The transverberation is a spiritual wounding of the heart. Saints were sometimes rewarded by God for loving him so much that they offered the Lord total dominion over their heart. Many famous saints including several daughters of the church – St John of the Cross, St.Teresa of Avila, St.Teresa of Lisieux experienced the different forms of the transverberation, which could come in the form of mystical vision and a physical wounding of the heart by a dart or a flame of love.
In one rare instance, that of St.Veronica Givilani, the imprint of the cross was actually made upon the heart of that saint. And after her death this heart with the image upon it has been preserved.
Lord Jesus appeared to Blessed Mariam Thresia many times bearing the cross on his shoulders. He asked her to lessen his pain through her prayers and sacrifices. She says in her autobiography: “One day I saw our Lord standing before me carrying the cross and in great pain. He asked me to share in his sufferings. He embraced me and laid his cross on my shoulders telling me not to be afraid of anything”. Her spiritual father records another experience of Thresia, which in substance, if not in details, resembles the transverberation of St.Teresa of Avila and St. Padre Pio, namely, a special participation in the passion of Christ.
On the 10 February 1906 Jesus appeared before Thresia bearing a heavy cross and in great suffering. Then she began to weep thinking that it was her sins that were responsible for his passion. Jesus then said to her, “Your sins are not the reason for this. The sins and cruelties of the people of the world are the reason.” On hearing this Thresia replied “My Lord I shall bear the cross that you are bearing, give it to me.” Then the Lord told her, “then you bear this and lessen my burden.” At once she felt that her heart was splitting in two and she experienced much pain and fear. While sitting alone in her room behind closed doors, she again saw Jesus bending under the weight of the heavy cross in a more pitiable way. She then cried aloud and said “Enough, O Lord, enough, I do not want to see this sight, I shall bear the cross. All I need is your help.” So saying she wept bitterly. Though she was conscious at that time, she was not aware of what was happening outside. Her cry and words were heard by her friends who were outside. Soon an angel came and thrust a spear into her left side. She felt that the spear had pierced her heart and reached the right side of the chest. Consequently there was profuse bleeding and she became unconscious. Her jacket got wet with blood. Her body was drenched in perspiration. Then the bolted room opened by itself. Her friends and others entered the room. They saw her lying unconscious. The jacket she was wearing was wet with blood and her body was drenched in perspiration. They felt sorry for her. Then a voice was heard. “Give her a tender coconut. Take her out and lay her in the veranda. Let her get fresh air. Pour water on her head.” They did so. After the angel had thrust the spear, Thresia saw Jesus standing without the cross and without wounds.
The piercing of the heart or transverberation of Mariam Thresia occurred repeatedly, five times in all. The following account highlights her love for God.
On Wednesday February 14, 1906, at daybreak an angel came and thrust a spear into her heart. When he drew it out, the point was fiery in color and it carried a piece of flesh. Thresia felt intense pain and was perturbed…Later the lord was asked by her spiritual father about the meaning of all this. : “It is a symbol of the love of God,” answered the Lord [through her]. “If she remains constant, she will be pierced twice more.”
The best known case of transverberation occurred with St.Teresa of Avila around 1582. Describing a short angel who was very beautiful and who appeared to be one of the highest orders of angels, who appeared to her as all on fire, she said “In his hand I saw a golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire”. He pierced her heart so many times that she described it as going through her entire abdominal cavity. She described the consequence as one of complete fire for the love of God, but the pain was so intense she was audibly moaning.
The heart was removed from St.Teresa of Avila’s body during exhumation, and in 1872 was studied by 3 doctors at the University of Salamanca. The perforation caused by the fiery dart was noted, and the doctors agreed that the heart could not be preserved by any natural or chemical means. It was completely incorrupt and is kept at the convent of the Carmelite reform.