Though the healings were often spiritual, rather than physical in nature, some people reported immediate physical cures as well.
He prayed over one wheelchair-bound woman, a cancer patient given only four months to live. Five months later she came to him, walking, reporting that she was free of cancer. An eight-year-old boy suffering leukemia also reported healing after his prayers.
Witnesses, including his wife Gail, said Houle first received the stigmata in 1993, at the age of 67.
"I didn't notice any real changes in him before it happened," she said.
On Holy Thursday of that year, he felt sick and went home to lay on the couch after Adoration at the parish church.
"That night, he said his hands hurt," Gail said. "I looked but there was nothing. I asked him if his arms hurt too, but he said no. Later, he said his head hurt."
On Good Friday, he stayed home, an unusual action for the devout churchgoer. This continued through Easter.
"After Easter, he had red spots the size of dimes on his hands. He said they hurt, but didn't want to discuss it."
Deacon Terry Saunders told the U.P. Catholic he saw Houle immediately after Easter, when Houle brought him Holy Communion.
"He told me of the pain in his hands and when the marks appeared. He was nervous about it," Saunders said. "Over time, I saw his hands swell, like they'd do if you were hit with something. His hands split open, and after that, he had open wounds sometimes as big as a quarter or half dollar. He wore bandages on the back of his hands for the rest of his life, and bands like sweatbands around them if he was bleeding."
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Gail said they struggled in dealing with the stigmata.
Doctors, priests, bishops and cardinals had examined his wounds, but they did not know what was happening.
Houle said he suffered the Passion and had visions every night, with the pain beginning at 12:30 a.m. and lasting 35 minutes. He would then have visions until 2:30 or 3 a.m., he told Father Robert J. Fox in an interview.
His wife Gail never witnessed this part of her husband's life, though several people including his brother did. She believed that her habit of falling asleep quickly was God's way of shielding her.
In one May 1993 vision, the Virgin Mary told him: "My beloved Son: I come to you this night to tell you how much your prayers and suffering have meant to my Son and me. Your suffering has been long, my child. You have pleased my Son and me. We will be close to you. The graces have been given to you. Satan is trying to cause confusion among you. But I tell you, he will not succeed…"
Houle said he would feel intense pain, at times feeling as if he were being torn apart. During this time God would show him who and what he was suffering for, like civil wars, abortion, homelessness, murders, and abused women and children.