Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Teresa Higginson's experience of the fires of purgatory Part III

Bootle, May 18th, 1883

...The two flames of which I have spoken to you, although they burn and consume as it were the whole being and cause a most exquisite pain, yet they seem to regenerate and renew in a wonderful manner, I mean that the agony they cause is more than mortal, yet they produce a new life and cause a deep peace and sweet calm in which truths are seen and clearly understood, and things are measured and weighed according to their worth.  The light produced by these flames in the soul annihilates; it instructs the understanding and compels the heart to love God and souls so intensely that we do not know what to do with ourselves...

So long as these flames consume the soul there is no fear of anything but the deepest humility and absolute annihilation.  It is a true light in which we see God's infinite attributes and almighty power and our own weakness, wretchedness and misery, yet we see as we have never seen before the gifts which our dear Lord has given to us, the jewels with which our divine Spouse has enriched us that we may glorify Him in His works and bless and glorify Him for being mindful of His poor helpless little worms..

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Prophecy of famine and the falling away of many priests

Teresa foresaw much of what was to happen in the twentieth century, in particular the widespread famines (as happened in the collectivisation of the Ukraine in the 1930's) and the widespread moral failing, defection and dissent of the priesthood in the years following the Second Vatican Council.  Yet she foresaw a period and peace and consolation for the church.  This was what she wrote in 1880 to Fr. Powell:

“On another occasion I saw the stars shining brightly in the firmament and I saw a smoke arise, then I saw numbers of them fall and our b. Lord made me understand that through levity, want of mortification, and intellectual pride, many of His priests will presently fall away. 

At other times I have seen dried up herbage, dead cattle and fainting forms of human beings which I think indicates famine but I have not been distinctly told so. I do not know either the exact time these things will come to pass, but I understand that they are now hanging over our heads. The sign which marks the foreheads of the saved is the Wisdom the seat of which He expresses shall be duly and publicly worshipped.”

Ukrainian famine of 1932 - 1933

“When these things shall have passed, there will be very few left who have not His seal upon their foreheads, yet these will be brought to love and adore the Wisdom of the Father in person of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in the hearts and minds of His people, the Church will enjoy a great peace and calm, and God will be adored, loved known and served verily and indeed.”

Monday, 19 November 2012

A prophecy of the atomic bomb?

In 1880 Teresa wrote this letter to Fr. Powell, in which Our Lord revealed to her the terrible judgements of war that would happen in the future.  This was published in Lady Cecil Kerr's biography of 1927, when the atomic bomb had not even been imagined:

“If it were not in obedience, I should never attempt to describe the dreadful things which have been shown to me, but, trusting in that wisdom and power, I hope He will give you a right understanding and knowledge of all that you wish me in His Name to relate. Oh Jesus, my beloved Jesus, be Thou a Jesus to us and save us whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy most precious Blood. I know not how or where I was taken, but it seemed to me that I was in a high place and looked down upon the earth. First I saw a cloud of darkness encompass the earth, a real thick material darkness which I understood too was a figure of the darkness of the intellect into which man had precipitated himself, then I heard the sound of mighty thunder and saw the lightning flash, and it seemed to me as if balls of fire fell upon the earth and struck it to its centre splintering the rocks to fragments. And I heard the rush of waters and a fearful wail of mourning arose from the earth, and humbly prostrating myself I craved for mercy through the Blood and bitter Passion of Jesus Christ, for through this darkness could be seen distinctly shining stars on the bosom of the earth (the holy tabernacles of His love), and I begged God not to look upon us but on the face of His Christ. And I heard a mighty voice say, ‘I will not save this people for they are flesh. Ask me not in His Blood for His Blood is upon them.’ (I understood to condemn them). But still I continued uniting my poor prayer with that of our dear crucified Jesus, saying over and over again, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Jesus, Mercy! Mary, help!’

“I cannot say how long this lasted, for I was as much afraid as I was humbled, but then I heard a voice I knew full well to be that of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ saying: ‘Say that not one of these that are given to me shall be lost.’ Then the earthquakes stopped and the lightnings ceased and I beheld starved and maniac looking forms rise trembling to their feet, and I saw the sign upon their foreheads, and with them and the whole court of heaven I praised and blessed that God of infinite wisdom who in His mercy has redeemed us in His Blood.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Teresa Higginson's experience of the fires of purgatory Part II

Bootle March 1883

First I must tell you that the fire of which I wrote seems to me to be purely spiritual, and I feel that without it I could not have withstood that which it pleased Our Blessed Lord to give to me, or in other words that the human soul must be purified in this flame before it can gaze so far into the infinities of God, and it would seem to me that eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor is it given to the mind of man to conceive this part of the dreadful bitter passion, for the soul finds itself launched out into the infinities of God and carried away in the torrent of His wrath, or pressed down beneath the weight of His judgements, and as the Precious Blood, the stream of life, trickles from the Sacred Heart, it sets the poor trembling soul on fire with desire and love, zeal and impatience, raising it from the earth earthly and pressing on it nearer and nearer, deeper and deeper down into those unfathomable  depths of the infinite attributes of God.

This knowledge is of greater value to the soul than any which God has given to me, and yet I see clearly that I do not know in any way how to express the depths into which I have been plunged by God.  All that it has pleased Him for me to endure in His name (other years) is but a little stream from a scalding torrent He has now deluged my whole being in and saturated me through and through.  The dreadful tortures and awful sufferings which I have been able to write of other years were within the scope of human feeling or human intelligence to conceive, but the most terrible part of the Passion of Jesus was in the soul and in the intellectual faculties.  He had to atone to the all holy and infinitely pure Spirit of God (by His submission) for the sins of the great intelligences which rebelled against God and for whom hell was created.  He had to make full satisfaction for the sins of rational beings made to the image of the Triune God....

I think really without that fire (I don't know exactly but I think it is from God's awful purity) I could not possible have gone through half of that which it pleased our dear divine Lord to give to me, for in the first place I could not have seen things as they really are.  The understanding is wonderfully illuminated and the eye of the soul purified in this fire, and the flame of divine love seems to shoot up higher.  In it I saw man's ingratitude in a deeper dye and God's love for His own glory and for souls in a new and more glorious light than I had ever seen before...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Teresa's accounts of her mystical marriage to Fr. Alfred Snow

The following are two letters to Father Alfred Snow, from Lady Anne Cecil Kerr's biography:

“In the name of the Adorable and undivided Trinity, and to the glory of Jesus my divine Spouse and only Treasure, in honour of Mary my Immaculate Queen and Mother, and in obedience, I will try and write something of those things which He has vouchsafed to me the very least of His little ones. I have written an account of the unspeakable favour which Jesus Christ the Son of God and the ever blessed Virgin Mary has granted to me, and when I read it over it seemed in no way to convey what He really has accomplished, for the change that has come over my soul is so astounding that I cannot express it or convey by any comparison what has really been done. I feel and realise those wondrous words of our dear Lord, ‘My peace I give you’ etc. and it brings such a sweet bright light in the soul that they only can understand who experience it, and our dear Lord has taught me the hidden things of God with such excessive delights that all the senses enjoy such an immense degree of sweetness that nothing here could in any way describe. And if you wish me to tell you what I have seen or what He has taught me, I can only say He has taught me great truths hidden in His immensity. He has laid open His secret and I have drunk to excess, and yet, as there is no image of any sort represented to the understanding, the soul learns and enjoys without knowing what she learns and enjoys. These things may seem to you to be folly on my part, but perhaps it is on account of my nothingness and misery that I am not able to give you a better idea of what passes now or how my soul is contained or held in God and how He acts with her. But even if it is so, oh how I thank Him for knowing nothing and having nothing but Himself, oh how rich I am in His possession! And though the soul may be astounded at first at His condescension, yet afterwards when she considers His immense love, she lies as it were in peace without in any way considering herself. Yet she knows and understands how He is all hers and she is all His, but she has no thought but of Him. I mean she forgets her own misery and sins and does not wish to do this or that but only His adorable Will, and this she hungers and thirsts for as He makes her understand like Him she ‘must be about her Father’s business’ and testify to the world the love and goodness of Jesus, her divine Spouse. Oh that I had the tongue of men and angels that I might proclaim to the whole world what He is and His wonderful love, that I could tell or give them to taste how sweet is the Lord and what they lose who run after the empty bubbles of the world. Oh all we could do or suffer for ages would be nothing to purchase so great a good. Oh that I could tell what I experience in Him who is all good, all powerful, all Wisdom. My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid.

 Mystical marriage of St. Catherine

“Oh my Father, you must pardon me. I do really wish and desire to make all clear to you, and I beg of Him, whom I know will not refuse my request, to teach you by experience and show you my soul as He sees it, that so you may know how to guide and take me with you to His eternal possession.

“Ah what a foretaste I have already of that eternal bliss, for the soul seems to have become one with God in such a close bond of union that all fear of losing Him seems out of the question, for it seems that the soul as a little drop of vapour is drawn up into the immeasurable ocean of God’s infinity. Here she feels to possess all and she cares not whether she lives or dies.

“I don't know but what those great impetuosities may return, but at present I feel as though I had not to run after God as it were, but that I possessed Him and was more closely united to Him than my soul is to my body, that He is the soul of my existence and that I feel and live in Him, that He does all and that I do nothing.

“He has taught me oh so clearly too, all that He has done for me and how miserable a wretch I should have been without Him, and when He shows me the beauty with which He has clothed me and the wonderful works He has accomplished in me, I am forced as it were to sink in the abyss of my own nothingness and praise Him for His mighty acts. And instead of trying to run away as it were at telling you, I feel as though I were robbing Him of that which is His if I did not try to tell you as I know things myself, for all is His and I am and have nothing, and it would seem to be a false humility that I have hitherto had – wishing to hide His favours, as though I considered they were in some way mine, or that I had anything to do with them.

“I seem to have become as a powerful eagle that can soar to and gaze on the midday sun, and as those who look at the sun can see nothing but it for some time, so now I see nothing but Him in all things and all things in Him. That great fear of death and desire of it are gone and I feel such a real disengagement from all created objects, and I feel to have gained such a great dominion over myself that I don’t think anyone can understand but those to whom our dear Lord my Spouse and only Love has given it, for I know too so well that I never could have acquired it no matter how I worked or exerted myself. It is all His work and I feel myself so freed out of this prison of death that I lie basking in peace in the light of His Truth. He has dug deep in the trench that so He might fill me with Himself. He has filled up the valleys on a level with the hills, and the mountains He has lowered that I may view their tops and look down on all things beneath. Oh my Father, I could never tell you all that in His goodness and mercy He has done for me, and it seems to take away from it rather than anything else when I try to express them in such cyphers as is the language of men, when trying to describe the truths and favours of Almighty God.

“Begging of you again and again to bless the Lord for all He has done for me, and offering His adorable Precious Blood in thanksgiving, I unite my voice with His, with Mary’s and the whole court of Heaven in praising and blessing our God who sitteth upon the throne, and the Lamb who redeemed us by His blood and made us to reign with Him for ever and ever. Amen.
“TERESA HIGGINSON              “Enfant de Marie”
“Oh my Father it seems presumption almost on my part to attempt to describe the wonderful things our dear b. Lord has done for my poor soul, and yet I know I must endeavour that you may thoroughly understand His workings in me. Though it seems as if I could not comprehend at once all that His infinite goodness accomplishes, oh how clearly He has taught me in very truth the true estimate of all things here and to judge rightly of His gifts and graces. Here the soul becomes as it were a very queen of liberty, she has bound up all for Jesus and He sets His little captive free, she has sunk in the abyss of her own nothingness and He raises her to a most intimate union with Himself and the adorable Trinity. She has stripped herself of all things for His sake and He clothes her in His glory. She has tasted of the bitterness of life for His sake and He fills her with unutterable sweetness; and now she who was so afraid and weak is made strong and desires to fly to the heights and gaze on and bury herself in the centre of that sun at which sometimes she felt unable to look, for the light was too strong for her weakness. Now she desires to plunge deeper and deeper into that eternal Essence, to gaze into that sparkling crystal and there drink the waters of life and eat the food of the strong. Here she is taught that she is nothing and has nothing, that all is her divine Spouse’s, and she feels as though she could go to the tops of the mountains and proclaim His greatness, His wisdom, His love, and His goodness aloud to the whole world, that all might acknowledge that He is the Lord and praise and magnify His Holy Name.

“I feel as though I had no heart or soul but that God Himself is my soul and there He shines and rules all in such wonderful wisdom and peace. Oh my soul, bless the Lord and let all that is in thee praise His Holy Name. It would seem to me as though our dear Lord my divine Spouse and Mary my dear queen and my mother were keeping high court within my poor soul and allowing me to understand the glory that so many angels and saints are enjoying in His presence, for they are present with and seem to accompany me. Oh my Father, if it were only to witness the beauty of the stones in this circle of our union, to behold the gems that represent His sacred Wounds, I think it is more than human nature could endure, and it seems to fill my poor body even with a spiritual life and brightness that it seems buoyed up so to speak; but I do not now care what becomes of it, whether it is raised up before others or not. His glory and Holy Will are all I desire. I feel as though I could sing the Magnificat aloud with my more than Mother Mary.
“T. HIGGINSON.             
“Enfant de Marie.”

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Teresa's account of her mystical marriage to Fr. Edward Powell

From the biography of Lady Anne Cecil Kerr.

The wonderful ceremony of her Mystical Marriage took place during the night of the 23rd of October, 1887, between the feast of the Holy Redeemer and that of St. Raphael. She wrote at once to Father Snow and a few days later sent a somewhat fuller account in reply to a request from Father Powell. Her eyes had beheld that which it is not given to man to utter and she speaks as one still dazed from the glory of that vision. Her very writing, wavering and almost illegible, betrays that she was trembling on the verge of ecstasy as she wrote. The following is what she wrote to Father Powell:

  Mystical marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria

AMDG et in hon BVM et St J
“In the Name of the most august and blessed Trinity and in holy obedience I write of the unspeakable favours which Jesus Christ true God and true Man, my divine Spouse and only Treasure through the excess of His infinite Love has bestowed on me, the very least of His little ones. Oh my Father, how can I find words to express this wonderful mystery, this excess of His mercy and love which is more astounding to me than the great mystery of the Incarnation. Oh my Love, my Love, my beautiful One, My Jesus, my Own, my All, my God, my (the writing becomes illegible).

“Oh my Father it seems to me almost impossible to continue, or rather I should say I am unable to begin and describe what I would. This is the third paper I have spoiled; I am carried away at the recollection of His wonderful condescension. I have twice before written the four pages and when I read them over I found it full of little prayers, and now again I find myself like one only half awake, for my whole being seems lost in His infinite immensity, His wonderful Attributes, the unspeakable dignity to which He has raised this little nothing. And so prostrating myself before the thrice holy Trinity and before Jesus, my own Jesus, my spouse and my Treasure, I beg of Him to guide my hand and my understanding that I may write without these little wanderings and make clear to you all that you would wish to know, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. Oh my soul bless the Lord and magnify, for He has regarded the nothingness of His handmaid and has had compassion on my weakness and misery. He has drawn up this little drop of water from the earth into the ocean of His infinity, into the Essence of the Unity and Trinity of the Almighty God of Wisdom and Love, the all-pure and uncreated One, and made me one with Himself in the most holy and solemn bond of marriage. He has really and truly united Himself to me in the presence of the whole court of heaven, presenting me as His beloved Spouse to the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, and His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the Cherubim and Seraphim, etc. etc. and making me feel and understand how this sacred alliance was as real and as true as the union of His divine and human Nature in the one Person of Himself, Jesus Christ the Coeternal Son and the Son of Mary since the moment of the Incarnation. And in His Name and with His help, I will tell the way as far as I can that all has been accomplished.

“Remember oh my Love and my Lord that I am all Thine and Thou art the God of Truth, the Word that is God, and that now I am one with Thee as the body and soul of man are one person, so my words must be a reflection of Thine, must be, as Thou hast said to me they shall be, Wisdom and Truth, as the honey that drips from the hive, pure and sweet, and all men may confess that these things are the works of Thy Wisdom and Love.

“Since the feast of our holy Father St. Francis, when my divine Spouse gave me the general absolution (as I complained to Him that I had not been able to receive it from the hands of a priest and we had no Franciscans here), He caressed my soul as it were and told me that He would give me the absolution, not to take away sins from which He had preserved me, but to saturate me with His most Precious Blood and make me more like Himself. And He let me feel that my soul (through His presence and the holy Sacraments) gave great glory to the adorable Trinity and was a reflection of Themselves in the powers in which He had and they had taken up their abode and which was glistening and saturated with His adorable precious Blood. He told me frequently that, as I had given myself wholly to Him to be His entirely, so He would be all mine, and that He would glorify me in the sight of the angels and saints, because I had emptied myself and become as naught to myself and had gladly clothed myself with the sins of others for the price they had cost Him and for the love of His image and likeness. And because I desired Him with a longing nigh unto death, He would unite Himself to me in the closest union possible and clothe me with the brightness of His glory, and because I had rejoiced and united myself to Him when I was reviled by men and had clothed myself in the fool’s garment (as it were), as He was during His bitter Passion, so He was about to clothe me with the wedding garment of Purity, Charity and Truth.

He also shot those fiery darts of love from His Sacred Heart into the very centre of my poor soul so frequently that I felt as though my breast was a liquid fire: a boiling seemed to be going on in and through my entire being, and the pain it caused was so excessive that I continually cried aloud to Him for pity and told Him again and again that He knew how I loved and desired Him and begged of Him to burn away all that was not Himself and so unite me and make me all His own, though never for one moment dreaming of the unutterable favour which His love has accomplished. In this fire which burns very clearly for there is no smoke or wet fuel – in this consuming flame all is brightness, and the light thereof is very pure so that the soul sees very clearly what God is and what He has done for her and that she has nothing of her own, all being the gift of her great and wise Creator and Redeemer, and she knows and understands how the Holy Spirit has sanctified her, and seeing what she is and what God is, she is as it were annihilated in His sacred presence. Oh how He has taught me what I am and what I owe Him and His excessive love!

 St. Raphael with Tobias

“Well, on Sunday the 23rd, the feast of our Holy Redeemer, I thought of the holy Sacrifice being offered for me, I tried to make the same act of oblation to God of myself as my divine Spouse made to His Eternal Father during His most bitter Passion, and I felt that He graciously accepted the offering I made. Then in the evening I begged of the angel Raphael to guide me to my divine Spouse as he did of old the young Tobias, and I sent the angel of the Incarnation to present my soul to Him with all its affections, my body with all its senses to be all His forever, and I begged him to present me through the hands of Mary His Queen and my Mother as a clean oblation in His sight. Then I repeated several times: ‘Oh Wisdom of the Sacred Head, guide me in all my ways, oh love of the Sacred Heart consume me with Thy fire’, when I found my soul fluttering on my lips almost and my spirit softly stealing through the gates of death and I was fainting away with desire, and yet such a calm sweet peace was in my soul that it seemed to check the throbbing of my poor heart that tried to break, because it was overwhelmed with His goodness and love and yearned to be united with Him whom it loves with all its affections.

Oh how I hunger and thirst after Him for He alone can satisfy! And as I was thus literally dying I think of desire of Him, He appeared holding the b. Sacrament before me and I thought He had come as He so frequently does to feed me with His adorable Body and refresh me with His most precious Blood, but refrained for some time (it seemed an age to me) and stood gazing into the very centre of my poor trembling soul, which would have left this poor prison of the flesh if it could to fly to and rest in Him, her only Good.

Then He gave me Himself in Holy Communion and the Sacred Host liquified and I seemed to drink of the Precious Blood till I was saturated through and through. And it changed all into Itself, and my divine Spouse spoke to my soul and said He would now fulfil the promise He had made to me so often and present me to the adorable Trinity, and unite Himself to me in presence of the whole court of heaven. I felt annihilated at these words, for I felt my nothingness and unworthiness and I think I would really have died if He had not supported me by a new miracle of power and love. Then He said, ‘Arise my Beloved that I may glorify the triune God in Unity and espouse thee in Their adorable presence.’ And turning then to His blessed Mother, He gave me to her as her daughter, and Mary taking hold of my hand gave it to Jesus and He withdrew the ring that He had before placed upon it and then replaced it on the same finger, saying: ‘I espouse thee in the Name and in the presence of the uncreated Trinity and in presence of My Immaculate Mother, and I give you to her as a daughter and my Spouse for ever.

Mystical marriage of St. Catherine of Siena

“I was wrapped in the Essence of the Eternal Godhead and I heard and saw things which it is not given to man to utter, and when I began to come to myself I beheld the ring (which encircled the finger next the little finger of my left hand) which was a circle of thorns as it were, set with seven beautiful crystals more beautiful than diamonds which looked like liquid gems, the centre representing the Holy Soul of my divine Spouse in which the adorable Trinity is represented by the three powers, and are as it were a reflecting glass in which They behold their Unity in Essence. Then to the right is represented the Sacred Head as the Seat of divine Wisdom, and on the other side the Sacred Heart is represented, and the other four are to represent the Wounds in His sacred Hands and Feet. Oh what brightness and beauty issues from this little ring; what glory it gives, that I could not behold it I think and live if it were not that He who gave it sustains me with His power. Then He allowed me to see the soul I have often seen before but now more beautiful than ever, and He told me, as I sang with the angels hymns of praise, that was the soul of His beloved Spouse, that that glory was my nuptial robe and that He with the Father and Holy Spirit were glorified in me and that I should dwell with them and His Blessed Mother and St. Joseph for ever. He also told me to remember that I was His, that He was Almighty God and I like Him must be about my Father’s business. I understand I have a great deal to do for souls and many difficulties will surround me, but I must take courage and have great confidence in Him. Since then it seems to me that so many saints are with me, and the angels as a guard of honour watch in admiring wonder the mercies of the adorable Trinity to this very least of His little ones, and I could and do continually unite with my dear Mother Mary in singing the Magnificat and singing praises to the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ my Divine Spouse.


“I could not describe what God has taught me while held in His infinite and divine Essence, for it seems to me that no form is represented to the understanding, but that the soul is in God’s Immensity, and she sees and knows mysteries which are hidden in God and which it is not given to her to utter, and she enjoys without actually knowing what she enjoys. The secrets of God are made known, but the understanding, being lost in God, cannot comprehend what He has taught her.

“But when I see you I will try and tell you more.

“Begging your prayers and blessing and promising to do all I can for you and yours, I remain dear rev. Father
“Your obedient and devoted child                
“In the S. Head and loving Heart    
“Enfant de Marie.”

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The 125th anniversary of Teresa's mystical marriage

Today on Tuesday 23rd October 2012 is the 125th anniversary of the mystical marriage of Teresa Helena Higginson that took place on the night of October 23rd - 24th 1887 in Clitheroe, between the Feast of the Holy Redeemer and the Feast of St. Raphael the archangel.  She was one of the very few souls in the history of the church to have been raised to such a great honour, and Teresa was probably the only Englishwoman to have received the privilege.  

Mystical marriage of St. Catherine

The mystical marriage consists in a vision in which Christ tells a soul that He takes it for His bride, presenting it with the customary ring, and the apparition is accompanied by a ceremony; the Blessed Virgin, saints, and angels are present. This festivity is but the accompaniment and symbol of a purely spiritual grace; hagiographers do not make clear what this grace is, but it may at least be said that the soul receives a sudden augmentation of charity and of familiarity with God, and that He will thereafter take more special care of it. All this, indeed, is involved in the notion of marriage. Moreover, as a wife should share in the life of her husband, and as Christ suffered for the redemption of mankind, the mystical spouse enters into a more intimate participation in His sufferings. Accordingly, in three cases out of every four, the mystical marriage has been granted to stigmatics. It has been estimated by that, from the earliest times to the present, history has recorded around eighty mystical marriages; they are mentioned in connection with female saints, beatae, and venerabiles — e.g. Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Colette, St. Teresa, St. Catherine of Ricci, Venerable Marina d'Escobar, St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, St. Veronica Giuliani, Venerable Maria de Agreda.
Tomorrow I will hopefully post Teresa's account of the experience in her letter to Fr. Edward Powell.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson the schoolteacher mystic by Brian Honner

This is from a pamphlet by the late Brian Honnor that was compiled in the 1950's of reminiscences of those who knew Teresa Helena Higginson.  It is now out of print, but now appears in this blog as a series of consecutive posts.

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson 
the School Teacher Mystic 
compiled mainly from the statements of those who knew her 
by a Tertiary of St. Dominic

The following bouquet of tributes to Teresa by those who knew her in life or admired her after death will it is hoped interest all who share a like devotion to the servant of God.  Addressed chiefly to readers with some knowledge of her life, it has as its aim to show in what veneration- and indeed what love - the teacher mystic was held by those whose close association with her entitles them to speak.  But while I am not attempting a short biography it will often be necessary to refer to her life, taken in chronological order, and I thought it would add interest to the bouquet to include details about some of the witnesses, and also other material not generally known.  This came my way mostly through correspondence, particularly with that stalwart of Teresa's cause, Miss Isabella Arkwright of Ormskirk.  In many cases the authorities for this information is given, and I am confident it can be relied upon.  It only remains to add by way of preface that while these pages are graced with the word "saint" or even "great saint", no intention is made to anticipate the verdict of the Church in any dogmatic way.

Glancing at her early years we note that Teresa was born in the shrine town of Holywell and was in infancy blessed by the great apostle of England's Catholic "Second Spring", the Blessed Dominic Barberi.  Another Passionist visitor to the family home at Gainsborough was Fr. Ignatius Spencer, who dubbed her his "little apostle" for her zeal in spreading his League for the conversion of England.  It was Fr. Ignatius you recall, who later indicated to her her vocation to be a teacher and warned her not to make friends, saying that one would be sent her when needed.  The venerable missioner who died in 1864 must have been near to the close of his days, and his words to her in the confessional in Sutton have a prophetic ring.  A third great priest, Fr. Frederick Faber, touched her life in her convent schooldays, when on being told her name he challenged her with the words "see that you are a Teresa!"

Fr. Ignatius Spencer

Moving forward to her Wigan days we find Teresa guided in the confessional by the young Fr. Wells, who finding the task beyond his experience enlisted the postal advice of a Dr. Lennon.  At this point her first friend, Susan Ryland, arrives on the scene.  Teresa's life is half through when she is sent her first friend! Susan is also the first witness and to her we owe most of our knowledge of Teresa's Wigan days: she testified to the stigmata and other extraordinary phenomena.  She left Wigan to enter a convent at Selly Oak, Birmingham, where she remained until her death in 1941.

Another teaching colleague of the two friends at St. Mary's, Wigan was Margaret Woodward.  She it was who at her confessor's request helped Susan to record what Teresa did and said during her passion trances.  When Lady Cecil Kerr was preparing her biography of Teresa she tried in vain to contact Margaret.  She had married and emigrated to Australia!  A special point of interest here for students of Teresa's life is that Margaret reports that Teresa spoke of devotion to Our Lord's Sacred Head at that time, i.e. 1874 or 1875.  She writes that she met Teresa coming out of church one Good Friday and that she said her "Our Blessed Lord wishes His Sacred Head to be honoured" to which Margaret replied "Tis the very devotion wanted in the world today, when men seem to be worshipping their own brains".  (From a letter of Mrs. Margaret Ashworth nee Woodward to Isabella Arkwright, 7th May 1933.)  And in a letter of the following September she says "I think I was the first she told about devotion to the Sacred Head as I met her coming out of church and she she seemed as though she had just received the commission."  She adds that she is in her 84th year.

St. Mary's, Wigan

Lady Kerr not being able to obtain Margaret's testimony naturally concluded that the devotion had been first revealed to Teresa at Neston in 1879 (see page 100 of her life), when she had the vision on the feast of the Sacred Heart as described in letter no. 4 (page 103).  That it had already been made known to her- at least in germ - may explain the rather mysterious phrase in the same letter: "both you and Fr. Wells (my underlining) told me nothing was to be done in public."

Friday, 19 October 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: at St. Alexander's, Bootle

On taking a teaching post at St. Alexander's school, Bootle, Teresa became the penitent of Fr. Edward Powell, the first of two spiritual directors who were to be her guides for the rest of her life.  Both these priests had daily opportunity of knowing Teresa in school and the parish and would have heard many of the accusations made against her when she became an object of controversy.  Yet neither wavered in their belief in her.  What calibre of men were they?

St. Alexander, Bootle, with the school to the left

Fr. Edward Powell (1837 - 1901) early showed a talent for languages and as a student in Rome had won a gold medal in Hebrew against all comers.  After ordination he returned to the Liverpool diocese and became secretary to Bishop Goss.  As a young priest he volunteered to minister to victims of a fever then raging, took it himself and for two weeks lay at death's door.  In 1866 he was appointed to the new mission of St. Alexander's and afterwards made priest - in - charge.  During 13 years of incessant toil he built the church, school and presbytery, and on being transferred to Lydiate worked with like zeal there.  He was a devoted shepherd to his flock - in the pulpit, at the altar, in the people's homes, with a zeal that drove him out to the highways and byways.  His piety was deep and his austerities included the discipline and hairshirt.  After his death his confessor declared his belief that he had never stained his baptismal innocence by any deliberate venal sin, and said that as a confessor and director of souls he had discharged his duties "to the utmost perfection of his gifts".

Fr. Edward Powell

Such was the priest who guided Teresa during her early years at St. Alexander's and put her under obedience to write out her life and spiritual experiences. 

When in 1883 Bishop O'Reilly ordered Fr. Powell to cease his direction of Teresa the latter's curate Fr. Alfred Snow assumed the task, not without heart - searching and prayer.  Recognising the responsibility of guiding a soul being led by extraordinary paths he set himself to the study of mystical theology.  I am afraid I can offer no more details about Fr. (later Canon) Snow than can be found in the books, but we know that in addition to undoubted piety he possessed administrative gifts that led to his being appointed chancellor of the archdioscese.  And as well as being a confessor to Teresa he was a most constant practical friend, e.g. it was Fr. Snow was secured for her a haven in St. Catherine's convent, Edinburgh, where his sister was Mother Superior.  On his deathbed in 1922 he declared to Archbishop Keating "I feel it right to say that I have the firm conviction  that Teresa Higginson was not only a saint but one of the greatest saints Almighty God has raised up in his church."

Canon Alfred Snow

Our two main witnesses to Teresa's life in Bootle are Margaret (Minnie) Catterall and Helen Nicholson who later became Mrs. Lonsdale.  Both remained life-long friends and after death stalwart activists in her cause, giving their testimony under oath and leaving written memoirs.  Isabella Arkwright said that when she and they got together to talk about Teresa they would allow themselves three hours and then felt they had "only touched the surface".  Particularly valuable is the testimony of Miss Catterall who shared accommodation with Teresa, taught in the same school and often accompanied her on parish visits.  In her memoir published as "Minnie Catterall's Narrative" in 1936 she writes:

"I have never before or since seen of known anyone like her - a veritable model of perfection in all circumstances, the very essence of humility, a well of goodness and love of God.  In my mind she stands as the greatest handmaid of God's saints - in her ardent humility, in her intense love of her Spouse in the Blessed Sacrament, in her love of sufferings for His sake, and her complete abnegation of her own dear self.  The mere thought of her is one of my greatest comforts in life, and I shall ever remember what a debt of gratitude I owe to her even since her death, for the many and most remarkable favours she has gained for me."

Minnie - described by her niece as a striking personality - eventually became the headmistress of Holy Cross School, Liverpool, and in retirement lived in Wigan.  She died in 1935 aged 75.

Another witness for this time is Miss Agnes Donnelly.  She was then a schoolgirl but both her parents were on the staff of St. Alexander's and knew Teresa well.  She writes:

"My parents always spoke of Miss Higginson as a saint ... my mother knew her for many years and spent many hours in her company.  On her deathbed she suddenly said 'I wonder when the church will recognise Teresa's sanctity.'"  Her father was once heard to declare "If Teresa had been in an order of nuns she would have been canonised long before this."

On leaving St. Alexander's, Teresa returned home to Neston, and after teaching in village schools , spent the following summer as a guest of Minnie and Helen who were now in charge of a school at Newchurch in Rossendale.  Then we find her in Clitheroe in where she received the grace of the mystical marriage, or transforming union, with Christ.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: witnesses in Scotland

At the close of the year 1887 Teresa passed to Scotland where she remained for some dozen years.  Most of this period she spent in St. Catherine's Convent, Edinburgh, though she had short stays in neighbouring towns (Dalkeith, Linlithgow, Selkirk, etc.) in a teaching capacity.  Our chief informants for this relatively tranquil and hidden phase of her life are Mrs. Helen Fleck, and two of her pupils Mrs. McVey and Mrs. Margaret McKeon.

St. Catherine's Convent, Edinburgh

Mrs. Helen Fleck will be remembered for having taken Teresa to Rome where they had an audience with Pope Leo XIII.  The opportunity arose as follows.  Mrs. Fleck asked her daughter Mary which she would prefer as a 21st birthday gift- a party or a visit to Rome.  She chose the latter, so Mrs. Fleck asked Teresa to accompany her instead, all expenses met.  She had known Teresa for some years and in 1895 had collaborated with her in providing a needy priest in Selkirk with a daily meal.  Another bond was that they were both Tertiaries of St. Francis.  Mrs. Fleck gave a full length statue of the saint for her room in St. Catherine's, and at the end of the pilgrimage they exchanged tertiary habits, Teresa asking her to come to her if she was dying, and promising to do the same for her.  (This was not to be.  Late in 1904 Teresa wrote to say that the weather was so bad and Biddlecombe so out of the way that she could not think of Mrs. Fleck coming.)

At this time Mrs. Fleck was a wealthy widow owning a modern hotel in Dunbar, but later her fortunes changed.  The Lord, she said, took everything from her by degrees.  He seemed to be leading her somewhere, she did not know where.  At the age of 77 she entered to Carmel at Gillingham, Dorset, where she became an extern sister, taking the name Sr. Mary Teresa.  "It often appears to me in a dream" she wrote to Miss Arkwright in 1931 "that we were so closely united in Rome, and yet I never realised I was beside a saint."

Of the two pupils mentioned, Mrs. McVey of Dalkeith was a witness to something of the extraordinary side of Teresa's life, while Mrs.Margaret McKeon expressly disclaims having seen anything miraculous about her.  Her memoir is however in my opinion the most revealing account of Teresa left by any of her pupils, this no doubt due to her spirituality and perception.  For Mrs. McKeon was herself a wonderful person.  Towards the end of a life of devotion to God and neighbour she wrote "I was ten years of age when Teresa's voice fell upon my ears.  I am now 74.  It's a long time to remember one outstandingly saintly, gentle, kind person".  She took every opportunity to spread knowledge of her revered teacher and sought out the testimony of others, including the nuns who had known her in St. Catherine's convent.  The following is taken from her memoir:

"I distinctly remember an instruction Teresa gave us in the top classroom of the school in 1889.  The lesson was on the incarnation and at the end she asked us all to kneel and honour Our Lord's Sacred Heart beating beneath the heart of Our Lady before he was born into the world."

"About the year 1890 when I was twelve years of age I attended St. Catherine's Convent for the sewing.  There was an apple tree in the garden with a surrounding seat where Miss Higginson placed my work.  I've seen birds coming down into her hands.  She used to turn away and I would hear a faint whistle, then turning back she would she me the bird.  When I found out that she was the one who whistled (not the bird) I said "Miss Higginson, you're the one whose whistling!" and she laughed joyously.  Before leaving I was sure of a cup of tea with buns."

In 1925 she received a great favour after praying to Teresa and mentioned this to Mother de Sales.  She also asked her if she thought she was a saint.  Mother de Sales replied "When Teresa is honoured by the church it will be as a very great saint."

I was privileged to receive many lovely letters from Mrs. McKeon before her death in 1966 at Bathgate.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: Alfred Garnett and the Abbé Billé

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

On returning to England Teresa spent some three years assisting the Garnett family in Liverpool.  Miss Margaret Garnett, who seems to have been their mainstay, had fallen ill and Canon Snow (whose teacher she had been) had asked Teresa to come to their aid.  She nursed Margaret until her death and then secured for the remaining brother and sister a little shop in the Mount Pleasant area of the city.

One witness here is Alfred, the youngest of the family who had from birth been handicapped with a leg disease.  If Mrs. McKeon is the best observer of Teresa in the classroom it is to Alfred that we must turn for an impression of her as a nurse and quietly efficient family friend.  Miss Arkwright who knew him very well, made from their frequent talks together a written account of his testimony.  Some of this, including Teresa's prediction to him of the present Liverpool Catholic cathedral, she published, but the following may be new to readers: 

 Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, with the 'Crown of Thorns' dome, foreseen by Teresa

"When Teresa came to the Garnetts she was eating nothing at all and afterwards in obedience to Canon Snow began to take a little food.  Every morning after hearing two or three masses she sat down to read the very many letters she received daily.  These letters were after her death discovered to have been from priests, religious and others asking advice.  She dealt with her correspondence in a very methodical way, sorting the letters into separate piles, and all were read before breakfast.  Teresa, Mr. Garnett said, never seemed to want food.  He would pour out her half a cup of tea, and more often than not it would get cold.  She would pour hot water into it so that it was more like water than tea.  Sometimes Mr. Garnett would try to put some cream into her tea while she was reading her letters but she would look up at him with her usual sweet smile and put her hand gently over the cup, and he never succeeded in his attempt."

Such was Alfred's devotion to Teresa that after her death, before opening his shop he would go into her old room and pray to her, and after closing at night, no matter how tired he felt, would again enter her room and, in spite of his painful lameness, kneel and pray again.  Until his death in 1940 he paid for a friend to go to Neston each year to put flowers on her grave for her birthday; 35 years of rememberance!

An unforgettable impression of Alfred Garnett in later years has been left by the Abbé Billé, translator into French of Lady Kerr's life of Teresa.  Somewhere about the year 1936 he called on several witnesses, and we find him at Mount Pleasant enquiring of a passerby the whereabouts of Mr. Garnett:

"Oh yes, go down there to that little shop on the corner!"  I directed my steps to the door, which was open.  It was a little grocery of most modest appearance, with all the goods jumbled together, common and uninviting.  No one was there when I entered but  presently an old man emerged from behind the counter.  Before I had time to speak he looked at me and exclaimed 'You are the Abbé Billé!  You are the Abbé Billé!'  In spite of my surprise at being addressed by my own name, I admitted he was right and told him I had come to speak to him about Teresa Higginson.  He then led me into a little back room.  Here everything was piled one on top of the other - clothes, papers, old kitchen utensils, etc.  He looked round for a seat to offer me and drew one out from beneath an pile of old papers.  It was leaning against the wall in a corner.  He sat on an old chest, pushing aside various odds and ends.  His voice was feeble and I had to lean towards him to catch what he said.  'I was the one who accompanied her to the station very late one night in September 1904 when she left us to go to Chudleigh in Devonshire' he said.  'She had a feeling she would not return and gave me her last instructions: 'If I do not return, give this case to Canon Snow' she said.  'This I did, although I did not know what was in it.  She has a particular devotion to the souls in purgatory and prayed continually for them - not those of her own family but for others, the most abandoned, for those Our Lord Himself wished to deliver.  Her favours and care Teresa lavished on others rather than her friends.'

"What struck me particularly in talking to him was the strong conviction of the old man in the necessity of suffering - wretchedness truly seemed to be a mark of predilection, of the special protection of his friend.  And in it he was very, very happy.  'Have confidence in her' he told me, 'she will help you - but has a way of waiting until one gets into great difficulties!'  At last I rose to take my leave.  Mr. Garnett took my hands and looked at me with tears in his large eyes.  Mine also moistened. He knelt for my blessing, and after losing myself in the noisy streets of the great city I still felt that he was following me with his affectionate gaze.  In spite of his extreme poverty this good old man knows how to communicate to his friends a little of the happiness and joy he has deep in his heart."

(From the French magazine Message Jan - Feb 1938).

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: Margaret Murphy

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

There is one friend of Teresa who must certainly not be omitted from our list, and that is Margaret Murphy, the former mill-hand who became housekeeper to Canon Musselly at Rawtenstall.  She met Teresa in the summer of 1887, Teresa as has been mentioned staying then with Minnie Catterall and Helen at Newchurch, and having come to Ravenstall for mass.  Margaret fell under the spell of her personality, visited her several times at Newchurch, and later when the Canon moved to St. Patrick's, Manchester, had her there as a guest on several occasions.  Her devotion was exceptional.  She attended Teresa's funeral and the family offered to open the coffin for her. 

Lady Kerr gives a touching account of how a visiting priest found her sitting alone by the fire and asked her how she passed her lonely days of retirement.  Her face lit up, and pointing to Teresa's photo she said: "I speak to her, and she speaks to me."  Two days later she died a holy death.  This was not the well known photo of Teresa in the mantilla, but a gravely beautiful one of her seated and holding flowers, evidently taken towards the end of her days.  Was she perhaps presented with it after the requiem at Neston?  Margaret was a reserved person who kept things in her heart, and is said to have given evidence under oath with much diffidence and pleading her prayers.  I have not heard that she left anything in writing.  Teresa's letters she destroyed at death, also a lock of her hair.

Photo of Teresa in 1904 in Margaret Murphy's possession

Margaret's protege Kitty Deady also knew Teresa at St. Patrick's and went to church with her.  She became a Sister of Mercy and was sent to their convent at Gravesend, taking the name Sr. Mary Evangelist.  She died in 1938.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: Miss Isabella Arkwright

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

A special place on our panel of witnesses must be reserved for Miss Isabella Arkwright of Ormskirk, although she met Teresa on one occasion only and then seems hardly to have conversed.  As a secondary witness she was however unique and could claim: "I knew many of Teresa's friends now deceased and know those living," adding "not one ever had or had the least doubt as to her sanctity." (From a letter to me of 4th June 1946.)  She has been described by Mrs. McKeon as "forthright, prudent and kindly" to which might be added steadfast and self - effacing and other noble attributes.  Like Teresa and many other friends she had been a teacher.  At Ormskirk she was only a few miles from Canon Snow's parish of Aughton where for twenty years her sister Elizabeth had served as housekeeper.  It was in this connection that her meeting with Teresa took place, which I give here in her own words:

"A cousin of mine went to Aughton to visit my sister and of course see Miss Higginson.  This cousin in my presence asked Teresa to pray for her intention.  Teresa with a twinkle in her eye asked humourously, 'Are you going to me married?' to which my cousin replied, 'Oh no, no, Miss Higginson.'  Then Teresa asked seriously, 'Is it your vocation dear?'  No answer from my cousin.  Teresa then said, 'Yes - if it is God's will.'  My cousin answered 'It must be God's will!'  I said to myself, you will be rebuked for that exclamation, but Teresa just smiled sweetly and repeated, 'If it is God's will.'  (This cousin did later enter religion.  

Teresa impressed her as being "very natural, simple, homely and full of humour".  Her look however was "very searching." 

Miss Isabella Arkwright

On her retirement from teaching Miss Arkwright devoted her days to the furtherance of Teresa's cause.  She had literature printed and distributed, kept in touch with clients at home and abroad, and had the vision to persuade witnesses to put down on paper their testimony.  "When I think and see what I ought to do I am overcome.  I feel too small for this great cause," she wrote.  On another occasion she said, "We are not working for Teresa but for God; what can be greater than the Wisdom of the Godhead?  Is that not the greatest devotion?"  Again, "We are very favoured to have the least part in so mighty a cause."  At her home she established a repository of Higginsonia - letters, photos, souvenirs, and welcomed all genuine enquirers.  For many years before her death in 1969 at the age of 86 she was the centre of reference for English speaking clients of Teresa.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: from witnesses in Devon

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

Passing on now to Teresa's final year we move south to the Torbay area in Devon.  Lord Clifford, you will recall, had advertised for a teacher for the Catholic children on his estate of Ugbrooke, and she had answered the call.  The schoolhouse was about a mile from the house (where there was Sunday mass in the chapel) and a similar distance from the village of Chudleigh, the nearest town Teignmouth, being a few miles distant.  She came unknown, a frail, dowdily dressed little woman, some stranger from the North.  No doubt Canon Snow had communicated with Lord Clifford and his chaplain to give a good reference, and perhaps mention her delicate health, but would have hardly gone beyond that.  The school and adjacent schoolhouse were isolated and Catholics few and scattered, so that apart from the children she did not meet many people.  Yet four individuals from this final year bear testimony to her sanctity.

Ugbrooke house

First may be cited Fr. H. J. Dowsett, chaplain to Lord Clifford, and a man described by Abbot Vonier as being without frills or decorations in his religion.  Teresa's nurse (Sr. Mary Francis of Assisi in later years) writes:

"When I arrived at the church several people were waiting for confession.  I asked Fr. Dowsett if he would kindly give me Holy Communion before mass as I felt uneasy at leaving my patient so long alone.  He asked the name of my patient.  When I told him him replied 'My dear child, do not have any scruple about leaving her, for Miss Higginson is a saint'"  (From the Last Days of Teresa Helena Higginson, by a Poor Clare Colettine, pg. 8).

Extraordinary form mass in Ugbrooke chapel

Next there is a Fr. Dawson who met Teresa when there was a school outing to Teignmouth.  Then as a 'locum' for Fr. Dowsett during the latter's absence from Ugbrooke he got to know her well through visits to the schoolhouse.  He sought her advice on various matters, and according to Sr. Mary Francis she foretold things concerning him which later proved true.  So impressed was he by Teresa that after her death he made a report to his bishop and travelled around seeking information, thus becoming a pioneer of her cause.  In the presbytery of Stonehouse, Aberdeenshire, he called on Agnes Donnelly.  This was in 1905 or 1906 and at the end of his visit he said, 'I have had the honour of being present at the deathbed of a saint.' (from Agnes Donnelly's memoir).

Miss Emily Ewing is another who saw holiness in Teresa.  She was a nurse friend of Miss Casey and visited Teresa once or twice during her last days and writes:

"On standing in Teresa's room one felt one was on holy ground.  I shall never forget her and her sanctity; she seemed to radiate happiness; there seemed to be a radiance around her as she was in bed." (from a letter to me of 23rd August 1957).

Monday, 24 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: from Agnes Casey (Sister Mary St. Francis)

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

Finally we turn to the most important witness of the times, Sr. Mary Francis of Assisi.  You may recall that Teresa had prayed that she might be tended by one who knew and loved God.  Miss Agnes Casey, a Franciscan Tertiary from Newton Abbott, was such a one.  In her presence we may surely bless a triple providence - see her as the one sent to minister to a dying saint, record her last days, and leave an account of her spiritual doctrine.  No need to comb through Sr. Mary Francis' account for the word 'saint', since the exalted holiness of her invalid is implicit on every page, but all may he summed up in the following passage:

"The three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity shone out with the greatest splendour in her life.  To me they seemed part of her very being.  She loved God above all things, and all other things she loved purely for His sake and in union with Him."  (from the "Last Days" p.30 - 31).

Several years passed before Agnes Casey became a Poor Clare at Lynton.  Her people did not think she would be able to endure the austerity of such a rule, but Sr. Mary Francis gave decades of devoted service in the order and after long arthritic suffering died in old age in 1963.  (Reading over our list of witnesses one wonders if Teresa, if she is canonised, will become the patron of longevity!)

When I had the treasured privilege of a visit to Sr. Mary Francis in 1947 she described at some length the circumstances leading to her vocation (which she attributed to Teresa's prayers) and spoke with emphatic conviction of her belief in her sanctity.  But the most memorable visit to Sr. Mary Francis must have surely been that made by Miss Catterall, Miss Arkwright and a Miss McGinity in 1929.  They had come on from seeing Sr. Mary Teresa (Mrs. Fleck) in her Gillingham Carmel, and Miss Arkwright writes:

"It was a wonderful tour.  Teresa's friends, nearly all passed away now, meeting for the FIRST time.  To be an onlooker when they and Miss Catterall met was awe inspiring.  Sr. Mary Francis when she saw Miss Catterall exclaimed - 'Oh, a breath of Teresa!'"  (From a letter to me 16th March 1958.)

As a major witness Sr. Mary Francis was called upon to testify to the Liverpool tribunal instituting the informative process of Teresa's cause, and she described her inquisition to me in a letter of 10th October 1957.  As it is so interesting and gives an account of how the church proceeds in such matters, I quote the relevant passage:

"One morning before 9am the parlour bell rang and our extern sister said to the portress that six priests had just arrived and wished to speak to me, so Sister came up and told our dear Rev. Mother Guardian Angel, who was Abbess then.  She died in 1942 and it was some years before her death that these priests paid me this honourable visit!  Well, dear Rev. Mother came down with me to the parlour, but Mgr. O'Brien who was the vice postulator of the cause of Teresa Higginson, kindly asked Rev. Mother to withdraw as they wished to speak to me alone, so poor dear Rev. Mother bowed in silence and went away.  Then Mgr. O'Brien put the Holy Bible before me and told me to take it into my hands and make a most solemn oath that what I said in regard to the Servant of God, Teresa Higginson, was the truth.  You see, when anyone is giving their testimony of anyone who may be eventually raised to the altars, how very careful one has to be not to be governed in any way by mere natural enthusiasm, only to say the exact truth.  You can imagine it was a very solemn ordeal for me, but I am sure that holy Teresa was praying for me for I felt very calm, and stood my ground (as we say) in spite of the devil's advocate being there trying to trip me up at any moment. 

But I seemed to ignore his presence and thought only of the work before me.  Next to the devil's advocate was a doctor of divinity, who was very kind to me, then Mgr. O'Brien, who was ever so fatherly, then three other priests, most of then writing down what I said.  After this ordeal, which lasted for four hours, was over I said to Mgr. O'Brien, I was ever so anxious not to make a mistake that I may have said less than more, and he replied, 'My dear child, you have done very well indeed, and I am quite satisfied.  So don't worry, but if anything should occur to you after we have gone, something you may have forgotten, just write it down and send it to me'.  So I did, and often wrote to him as time went on.  Well now, before I left the parlour Mgr. O'Brien and all the priest put me under a most solemn oath of obedience not to say one word to our dear Rev. Mother or to any member of our community, or to anyone, which of course included any priest or religious elsewhere, and I promised absolute obedience, but you can understand what this silence cost me, not to say one word to our dear Rev. Mother of what had been said during this long interview, but our dear Lord gave me the grace to obey."