When Rhoda Wise died on July 7 in 1948, more than 14,000 people attended her funeral at St. Peter’s Church in Canton, Ohio. That’s equivalent to the population of an entire town! I first heard about her only a few years ago when I read in Raymond Arroyo’s biography on Mother Angelica that Mother was one of many people healed after visiting Rhoda.
Arroyo explained that Mother Angelica, Founder of EWTN, who was known as Rita Rizzo then, was brought by her mother to see Rhoda in January of 1943. Rita was 19 at the time and suffered from a chronic condition known as "dropped” stomach. Her stomach was dropped into the abdominal cavity, causing intense pain and digestive disturbances.
During their visit, Rhoda gave Rita a novena (9 days of prayer) to St Therese the “Little Flower” to recite, asking St. Therese to pray for her. On the last day of the novena, Rita woke up in the middle of the night with sharp pains in her stomach.
In the morning, Rita realized that the pain was gone. She was cured! The bluish color around her waist and the bulging lump on her lower abdomen were completely and permanently gone!
|Rhoda is 2nd from right, next to Rita Rizzo, far right|
Now that I know more about Rhoda, I’m astonished that it took me so long to hear about this amazing woman surrounded by so many miracles. According to a spokesperson at the a preliminary investigation has been completed and her cause for canonization is expected to open this October.
Simple Beginnings and Much Suffering
Rhoda was born in 1888, the sixth of eight children from a working class, Protestant family. She became a widow at the age of 28 after only 6 months of marriage when her husband died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Rhoda married George Wise on January 27, 1917 and they soon adopted a baby girl. The baby sadly died during the Spanish flu epidemic, just before her first birthday. Then, in 1922, George and Rhoda adopted their only other child, daughter Anna Mae.
Although Rhoda loved George, his problems with alcohol led to many struggles in their marriage. She had a hard life in many ways including physical sufferings.
Rhoda developed a 39 pound ovarian cyst and in 1931. Complications from surgery to remove it led to severe infections and adhesions and necessitated other surgeries. She could not sleep or even move much, but she prayed with the Mercy sisters at the Mercy Medical Center who taught her the rosary. Rhoda grew especially close to Sr. Clement who told her about St. Theresa, the “Little Flower.” They prayed a novena to St. Theresa together every night. Through the influence of the sisters, Rhoda would eventually became Catholic on January 1, 1939.
Five years after the cyst was removed, Rhoda had accidentally stepped into a sewer drain causing a chain of severe problems with her right leg from infection to surgeries and ultimately confining Rhoda to bed with a cast. Problems with her abdomen also continued to worsen. Shortly after being received into the Church, Rhoda had her last abdominal surgery. By that time, there was so much scarring that the surgeon could not close her abdomen properly, leaving an open hole. It drained constantly and her bowels protruded. When it seemed there was nothing more that could be done to help her, Rhoda was sent home to die.
Throughout her months in the hospital, Rhoda prayed a novena to St. Theresa every evening with Sister Clement. Of her suffering, Rhoda wrote in her diary: “They say suffering and trouble only bring us nearer to God and I know I am close to Him, but I want to be closer still."
When a woman was screaming down the hall our of fear of death, Rhoda wrote: Why does one fear death so much -unless they have not lived right and served Him must be the reason. I don't seem to be afraid because when we think of all He promises us over there and we are living close to Him as we can, there is nothing to fear.
By March of 1939, Rhoda's suffering grew even more intense. In her diary, she wrote that she did not know it was possible to suffer so much. She often asked God to heal or take her soon but either way, accepted his will. She wrote: “ My stomach is so raw from that irritation. I don't know what to do. God, how much longer must I suffer like this? Little Flower, why won't you hear me? I cannot pray any harder than I am. Please hear me….Jesus, I am praying so hard for you to make me well, and if that is not to be, let me die at once.”
On May 28, 1939, after she had been sent home to die, Rhoda wrote in her diary of a mystical experience during the early morning hours. Jesus had appeared in her room in a chair by the altar George had built for her. He (Jesus) was gloriously beautiful. I never saw a picture as beautiful as He is. His robe was beautiful. It was gold with every color in it. I just wanted to touch it and see what it was like. I could see the marks on his forehead where the Crown of Thorns had pierced His brow. Just as I tried to touch His robe He said He would return in thirty-one days….
Rhoda said she was certain it was no dream. “Have you come for me?” she had asked him. He answered, "No, your time has not come yet.” He told her that he would return in thirty-one days.
On June 28, 1939, Rhoda wrote in her diary that she saw Jesus again. While I looked at Him, He said, “Here I am as I said.” St. Therese, the Little Flower, was right by Him. She came to my bedside.
St. Therese put her hand on Rhoda’s stomach and she was completely healed. Jesus told Rhoda he would come again.
The cast on Rhoda's foot was to be on until November 10 and then she would be fitted with a brace. Instead, on August 15, 1939 on the Feast of the Assumption on the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Theresa came and told her to stand up and walk. “ I stood right on my feet and the cast broke and I stepped right out of it,” she wrote in her diary.
Rhoda joyously repeated her story over and over again to everyone who asked. She wrote: Everyone around me says they will never doubt God again. I never have. I knew He would do what He thought best. He did, and I will devote my whole life to working for Him in any way He wants to use me."
|Crowds outside witnessed light during one apparition|
What Rhoda referred to as the greatest miracle, occurred later in that same month of August. Her husband George quit drinking “cold turkey” after seeing Jesus himself. He had gone to bed and everywhere he looked, Jesus was there. Jesus said nothing and in George’s words, “He didn’t have to.”
Crown of Thorns and Stigmata
On Good Friday, April 3, 1942 marks like from a crown of thorns appeared and bled on Rhoda’s forehead for the first time. . Every first Friday of the month afterwards, the marks appeared from 12:00 noon to 3:00pm. Blood also came forth from her eyes.
Jesus appeared to her in a vision on June 2, 1942 and told her: “To save souls, one must suffer.” It was clear that Rhoda was chosen to be a victim soul—to suffer for the sake of souls. On the first Friday of November, the stigmata—the wounds of Christ--appeared on her feet. Then in 1944, the stigmata also appeared in her hands.
As word of the miracles spread, many people began to flock to her home and there were many more healings even after her death. Rhoda’s life on earth ended on July 7, 1948 from malignant hypertension at the age of 60.
“This place is to be a Shrine”
On April 3, 1940, Jesus had told Rhoda: “…This place is to be a Shrine and cures more wonderful than your own will take place on this spot.” After her mother’s death, Anna Mae continued to keep the house open for pilgrims until her own death in 1995. She bequeathed the home to Mother Angelica and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and it became the property of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which Mother Angelica founded. The monastery eventually returned it after a non-profit corporation was set up to create a shrine out of Rhoda's home.
The Rhoda Wise House at 2337 25th St. NE, Canton, Ohio is open daily to visitors. Graces and favors are being reported. For more information on Rhoda Wise, visit the official website at RhodaWise.com. Her Name Means Rose –The Rhoda Wise Stor” by Karen Sigler S.F.O. available by clicking here. Here is a Fox 8 news report. For a more detailed article go to: Mystics of the Church
Novena to Jesus Through St Therese that Rhoda and Sr. Clement Prayed
O beautiful Rose of Carmel, Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, deign according to your promise to descend from Heaven to visit those who implore you. Pour down upon us in profusion those Celestial Graces that are symbolized by the shower of roses that Jesus, your Spouse, had put at your disposal.
Your power is great with his Heart. He can only listen and hear your prayer. I have recourse to you then, O Saint Therese of the Child Jesus; assist me in this need. Speak for me to Jesus and to Mary and obtain for me the grace to live a holy life and die a happy death. Amen.