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and one o'clock on Thursday night. It continues all day on Friday, and generally ceases towards evening; though it has sometimes lasted up to midnight. The quantity of blood that comes is variable. Before the Ecstasy first appeared it was generally more copious than it is now. The earliest witnesses computed the amount, on some days, at about a quart. When Doctor Lefebvre came into attendance, he tried to make a more exact estimate: but he found it difficult to do so, because the blood is always absorbed by the linen cloths in which the bleeding members are enveloped. He states, however, with confidence, that, on several days, the quantity could not have been less than two hundred and fifty grammes;-about nine ounces avoirdupois, or nearly half a pint of liquid measure.
In order to understand exactly the way in which the blood flows from the Stigmas, it is necessary to bear in mind that the skin of the human body consists of two distinct layers. The upper layer, which constitutes the actual surface of the body, is called the epidermis, or over-skin; the under layer is called the dermis, or true skin. The former is a thin semitransparent membrane, composed of minute horny particles, which are constantly passing off in the form of little scales, and are as constantly renewed. It is quite insensible to pain, and does not bleed when cut. The dermis is thicker, very sensitive, and bleeds freely.
In the case of a blister this distinction between the upper and the under skin, is very clearly brought out; the former being separated from the latter, and swelled out, by a quantity of watery liquid which is forced in between them. Every one knows that the membrane thus puffed out may be cut or torn, without drawing blood, or causing any pain. But when this is removed, and the liquid matter flows away, the under skin is seen below, very tender, and traversed by a vast number of minute blood vessels.
Now it is precisely in the form of blisters that the first symptoms of an approaching flow of blood show themselves in the case of Louise Lateau. These symptoms generally begin to appear, about the middle of the day, on Thursday. Without any apparent cause, the epidermis of each Stigma is separated from the dermis, and a watery liquid is interposed between them. A blister is thus established in each case, of exactly the same form and extent as its corresponding Stigma. This blister continues to rise until it attains its full development: then, contrary to what happens in the case of an ordinary blister, it burst open of itself; the watery liquid passes off; and the blood begins to flow from the true skin underneath.
As to the coronet around the head, it consists of a large number of bleeding points which are visible on Fridays only, and which present an appearance peculiar to themselves. They cannot be conveniently examined under the hair. But on the forehead, where they are from twelve to fifteen in number, they form a band about an inch wide, midway between the roots of the hair and the eyebrows. There is no permanent discoloration of the surface, no appearance of a blister, no exposure of the under skin. But, with the aid of a magnifying glass, it is possible to detect exceedingly minute punctures of the epidermis, through which the blood escapes.
There can be little doubt that the bleeding of the Stigmas is a source of pain, though Louise never speaks of it. During the Ecstasy, indeed, she is probably unconscious of pain, as she is of every other bodily sensation. But before the Ecstasy has set in, and after it has ceased, Doctor Lefebvre is convinced that she suffers acutely; judging as well from pathological considerations, as from the expression and movements of her
Towards evening on Friday, the bleeding usually stops; but not always at the same hour. On the next day, the Stigmas are dry and somewhat glossy. Here and there may be observed some scales of dried blood, but they are soon cast off : and a new epidermis is furnished by Nature instead of that which was destroyed. Early in the morning Louise is at her ordinary work: and she only interrupts her work, to go to hear Mass, and to receive Holy Communion at the Parish Church.
§ 4. THE ECSTASY.
The Ecstasy, at present, begins between nine and ten o'clock on Friday morning, and lasts until about five in the afternoon : formerly, it used to begin one or two hours earlier, and last one or two hours later. Louise, being unfit for work on Friday, on account of the bleeding Stigmas, is generally at her prayers when the Ecstacy comes on. But it comes on, all the same, even though she be engaged in distracting conversation. Doctor Lefebvre has been present on many an occasion of this kind: and of one, in particular, he has given us a very exact record.
"It is half-past seven in the morning. I open a conversation with the girl, and I make it a point to engage her attention with things the most indifferent. I ask her about her Occupations, her education, her health. She answers my questions simply, exactly, briefly. During the course of this conversation, her look is calm, the expression of her face is natural, and it wears its accustomed colour. Her skin is
cool: her pulse beats seventy-two in the minute. After some time the conversation languishes, and there is a pause of a few moments. I wish to begin again, but I perceive that Louise is motionless, with her eyes raised up and fixed in contemplation. She is rapt in Ecstasy."
An account very similar to this, and written, like it, on the spot, is given to us by Doctor Imbert Gourbeyre, professor in the medical school of Clermont, in Auvergne. "I had been examining and questioning Louise," he says, "for an hour and a quarter. My last question was about the cholera patients whom she had attended. She told me she had seen nine or ten of them die. I ask her if she was afraid. She answers that she was not. Are you then fond of nursing the sick?' I say; and I go on writing this question, with my eyes fixed on the paper. Louise gives no answer. I look up at her, and see that she is already in her Ecstasy."
In the summer of 1869, Louise was directed by her spiritual superiors, to resist the Ecstasy, as far as lay in her power. This course was considered desirable for the purpose of a strict investigation of her case, from a Theological point of view. It was even prescribed that, on Friday mornings, she was to remain at her ordinary work, whatever difficulty or pain she might experience in doing so. About this time, the Bishop of British Columbia, Doctor d'Herbomez, obtained permission from the ecclesiastical authorities to see the Ecstatica: and he presented himself at the house, attended by the Abbé Mortier, on Friday, the thirteenth of August, about eight o'clock in the morning.
When he entered, Louise was at work with the sewing machine. Her hands and feet were bleeding profusely. On her forehead, too, and round her head, in a complete circle, blood was flowing copiously, and it was streaming down over her face and neck. The sewing machine was covered with it; and only by the most painful exertions, was the poor girl able to continue her work. The Bishop entered into conversation with her, and asked her some questions. She answered with her usual quietness of manner, and with perfect intelligence; going on meanwhile with her task, according to the instructions she had received. All at once, the machine stopped short: her hands were still her body motionless. The work had ceased, the Ecstasy begun.
The condition of Louise during the time of Ecstasy has been already partly described. But some points, well worthy of record, have fallen under the observation of Doctor Lefebvre, during the long period of his attendance, which could not be noted in a single short visit. He tells us that the
attitude as well as the countenance of the Ecstatica undergoes many and frequent changes. Now her body moves slowly round, as on a pivot, and her eyes seem to follow the progress of some invisible procession: anon she rises from her seat, advances a few steps, and raises up her hands in prayer. At one moment, her features expand, and a smile of delight plays across her face: at another, her eyelids fall, her features contract, and tears roll down her cheeks: again, she trembles and grows pale; an expression of terror is depicted on her countenance; and a stifled cry escapes from her lips.
Most startling and solemn of all is the closing scene of the Ecstasy. The Ecstatic girl rises, with a bound, from the floor, on which she has lain so long prostrate. Her pulse, which in the early stages was healthy and regular, beating seventy-five strokes a minute, has gradually become extremely rapid, and at the same time feeble. It is now hardly perceptible, and, when distinct enough to be counted, is found to be going at the rate of a hundred and twenty to the minute. Her breathing, too, has got fainter and fainter, and often cannot be recognised at all, except by having recourse to artificial means of observation. Death at length seems to be approaching. The body is cold: the eyes are closed: the head falls down on the chest. A deadly pallor overspreads the face, and a cold sweat breaks out through the skin: even the rattle comes in her throat.
This condition lasts about ten minutes; and then the current of life flows back. The body gets warm: the pulse revives the cheeks resume their wonted colour: the contracted face expands again. Then the reanimated girl looks gently round; her eyes fall softly first on one, then on another of the familiar objects around; and the Ecstasy is over.
No one who has seen Louise in her Ecstasy, or who, without having seen her, gives any credit to the facts which have been just set forth, can doubt for a moment that, while she remains unconscious of the visible world around her, she is actively engaged in the contemplation of another world, which is vividly present to her mind. At all events the fact is so. And furthermore, she carries back from her Ecstasy a lively recollection of the scenes she has witnessed. She does not, indeed, talk of them freely: but, under the command of her Bishop, she answers Doctor Lefebvre with precision and simplicity, whenever he examines her about them. Her account is, that as soon as the Ecstasy comes on, she finds herself plunged in a sea of light: then figures begin to appear; and
the various scenes of the Passion are enacted before her eyes. Not a word is spoken that she can hear: but the processions move sadly along, as if in living reality. The Apostles are there, and the Jews, the Roman soldiers, the holy women. She sees the Saviour, too, and can describe minutely his appearance, his clothes, his wounds, the crown of thorns, the cross.
But it would seem that Louise is favoured, in her Ecstasy, with a still higher degree of illumination, akin to the spirit of prophecy. While she remains insensible to every other voice, she recognises at once, and obeys, the voice of one who has spiritual jurisdiction over her ;-whether it be her Bishop, her parish priest, or any other priest to whom, for the occasion, jurisdiction has been given, unknown to her. In like manner, sacred objects of any kind, presented to her lips,-blessed beads, or medals, or crosses,—are sure to bring a smile of joy over her face: while the very same material things, if not blessed, produce no effect whatever. This prophetic instinct, as it may be called, has been often tested, and never known to fail. On one remarkable occasion, it was manifested in a very wonderful way indeed.
The reader will remember that Louise was visited, one Friday in August, by Doctor d'Herbomez, Bishop of British Columbia, attended by the Abbé Mortier; and that she passed into her Ecstasy, on that day, whilst at work with her sewing machine. Her distinguished visitors, having seen the Ecstasy thus wonderfully begin, resolved to remain throughout the day, and to watch its progress. About ten o'clock the Curé of the parish came in. He had been attending a sick woman in the neighbourhood; and had with him, enclosed in a silk bag, a small silver case, called a Pyx, in which he had carried the Blessed Sacrament to her house. In the same bag was another silver case, which contained the Holy Oil used for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
As the Curé had taken but a single consecrated Host from the Church, and had given that to the sick woman, he believed that the Pyx was now empty and it occurred to him that he might, without irreverence, employ the silk bag, with the two sacred vessels it contained, as a test for Louise. Accordingly, he took it out, just as it was, and gave it to the Abbé Mortier, who wished to make the experiment. The result was far more striking than had been expected. Before the Abbé Mortier had come within two yards of the chair on which the ecstatic girl was seated, she started up, as in a transport of joy, and fell on her knees in adoration. The Abbé retired a little she followed him. He retired further: she followed still. And so he drew her round the room.