By Larry Peterson
On January 13, 1850, a baby girl was born to Adele Pissens Lateau and her husband, Gregory. They named the child Anna Louise. Three months after Louise was born her dad passed away from smallpox. A healthy, powerful, 29-year-old metal worker, Gregory’s body was no match for the smallpox demon that ravaged him. His family was left in a terrible spot.
Adele had almost died giving birth to Louise and was still, for the most part, bedridden. The oldest child, Rosina, who was only three-years-old, actually tried her best to take care of her mom and two sisters. It was an unbelievably heroic attempt on the part of this small child. Her sister, Adelina, was only two and Louise, just three months old. To make matters worse than they already were, Louise also contracted smallpox. Neighbors, fearing the dreaded disease, avoided the Lateau household and the family was virtually abandoned. How frightened Adele and her babies must have been.
A local doctor had been monitoring the Lateau family and told a local workman, Francis Delalieu*, about the family. He asked him if he could check in on them. A week later, Francis, entered the home to check on the occupants. What he found horrified him. The one child was wrapped in dried out, smelly bandages, all the children were filthy, and the mom was lying in bed in a state of despair. Francis, a kind, and decent man, immediately took charge of the house.
Francis immediately went and acquired food and the necessary provisions to care for the family. He treated baby Louise with extra loving care and, in effect, became “parental.” He cared for the family for the next two and a half years during which time Adele regained her full strength, and the children were healthy. That entire transformation in itself was miraculous.
When Louise was eleven-years-old, her mom allowed her to become a housemaid. Soon after she was trained as a dressmaker. When Louise was sixteen-years-old, a cholera epidemic struck Bois-D’Haine. Louise began caring for six of the victims and even assisted in burying the dead. She had no fear of catching the disease. That was not to be as she also came down with the illness. Louise remained seriously ill into 1868, and on April 15th of that year, she received last-rites. It was ten days after this that the stigmata began to appear
Louise noticed blood was dripping from her side. As was her personality, she said nothing. The following Friday the blood appeared again, but this time it was also coming from the tops of her feet. On Friday, May 8, the bleeding began to come from the front and back of both hands, and on Friday, September 25, the crown of bleeding spots appeared on her forehead.
She confided to her parish priest about it and, although quite stunned; he downplayed the entire phenomena. He asked her to not say anything about it. However, the experience for Louise continued every Thursday night until Friday evening for the rest of her life. Louise continued to work hard for the family as long as she could.
In 1871, Louise ceased to eat, drink and sleep. He only food was the Holy Eucharist which she received upon attending daily Mass. The Bishop of Tournai, Joseph Labis, opened an investigation into Louise’s inexplicable spiritual journey. Quickly word spread even traveling abroad. Crowds began to gather around the little house on a daily basis. That was the way it would be from then on.
Louise Lateau told her pastor of her visions which consisted of the Passion of Christ, the Virgin Mary and even some of the saints. She would go into ecstasy and remain that way for hours, oblivious to everything going on around her. She would seemingly remain painless as the phenomena continued and would have no recollection of the events that had happened while she was in ecstasy.
Renowned scientists and doctors were called in to examine and evaluate the young woman. None could find a rational explanation for her condition. Some of the atheistic and secular-minded scientists and doctors insisted what people were witnessing was nothing more than hysteria, blood anomalies or madness.
Anna Louise Lateau passed away on August 25, 1883. She was 33-years-old. Her burial place became a place of pilgrimage, and over the years there has been evidence of miracles happening through Anna Louise’s intercession.
This negative input into Louise’s narrative was effective at putting her cause for canonization on hold for over a century. The cause for sainthood must always be meticulously evaluated. She was declared a Servant of God, but her cause for canonization was not opened in Rome until 1991. To date, the investigation has not moved forward.
Servant of God; Anna Louise Lateau, please pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2018 All Rights Reserved