Yesterday, whilst we were in a hotel in Newcastle so I could see an old friend who moved there during the 2009/2010 summer, my brother – always on the alert for me talking about anything he views as failing to fit essential scientific evidence – wrote a programme to simulate what he believes to have been the true life of German mystic and stigmatist Thèrése Neumann. In this programme, my brother assumes dogmatically that Thèrése Neumann ate in secret and did not enjoy the Eucharist so much that she could not live without it for more than a day.
In a later version, my brother changed the writing to German and added more detail, like saying “Ich bin durstig” if Thèrése was not given water (Wasser) but once he had the problem of it failing to say she was dead if she just had the Eucharist. What I said to him was that in reality, when she was given the Body of Jesus, Thèrése would say “Das schmeckt so gut, daß ich Darohne nicht leben kann” (“That tastes so good I cannot live without it”)!
In the words of Joan Carroll Cruz, Thèrése Neumann’s life is supposed to be ebbing away just before she received her daily Holy Communion, and she was revived as soon as she received the Bread of Life. However, as you can work out from the attached diagram which my brother sent me, there are some key assumptions that people who knew Thèrése Neumann had strong eyewitness evidence against.
The most basic is that Thèrése Neumann was capable of eating ordinary nourishment. The impression one received from reading Joan Carroll Cruz and Michael Freze is that she and other stigmatists would suffer illnesses such as vomiting and fevers as soon as they were given food or drink other than the Eucharist. Freze says quite definitely that such occurrences have been observed by eyewitnesses. If Thèrése Neumann really could not eat ordinary food, then she would have felt very bad if she ate donuts (Krapfen) or fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) at any time, which would make what my brother says absurd. Sophy Burnham says that people who were anything but mystical have had the problem of coughing up any solid food given to them, as with Xiong Zaidong who had a fever of 42˚C. If Thèrése Neumann had such problems, she would at the very least have had to take a very special diet to survive, which might not include typical food from the Germany of her time.
Another is that Thèrése Neumann actually was carrying out normal bodily processes. Eyewitnesses like those cited by Adalbert Albert Vogl say that as a result of her illness, Thèrése’s body no longer carried out normal functions like excretion. If as eyewitnesses say she was not excreting, Thèrése would have been able to retain minimal nourishment and might have struggled even more to add something like fried potatoes.
Some have also suggested that Thèrése’s stomach contracted because she was not eating, though I have no evidence for that claim being medically examined.
Still, if any of this is true for whatever reason, it means that we must be careful about assuming Thèrése Neumann could eat freely and/or could be fed as an ordinary person would be.