The Crown of Thorns
Like the Stigmata, the Crown of Thorns is a extraordinary mystical gift of God given to select victim souls, that they might participate more fully in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners. A good portion of the Stigmatics have also bore the Crown of Thorns, such as St Julian of Norwich, St Catherine of Siena, Domenica Lazzeri [who's crown of thorns puncture wounds were once counted and there were exactly 40 puncture wounds], Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and Therese Neumann to name just a few.
One very recent American mystic who lived in Woonsocket, Rhode Island named Marie Rose Ferron (1902-1936) was given the Crown of Thorns along with the Stigmata beginning in 1927. [Marie Rose Ferron is pictured with the Crown of Thorns marks visible in the photo above] Her case was studied extensively by numerous persons, including physicians, clergy and others from various backgrounds. One of her spiritual directors, Father Onesime Boyer wrote a popular book about Marie Rose entitled “She Wears a Crown of Thorns”, Benzinger Brothers, 1946. Concerning Rose and the Crown of Thorns we read:
“On January 10, 1928, I [Father Boyer] received a letter stating:
‘Rose has four little holes in her forehead, two in front and one in each temple; she feels as if her head were breaking open. Father Paradis and Mr. G. L. Desaulniers were with us. For them, it was, without doubt, something supernatural. While she was speaking, she fainted away three times; her mother took advantage of it to show us her wounds: they were all bleeding.'
“Once I asked Rose how the thorn stigmata were made- I wanted to know whether she found them already made after ecstasy or if she could feel them developing. When I asked her that question she already had seven of them. 'During their development,' she said, 'I feel them active. The impression is that of a hair being tightly pressed against the skin and boring a hole, as a gimlet would do.' [A gimlet is a small hand tool used for drilling or boring small holes -ed.]
“The stigmata which Rose had in the back of her head, prevented it from resting on the pillow; so she was often seen with her arm under her neck; sometimes, it was replaced by small cushions. Frequently, she would use neither; her head then was bent forward, as though she had a kink in her neck. She was seen to remain for hours in that position. While it was depressing to see her that way, she never for a moment showed the least sign of discomfort. Even when the exterior signs of the other stigmata had disappeared, if she rested on her pillow, she felt the invisible thorns penetrating deeper.
The thorn stigmata never completely disappeared. When Rose uncovered her head, we could always see them, although they were not so active as before. But when her sufferings were at their height, the stigmata turned red and a kind of serum oozed from them.
On June 23, 1929, one of my correspondents wrote:
“A Missionary came to see Rose. While he was there, Dr. McLaughlin walked in. The Missionary wanted to see Rose's forehead, he thought it would help him during his missions. The Doctor said to her: ‘Rose, I do not want to hurt your feelings, but if you do not mind, I will show him your forehead.'
With her permission, he explained to the Missionary how he knew the ridges and punctures were the stigmata of the crown. ‘Never mind, Rose,' said the Doctor, ‘I will do my best for you, I will fight for you!'
"Towards the end of November, 1929, the writer [Father Boyer] was in Rose's room, waiting till she came out of ecstasy. There was a lady with us, who had been helping Mrs. Ferron to dress her. I was then told by the mother that Rose had a crown. 'It is like two heavy cords,' she said, 'that encircle her head.' The outlines of the crown were quite visible on Rose's bandage which she always wore tightly fitted to her forehead. I was offered to see them; but I refused, more to show her that I attached no great importance to such signs.
"On January 3, 1930, Father Leonard called on her. In his notebook, he tells us that the crown consisted of two branches well outlined, produced by heavy swelling of the flesh; they were an inch apart and intersected, over each stigma.
"When the stigma of the crown disappeared, one branch of it still remained, and although it was reduced in size, it was still very visible. After her death, a photograph was taken of Rose [see photo above]. An examination of the picture will give a good idea of what the crown looked like. The other branch, which was an inch away from the one which is visible, ran parallel to it, both crossing each other right above each stigma and then winding their way around the head. The fact that the branches of the crown appeared over a year after the thorn stigmata, and yet, were aligned with the latter in perfect symmetry is most remarkable. Out of that combination emerged a beautiful crown. The frontispiece is a reconstruction of the crown to show how it appeared in 1929.”
A thorn from Jesus' Crown pierces the head of St Rita
One of the Saints who experienced only one wound of the Crown of Thorns stigmata was St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457). One day, she went with the sisters of her convent to the Church of St. Mary to listen to a sermon preached by Bl. James of Mount Brandone. The Franciscan friar had a great reputation for learning and eloquence and spoke about the Passion and death of Jesus, with particular emphasis on the sufferings endured by our Saviour's Crown of Thorns. Moved to tears by his graphic account of these sufferings, she returned to the convent and retreated to a small private oratory, where she prostrated at the foot of a crucifix. Absorbed in prayer and grief she declined, out of humility, to ask for the visible wounds of the stigmata as had been given to St. Francis and other Saints, but asked instead for one of the thorns so that she could experience this suffering for love of our Saviour.
Concluding her prayer, she felt one of the thorns, like an arrow of love flung by Jesus, penetrate the flesh and bone in the middle of her forehead. The wound, in time, became ugly and revolting to some of the nuns, so that St. Rita remained in her cell for the next fifteen years of her life, suffering excruciating pain while engaged in divine contemplation. Added to the pain was the formation of little worms in the wound. At the time of her death a great light emanated from the wound on her forehead while the little worms were transformed into sparks of light. Even today the wound can still be seen on her forehead, since her body remains wonderfully incorrupt.
A more detailed explanation of the thorn in the forehead of St Rita can be found in the book “St Rita of Cascia” by Fr. Joseph Sicardo, O.S.A., Tan books:
“On one occasion there came to Cascia, to preach in the Church of St. Mary, a Franciscan friar named Blessed James of Mount Brandone. This good father had a great reputation for learning and eloquence, and his words had the power of moving the most hardened hearts. As St. Rita was desirous to hear so celebrated a preacher, she, accompanied by other nuns, went to the said church. The subject of Father James' sermon was the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. With words as if they were dictated by Heaven, the eloquent Franciscan told the old, old story ever new of the great sufferings of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But the dominant idea of all that the Franciscan said seemed to be cen¬tered in the excessive sufferings caused by the crown of thorns.
"The words of the preacher penetrated deeply into the soul of St. Rita, they filled her heart to overflowing with sadness, tears were in her eyes, and she wept as if her sympathetic heart would break. When the sermon was over, St. Rita returned to the convent carrying in her bosom every word Father James had said concerning the crown of thorns. After making a visit to the Blessed Sacra¬ment, St. Rita retired to a small private oratory, in which today her body reposes, and, like the wounded heart that she was, desirous of drinking of the waters of the Lord to slake the thirst of the sufferings she anxiously coveted, she prostrated herself at the foot of a crucifix and began to meditate on the pains our Saviour suffered from the crown of thorns which penetrated deeply into His sacred temples. And, with the desire to suffer some of the pain her divine Spouse suffered, she asked Jesus to give her, at least, one of the many thorns of the crown of thorns that tormented His sacred head, saying to Him:
"Oh my God and crucified Lord! You who were innocent and without sin or crime! You who have suffered so much for love of me! You have suffered arrest, buffeting, insults, a scourging, a crown of thorns, and finally a cruel death on the Cross. Why do You wish that I, Your unworthy servant, who was the cause of Your sufferings and Your pains, should have no share in Your sufferings? Make me, Oh my sweet Jesus, a participant, if not of all of Your Passion, at least of a part of it. Recognizing my indignity and my unworthiness, I do not ask You to imprint on my body, as You did in the hearts of St. Augustine and St. Francis, the wounds that You still preserve as precious rubies in Heaven. I do not ask You to stamp Your holy Cross as You did in the heart of St. Monica. Nor do I ask You to form in my heart the instruments
of Your Passion, as You did in the heart of my holy sister St. Clare of Montefalco. I only ask You for one of the seventy-two thorns which pierced Your head and caused You so much pain, so that I may feel a part of the pain You felt. Oh my loving Saviour! Do not refuse me this favor. Do not deny me this grace. I will not leave here consoled, if You send me away without so desired a pledge of Your love."
"When St. Rita had concluded her prayerful peti¬tion, her divine Spouse, not wishing to resist any longer the desire of His faithful bride, granted her request. Making of His crown of thorns, so to speak, a bow, and of one of the thorns, an arrow, Jesus fired it at the forehead of St. Rita with such impetus and force that it penetrated the flesh and bone, and remained fixed in the middle of the forehead leaving a wound that lasted all of her life-and even to this day, the scar of the wound remains plainly visible. The pain that followed, when the thorn penetrated the forehead of St. Rita, was so acute and intense that she fell into a swoon, and she would have died then and there had not Jesus, who wounded her, preserved her life, so that she might feel, as she had earnestly desired, at least a part of the pains and torments of His Passion. On recovering herself and knowing that she had been favored with a signal and precious token, St. Rita returned fervent and heartfelt thanks to her divine Lover and Spouse.
"St. Rita left the oratory bearing on her forehead the sacred wound, and on her countenance evident signs of intense suffering. On seeing the wound, the nuns were more than surprised, but they were ignorant of the mystery. St. Rita, however, guardian of the royal secret and knowing how important it was to conceal the sacrament the Sovereign King had confided to her, hid it in her bosom and revealed it to no one.
"The pain caused by the wound increased day by day, and the wound itself assumed so ugly and revolt¬ing an appearance that St. Rita became an object of nausea to some of the nuns, who could not bear even to look at her. Not wishing to be the cause of the least inconvenience to the nuns, St. Rita re¬mained nearly all the time in her cell engaged in divine contemplation, and glorying, even in the midst of the pains of the wound caused by an arrow of divine love. Sometimes the nuns visited her in her cell, either to bring her some nourishment or to speak a few words with her, for they all loved her dearly. And as often as they came, they departed edified by her wonderful patience.
"But St. Rita was happy, even in the midst of her sufferings, and when she felt that her sufferings were becoming more intense, she said to her divine Spouse: "0 loving Jesus, increase my patience ac¬cording as my sufferings increase." This prayer, like all the prayers of St. Rita, was answered, and so great was her patience amidst all the pain she suffered that she called the little worms which were generated by the putrid humor of her wound, "her angels" -for they increased her sufferings when¬ever they moved or fed themselves on her tender and aching flesh, thus giving her new occasions to practice patience and to merit more and more the love and esteem of her divine Spouse, Jesus Christ.”
In closing, another excellent relatively recent description of the Crown of Thorns in the life of the 20th century Italian mystic St Gemma Galgani can be read here.
"...My heart bleeds under the weight of suffering but my will remains united to Yours, and I cry out to You: Lord it is for them that I want to suffer .... I wish to mingle my tears with Thy Precious Blood for the salvation of those I love!"
-Marie Rose Ferron