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PRIESTS SAID TO BEAR THE WOUNDS OF CHRIST RISE AS MYSTERIOUS NEW SIGN
In recent years a new phenomenon has developed: the claim that certain priests have stigmata, the mystical wounds of Christ. This is interesting because while many have reported the phenomenon of stigmata through the centuries (and dozens in just the past several years), it's unusual for a priest to bear this phenomenon. Indeed, we have seen an estimate of at least 321 major stigmatists since the time of St. Francis, but until the 20th century, when Blessed Padre Pio of Italy (who hopefully will be canonized next September), burst upon the scene, there were no known stigmatic priests -- or at least such is the common wisdom.
We believe there have been more than that through history, and they're certainly around today. One of them is James Bruse of St. Francis de Sales parish in Kilmarnock, Virginia, about 60 miles northeast of Richmond.
The phenomena around him began ten years ago this week, when, on November 28, 1991, droplets of water welled in the eyes of a statue in the home of his parents. It was a statue of Our Lady of Grace. Soon, dozens of other statues began to weep anytime the priest was around, and thousands saw it. Interestingly, this was in a diocese that includes the FBI academy, a Marine base, and the Pentagon. It had started at a point in his life when Father Bruse, a young priest, began to question whether he should be a priest at all.
The day after Christmas that year, Father Bruse complained of sharp pains in his wrists, and before long blood appeared to seep from unbroken skin on his wrists, feet, and right side. Meanwhile the phenomena included statues that not only wept but changed color-- followed by healing and the fruit the Church looks for: conversions.
"There were spiritual and physical healings," said Father Bruse. "Then there were people coming back to the Church. If that's what the Lord wanted, He got it."
Father Bruse strictly obeyed his superiors, and at the height of the phenomena was under the strict control of the bishop. At one point, a statue wept in the bishop's very office. There was at least one claim of a bilocation in connection with Father Bruse (something that was frequently claimed for Padre Pio), and other unusual phenomena. He approaches these matters in a low-key, humble, and circumspect fashion.
He is a pastor now, and takes care of two churches, and so his energy, to a large extent, has been diverted but the feeling -- the sensation of speaking with a holy man -- is still there. He is near the Chesapeake Bay, and says the more recent phenomena have involved rosaries turning color, which is also reported at Medjugorje.
As we said, there are many laymen and women who claim stigmata. There are dozens in North America alone. We've seen it ourselves. We've been in the presence of one alleged mystic when blood began to appear on the forehead. But why are priests now experiencing it? Is it just that it now receives attention, and that in the past it was kept quiet by bishops?
Indeed, Father Bruse's bishop attempted to keep it low-key, but so many people experienced phenomena that it even made the cover of U.S. News and World Report. The healings have included a girl who recovered from partial blindness and a tumor.
What does it mean?
"Something is getting ready to happen," believes Father Bruse. "The Lord is just making us aware that He is there and He is real." As for our times and especially what has happened recently, in New York as well as the Pentagon: "I see that as something getting ready to happen. I think it's a major wake-up call that's going on, and I think that all that I see -- the weird temperature, the polar caps, the earthquakes -- there's a lot going on and I think we should all be prepared. I really do. I've had a lot more come back to church and Confession. I think it's all different than a few years back. I think we're in a different era now."
Whatever doubts about God he may have had, or at least about the priesthood, are gone. "We don't have to worry about what's beyond death," he was reportedly to have said. "We know. It's total love. Christ is the real power behind all these phenomena. Christ is preparing us for the Kingdom of God, saying 'be prepared,' but shouting it out now. It's as if Christ is saying 'wake up! Let's get moving on our spirituality.' I believe it's building up to something big."
[We'll keep you posted on Father Bruse and the other stigmatists as information warrants]
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