claimed she was healed. Another suffering from infantile paralysis claims a cure. Within a year of her death prayers were composed asking her intercession and begging God that she might be known. The following novena prayers are for private use.
Novena to Little Rose Ferron
O’ Lord, in these days wherein souls are hungering for pleasure and devoured by greed, who refuse to renounce themselves, to take up Thy Cross and follow Thee, Thou hast raised in our midst Little Rose, who during her life has kept her eyes on Thy Passion and responding to her calling, she became a Victim, so that she might, as St. Paul, complete in herself the things that were wanting in Thy sufferings.
Touched with this excess of charity and spirit of renunciation in a world of ingratitude, Thou has vouchsafed, O’ Lord, presumably as a sign of approval, to stigmatize Thy servant with Thine own sacred wounds.
We beseech Thee, O’ Lord, make known the powerful intercession of Thy servant, by hearing the prayers we are saying in union with hers, and grant not only the petition of this Novena, but also the grace to follow Thee, Who art the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.
In union of prayer with Little Rose, be in our midst, O’ Lord.
By the intercession of Little Rose, hear us, O’ Lord.
By the merits of Thy Passion, be propitious to us, O’ Lord.
By Thy most Sacred Wounds, have mercy on us, O’ Lord.
IMPRIMI POTEST: Nicholas Bisheimer, S.V.D.
NIHIL OBSTAT: Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. Gerald Kealy, D.D.
IMPRIMATUR: + Albert G. Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago, December 11, 1958
For more detailed information on Marie Rose Ferron see also my other articles entitled:
Also see the excellent two part article: "Marie Rose Ferron -An American Mystic and Stigmatic" and for more photos see Marie Rose Ferron -A Photo Documentary"