April 3, 2018

Irving “Francis” Houle--an Average, Middle Class, Husband and Father from Michigan..He also bore the Stigmata


Irving "Francis" Houle--Stigmatist  mysticsofhtechurch.com
By Larry Peterson

 We know that St. Francis of Assisi was the first known person to receive the Stigmata and another stigmatist who was canonized in 2002 is St. Pio of Pietrelcina. We know him best as Padre Pio. St Catherine of Siena may be the best known Catholic woman who bore the stigmata and, for the most part,  those who have received the stigmata have been women. Then there is Irving "Francis" Houle, just a regular guy from Michigan.

Irving was born in northern Michigan, in the town of Wilson, in 1925. He was one of six boys and one girl born to Peter and Lillian Houle. The family prayed the rosary every day during Lent and their dad had them say the Stations of the Cross every Sunday after Mass. The Houle's were surely a devout, Catholic family.

When Irving was six-years-old he fell from a horse onto a railroad tie, broke three ribs and punctured his lung. He was rushed to the nearest hospital because he was hemorrhaging badly. The doctor thought the child would not survive. His parents quickly called his aunt, a Franciscan nun, Sister Speciosa, and told her what had happened.

The nuns all gathered together and began praying for Irving. The next morning the doctor was amazed to find that the ribs had moved away from his lungs and the bleeding had stopped. All Irving wanted to know was who was the beautiful man standing over his bed with His hand stretched over him. The bishop himself concluded that with such an incredible recovery, it had to be Jesus.

Irving's life was as stereotypical of middle-class-mid-western living as might be imagined. He graduated high-school in 1944 as World War II was raging. The very next day he joined the U.S. Army. He served in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and received the American Theater Sevice Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He was discharged in 1946.

Irving, living the traditional life of a young, Catholic man, married Gail LaChapelle in 1948 and they had five children, Stephen, Peter, John and twins, Matthew and Margo. Raising his family in northern Michigan, Irving worked for Montgomery Ward, a chemical supply company, and as a plant manager. He was an active parishioner at St. Joesph's parish and an active member of the Knights of Columbus where was a District deputy and a member of the Fourth Degree with the honor of being addressed as "Sir Knight". The Houle family could have been the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Irving began calling himself "Francis" after the Stigmata began. It is something he just did and that is how people began to know him. But it was on Good Friday, April 9, 1993, that the Stigmata first began to show itself.  Francis told his brother and the priest, Father Robert Fox,  who wrote the book about him how Jesus appeared to him when Lent began on Ash Wednesday. He told them Jesus  said to him, "I am taking away your hands and giving you mine...touch them." 

On Good Friday, the swelling that had been obvious on the top and bottom of his hands broke open and began to bleed. Walter Casey, a retired policeman who had been appointed by the bishop to stay with Francis at all times, explained how every morning between the hours of midnight and 3 a. m., 365 days a year, Francis suffered the passion of Christ. Francis told him that the Blessed Mother had come to him nineteen times and during those visits told him that she would bring many people to him and him to many people.

It is estimated that "Francis" prayed individually over one hundred thousand people while he was still alive. Folks would wait for hours on end to see the elderly grandpa who bore the stigmata and would lay his hands on them. People would be crying and would touch him and kiss his hands. There is a saying, "slain in the spirit" and this happened to some people as they dropped to the ground at his feet.

Irving "Francis" Houle, never sought any personal attention, financial donations or financial support. He was adamant in the fact that all healing was from God and that no one should look to him but rather to Our Lord Jesus Christ as the true cause of any spiritual or physical healing. "Francis" passed away on First Saturday, January 3, 2009. He was 83 years old and had borne the stigmata of Christ for over 15 years. He is one of the very few laymen in the history of the church who was a victim soul and bore the stigmata.

The two bishops in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, Bishop James H. Garland and Bishop Alexander K. Sample,  found "no fault" with the activity of "Francis" and gave him his blessing. These findings have not yet been forwarded to Rome.

"Francis" wrote the following prayer:


Oh! my Jesus. My heart is so heavy. Your burden is too much for me to bear.Please, my Jesus, let me take your Cross for a while. Just to let you know I care.Look upon me, dear Lord with eyes of your mercy. May your healing hands rest upon me.If it be your will, please give me health, strength, and peace.Amen

                                                       Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017