Mystic, Stigmatic, Victim Soul & Laywoman
Born: May 2, 1880 in Pozzomaggiore, Italy
Died: February 17, 1952 in Rome, Italy (age 71)
Declared Venerable: May 4, 2017 by Pope Francis1
Although countless mystics have been numbered among the Catholic faithful, not everyone feels comfortable with this aspect of the Church’s life. Things we don’t understand make us feel uneasy; we prefer to focus on the ‘rational’ because it doesn’t strain our credibility. For we know that when we enter the realm of the mystical, we are at times confronted with events that are far removed from our ordinary, everyday experience. How is it possible to explain the ecstasies of St. Teresa of Ávila? Or how Jesus frequently appeared in visions and talked to St. Maria Faustina? And what about Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation – the ability to be present in two different places at the same time? It’s only natural that such things confound the rational mind.
Early Life of Venerable Edvige Carboni
Venerable Edvige Carboni was an extraordinary laywoman and mystic who “spent her life between the natural and the supernatural; between the human and the divine.”2 The second of six children, she was born on May 2, 1880 in Pozzomaggiore, a small town on the island of Sardinia, Italy. From the moment she entered the world, her parents – Maria Domenica and Giovanni Battista Carboni – understood that she was special. A few moments after Edvige was born, her mother saw a luminous host in a monstrance that she interpreted as a special sign from God. This led her to encourage Edvige to be very good and to receive Holy Communion every day. Also significant was that a cross – made of her own flesh – formed on Edvige’s breast the day after her birth. It was as though Jesus had predestined her to be His spouse.
Edvige was baptized when she was two days old and confirmed at the age of four years. Even as a small child, she had a great love for Mary and Jesus. Her grandmother had a replica of one of Rafael’s paintings of the Blessed Virgin and Baby Jesus in her home, and when little Edvige was alone, she would crawl up on a chair and say, “My mother, I love you. Give me your child so that I can play with him.”3 “Many times she let me play with him,” she later wrote in her journal. “Jesus was so good to me.”4
Edvige made a vow of virginity when she was just 5 years old. Each day, her mother would take her to visit the Blessed Sacrament. There, “Edvige would renew her virginity vow with a prayer that Jesus had taught her when they were playing: My God, I make a vow of perpetual chastity, I consecrate my virginity to you.”5
Although Edvige only had the opportunity to finish the third grade at school, her mother taught her embroidery at a young age and she worked with her father in the embroidery business. Because her mother was always very ill, the care and education of her younger siblings fell to Edvige. As the only girl in the family (until her younger sister, Paulina, was born in 1895 – when Edvige was 15 years old), she shouldered the responsibility for the many tasks that needed to be done around her family’s home. But though Edvige happily did whatever was needed, she felt terribly afraid when her mother would ask her to do the shopping at night. Our Lord showed such tender love for her, sending her Guardian Angel to comfort and console her. Her angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you and I keep you good company.” Edvige said that the angel waited for her outside the store and then walked her back home before disappearing.6 Her Guardian Angel often helped with the many household chores as well, and one day even Jesus came to help her wash and dry the clothes.
In 1891 – around the age of 11 – Edvige made her First Holy Communion. A few years later – at the age of 14 – she expressed her desire to become a nun. Her mother disapproved of the idea, however, and Edvige took this to be the will of God for her. God blessed her for her beautiful docility and obedience, and in the following year – 1896 – her visions of Jesus and Mary became even more frequent.
Carboni’s Mystical Life
Reading of Hearts and Prophecy
Venerable Edvige Carboni’s spiritual gifts included levitation, the reading of hearts, supernatural knowledge, the discernment of spirits, bilocation, the reception of the stigmata and the crown of thorns, transverberation (the wounding of her heart), and frequent visits from the souls in purgatory. Many times, she would reveal people’s private thoughts to them and help them with doubts they had not shared with anyone else. Edvige was also known for her prophetic gifts. She foretold the elections of Pope Benedict XV (in 1914) and Pope Pius XI (in 1922); she also prophesied that the Passionist Rule would be relaxed – nine years before this occurred – after St. Paul of the Cross (the founder of the Passionist order) revealed this to her in a vision.7
Visions, Supernatural Communion, and Supernatural Light
In addition to visions of Jesus and Mary, Edvige received many visits from the saints, including St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. John Bosco, St. Dominic Savio, St. Anne, St. Sebastian, St. Genaro, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Paul, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Francis of Assisi. Our Lord or His saints would often bring her Communion in a supernatural manner. Even though Padre Pio was still alive during her life, she had visions in which he visited her; he knew of her and referred to her as a saint. Another Italian woman, Adela Ianucci, was just a child when she saw Edvige “praying in the midst of a bright light in which figures of angels and saints moved about.”8
Vision of Heaven
Our Lord even favoured Edvige with visions of heaven. He had told her, “‘Come and you will see beautiful things.’”9 Edvige later wrote, “I went walking up to a beautiful gate which had two angels, one on each side guarding it. The gate had a sign which read ‘Those who are dishonest and immodest cannot enter.’ The angels made me enter. I happily entered. It was a piece of Heaven. How beautiful! Plants and flowers I had never been [sic] seen before. The floor was covered with pearls and precious flowers. Then they signaled me not to go any further. I saw a Salesian priest approach me holding a key in his hand. He opened the door where it was written, “Salesian Garden.” Inside there were priests and lay people of every age. It was a beautiful garden with plants and flowers that I had never seen and everyone was singing happily.”10
Sometime around the year 1910 (the year her mother died), Edvige received the stigmata – the crucifixion wounds of Christ. She wrote, “One day while I was praying, I went into ecstasy and Jesus appeared to me and said, ‘My daughter, do you want to suffer?’ I answered, ‘Yes. For love of You, I want to suffer.’ Then he appeared to me on the Crucifix, from His Wounds came out rays of light and those rays reached me wounding my hands, feet, head and side. I felt pain in all the wounded parts and I stayed on the ground for several hours. When I woke up, I saw that blood was coming out of my wounds and I felt a great pain. Since that day I got into meditating on the Passion morning and evening.”11
Victim Soul for the Conversion of Communists
God chose Edvige to be a victim soul for the conversion of Communists, and she was very generous in offering prayers and sacrifices on their behalf. In one of Edvige’s visions, a Russian soldier, Pol Vischin (who had died during World War II), appeared and touched her wrist and burned her. He was covered by flames and said that he was in purgatory. Pol said that he had been a very great sinner when he was alive, and that he had only been saved from hell because he had been taught the faith as a child and had repented at the moment of his death. He asked Edvige to request that Monsignor Vitali celebrate some masses on his behalf. After Edvige had done what he asked, Pol showed himself to her again. He thanked her, and this time he was dressed in a white garment and enveloped by a bright, hot light.
Levitation is a phenomenon that is frequently mentioned in the lives of the saints, and many people attested to the fact that Edvige levitated during her ecstasies. Mariangela Oggianu declared: “One afternoon, I found the servant of God in the Church, elevated some 20cm over the kneeler without any
support. She had her hands together and was gazing upwards and praying fervently.”12
In 1925, Edvige began to experience bilocation.13 On one occasion, “[she] went to Moscow in bilocation and entered [Joseph] Stalin’s room in the Kremlin. She saw him move his fist saying, “I am the strong and terrible enemy of God.” Edvige said that Stalin had such an ugly stare that it made you afraid to look at him. [One of her closest friends,] Vitalia [Scodina] remembers: “One day I was in Edvige and Paulina’s house. We saw Edvige in deep prayer and heard her say: ‘You have to convert. But if you want to be God’s eternal enemy, you will be.’ When she came out of the ecstasy, her sister asked her to whom she was talking and she answered that she had been to Stalin’s room in Moscow…to her invitation to convert, he had responded, ‘I will never convert. I will be God’s enemy forever.’”14
Being the recipient of so many beautiful spiritual gifts did not mean that Edvige was spared the attacks of the evil one. Her close friend, Vitalia, spoke of how Satan would burn the money Edvige had been given to go shopping; he would tie her to the bed, scratch her, and throw stones at her head. He would break her dishes, mirrors, and windows, and once he even took the gold fillings from her teeth. “Whenever Edvige was on the way to see Fr. Ignacio (her last spiritual director), the devil hit her hard and kicked her legs so that she would not be able to walk. This also happened when she went to other confessors. Edvige, however, even if she had to limp, managed to continue and Satan was defeated.”15 On another occasion, she was bed ridden after the devil hit her on the knee with a hammer.
Edvige was involved in many confraternities during her life. She belonged to the Daughters of Mary in Pozzomaggiore as well as an association called Friends of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. In 1906, she became a Third Order Franciscan (T.O.S.F.). After the death of her father in 1938, Edvige moved to Rome where she lived with her sister, Paulina, for the last 14 years of her life. It was there that she became part of the Confraternity of the Passion at Scala Santa (the Holy Stairs) in 1941.
A Holy Death
“Edvige lived a life of penance and charity. She did not perform great acts of penance like other saints but she patiently accepted discomfort, sufferings and persecution from people who considered her to be crazy or a seer. She often fasted and generally only ate a piece of bread for breakfast and dinner. Vitalia, her friend, says that one day during the war she found Edvige baking bread made out of flour and ashes because they did not have anything else to eat. Because of eating ashes, Edvige got a stomach ulcer which Jesus later on cured miraculously.”16 Edvige had a great love for the poor, and if they came to the door while she was eating, she would give them all her food. She used to say, “The poor are my dearest friends. I would give everything for them, earrings, rings… I love them because Jesus loves them… In Heaven we will see all the good done to the poor. They will open the gates of Heaven to us.”17
On February 17, 1952, Edvige attended Mass early in the morning as usual. However, she began to feel unwell later in the day and said she was dying. Her sister, Paulina, called a doctor and priests from their parish. She received the last rites and passed away from angina pectoris – a lack of blood flow to her heart – at 10:30 that evening. The cause for the beatification of Edvige Carboni was begun in 1968, and many people have testified to miracles that she has accomplished since the time of her death.
Mysticism in Daily Life
We might be tempted to think that mystical experiences are reserved for those who are especially holy, but the saints themselves testify that such phenomena are not necessary for Christian perfection. As Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey pointed out, “[Extraordinary phenomena] do not constitute the essence of sanctity and … it is foolhardy to covet them; … conformity to the will of God is by far the safer and more practical way.”18 Even those of us not blessed with extraordinary supernatural gifts may have mystical encounters in which we experience a deeper sense of the Lord’s Presence, whether in contemplative prayer or even as we go about our ordinary, daily activities. In this sense, mysticism is something to which every Christian is called. An intimate relationship with the Lord is something that is not only possible, but desirable and available to each one of us.
Sharon van der Sloot
Prayer to Venerable Edvige Carboni
Lord Jesus, with faith we turn to You, remembering the words: “Look and you will find, ask and it will be given unto you, knock and it will be opened.” Deign to glorify on Earth, Your faithful servant Edvige Carboni and through her intercession grant us the grace to imitate her virtues, her steadfast patience, her love towards God and neighbor, and the grace which we humbly implore. Amen.19
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)
For more information or to report graces received:
Santuario Scala Santa
Piazza Giovanni in Laterano, 13
00184 Roma, Italy
1 Being declared Venerable is the second step in the process of beatification. Edvige was first declared a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II on April 29, 1994. The miracle required for her beatification received C.C.S. validation on October 6, 2000; medical examiners examined and approved the documents pertaining to this alleged miracle on September 22, 2017.
2 Glenn Dallaire, “Edvige Carboni,” Mystics of the Church; available from http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2014/02/edvige-carboni.html; Internet; accessed 8 January 2018.
6 Cf. Ibid.
7 Cf. Ibid.
13 Saints who experienced bilocation include, among others, the Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Pillar, in the year 40), St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397), St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639), St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), St. Gerard Majella (1726-1755), and Padre Pio (St. Pio of Pietrelcina – 1887-1968; see https://www.ewtn.com/padrepio/mystic/bilocation.htm).
14 Dallaire, “Edvige Carboni,” Mystics of the Church.
18 Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D., The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology, 2nd revised ed., trans. Fr. Herman Branderis, S.S., A.M. (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1930, republished in 2000), 156.
19 Dallaire, “Edvige Carboni,” Mystics of the Church.
*Pozzomaggiore – by Saitek780 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48865551.
** Madonna Solly; By Rafael Santi – anagoria, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47463767.