** NOTICE: This post contains images readers may find graphic & disturbing. **
~ Galatians 6:17
+ What is the “Stigmata”?
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of
~ Colossians 1:24
+ The bloody sweat suffered by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
Dr. Antoine Imbert-Gourbeyre - a French doctor who died in 1912 - personally studied several Stigmatics during his lifetime, as well as compiled a comprehensive listing of Stigmatics he had identified from history. His count, at the time, totaled 321 Stigmatics, which in my humble opinion falls a little short of the actual number based on my personal research… and interestingly enough, woman Stigmatics outnumbered the men three to one, which isn’t surprising given the fact that women have a greater capacity to empathize with those who suffer. Plus, if you think about it - wasn’t Jesus attended to during his Passion and death by more women than men?
The phenomenon of the Mystical Stigmata, has itself, fueled debate between the Faithful and those who either believe that there’s a scientific/medical explanation for the wounds, or that they are simply an outright fraud perpetrated by publicity seekers. For me, personally, I believe the numerous cases of Stigmatics who have been Canonized or Beatified by the Catholic Church (approximately 70 mystics) and those who are currently being investigated for possible Sainthood (60+ Servants of God) were indeed special individuals who were touched in a most profound way by the hand of God. Henceforth, in the rest of this blog, I will refer to this select group of Catholic mystics as “true” Stigmatics.
In the past 25 years I have studied the phenomenon and have read biographies - long and short - of over 200+ recipients of the stigmata, and I must say - my admiration for true Stigmatics has only grown as I came to fully realize how their unique vocations and roles in salvation history have made them not just spiritual "carbon copies" of Christ Crucified, but miraculous physical representations of Him, as well, in a world that is increasingly denying the existence of God.
In this blog I will attempt to explain the reasons why I believe the Mystical Stigmata, as exhibited by credible Catholic mystics, is a supernatural grace from God. This post will be very long, so for the reader’s sake I won’t delve deeply into the theological aspect of the phenomenon, nor go into an extensive rebuttal of what skeptics believe. Now before I continue, it’ll be necessary to briefly state how skeptics view the stigmata - they believe that it’s mainly caused by the following two reasons:
*** A hysterical condition augmented by auto-suggestion or self-hypnosis, during which the mind causes the body to produce marks resembling crucifixion wounds (in other words, they say it’s a mind over matter thing).
*** “Pious Fraud”: a term used to describe situations where a person deliberately perpetrates a hoax to propagate a religious cause. The term has also been used to describe a situation where a Stigmatic was accused of self-inflicting wounds while he/she was in an altered state of consciousness (e.g. Ecstasy).
The above may be correct in many cases, but in the instances of true Stigmatics, I can’t bring myself to believe in the above explanations based on what I’ve gleaned from my years of research. There are just too many inexplicable factors attested to by countless witnesses, including doctors and scientists, that point to the supernatural origin of the Mystical Stigmata. So below are just some of my findings that I believe support the authenticity of this unique marvel...
“And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood:
~ Hebrew 9:22
The wounds of genuine stigmata are generally very deep and they bleed profusely. In comparison, in the few documented cases of trauma patients who were subjected to hypnotism to produce stigmata-like lesions, researchers were only able to effect weak imitations of the genuine wounds; hypnosis/auto-suggestion only induced superficial, rash-like marks that seeped a small amount of blood, if any… and they healed rather quickly. To give an example of the severity and depth of what a genuine Stigmatic suffered, the permanent hand wounds of the Italian foundress, Madre Claudia de Angelis (d. 1715 - Anagni, Italy), completely pierced her palms and her confessor once wrote he could see right through them when she held her hands up against a candle flame. Closer to our own time, St. Padre Pio (d. 1968 - San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy), the famous Capuchin Saint, had a very deep chest wound, which bled almost a cup of blood daily yet astoundingly he never suffered from anemia. Furthermore, in all cases, the stigmata never became infected despite the lack of medical treatment, and in fact, they often got worse or were simply resistant when medication was applied to cure them.
The Fragrance of Sanctity is also frequently associated with Stigmatic wounds or with the blood that has issued from them. To name just a few Stigmatics who were graced with sweet-scented wounds, we can cite St. Lydwina of Scheidam (d. 1433 - Holland), Madre Juana dela Cruz (d. 1534 - Madrid, Spain), Madre Domenica del Paradiso (d. 1553 - Florence, Italy), St. Catherine dei Ricci (d. 1590 - Prato, Italy), Benoite Rencurel (d. 1718 - Laus, France), and again St. Padre Pio whose wounds and blood emanated the scent of fresh roses. For skeptics who claim a bottle of perfume is the cause, it doesn’t explain why the preserved blood-soaked bandages (including other personal belongings) of certain stigmatized holy persons continue to emit the wonderful scent of flowers or incense long after a mystic has passed away.
Luminosity has also been reported in the wounds of certain Stigmatics. Again citing, Therese Neumann, her hand wounds were observed (and photographed) glowing on at least one occasion while she was in ecstasy during a Mass in her parish church. St. Catherine dei Ricci’s wounds and those of Bl. Helen of Hungary (d. 1237 - Veszprim) were likewise witnessed to glow radiantly while they were in ecstatic rapture. After she died in 1457, the nuns in her small Italian convent observed St. Rita of Cascia’s single thorn wound sparkling like a precious jewel on her forehead.
Another mystic, Madre Passitea Crogi (d. 1615 - Siena, Italy), had her blood collected without her knowledge during the occasions that she relived the Passion of Christ in a trance state. Vials of her blood are still preserved in one of the Franciscan monasteries she founded, and although the blood is now obviously dry and crusty, the nuns have observed it liquefying into bright red blood during major Feast Days, or at times of crisis for the Church.
I, myself, am blessed to have in my custody, a piece of bandage soaked in the stigmatic blood of the Servant of God, Louise Lateau (d. 1883 - Boise d’Haine, Belgium). Originally when I first received it from a priest-friend in 2001, the blood was dark and dry. However, shortly after it was placed on my home altar, the blood became moist and it caused a large stain on the holy card on which this rare and precious relic was mounted (see below). I had to laminate the card in order to keep it from falling apart.
“Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do,
~ Words of Our Lord, John 14:12
In addition to bearing the wounds of Jesus in their bodies, many Stigmatics were also gifted with other mystical gifts; in fact, in my readings on the lives of the Saints, I have never seen an abundance of charisms in the lives of holy persons as experienced by Stigmatics; their biographies overflow with reports of signs and wonders. Just to give you a small idea of these other supernatural gifts, and the stigmatized souls who experienced them, I present the following:
Weeping Images - in modern times, there have been several alleged stigmatics who have had weeping religious statues and pictures closely associated with them, usually in their homes. Images that have wept regular, watery tears and even blood. This phenomena was reported in the cases of Sr. Agnes Sasagawa (living Marian visionary of the Akita apparitions), Alan Ames (living), Alina Coia (living), Angelik Caruana of Malta (living), Little Audrey Marie Santo (d. 2007), Bettina Jamundo (deceased?), the Servant of God Concetta Pantusa (d. 1953), Debora Marasco (living), Enzo Alocci (deceased?), Giulio Massa (living), Fr. James Bruse (living), Julia Kim (living Marian visionary of the Naju apparitions), Mario D'Ignazio (living), Myrna Nazzour (living visionary of the Soufanieh apparitions), Pina Micali (living), and Teresa Musco (d. 1976).
The invisible stigmata was noted in the lives of St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380 - Italy), Bl. Osanna Andreasi (d. 1505 - Mantua, Italy), St. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (d. 1607 - Florence, Italy)... and also in the modern cases of Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno (d. 1900 - Rome, Italy), St. Anna Schaffer (d. 1925 - Mindelstetten, Germany), the Servant of God, Sr. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (d. 1927 - New Jersey, USA), Marie Rose Ferron (d. 1936 - Rhode Island, USA), and Berthe Petit (d. 1943 - Belgium).
“And it shall come to pass, in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit
~ Acts 2:17
There are quite a number of individuals living today who are purportedly imprinted with the wounds of Christ (80+ and the number has been growing in recent years); more than any other time in history... and many of them are recipients of reported Marian apparitions, as well. Some, in my humble opinion, can be reasonably viewed as credible - for example, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of the Church-approved Marian apparitions in Akita, Japan… and Mrs. Gladys Quiroga de Motta, the visionary of San Nicolas, Argentina, whose Marian apparitions are rumored to be on the verge of being officially approved by her local Bishop. But for the most part, careful discernment is a must, as there are some individuals who claim Stigmata, yet are heavily involved with Esoteric and New Age ideologies. One even claims to be in direct contact with UFOs and alien beings!
exhibiting stigmata during an alleged visionary experience.
Fairly recently, a man named Clemente Dominguez (d. 2005 - Palmar de Troya, Spain) manifested apparent supernatural stigmata during alleged visions of Jesus and Mary in the 1970s… but he also ended up founding his own version of the Catholic Church with his many followers and even proclaimed himself its Pope; obviously a very big red flag! This all goes to show how easily the Devil can infiltrate and deceive people… and how in matters of private revelations, we should always look to the Catholic Church for guidance… or at the very least, practice some good ol’ common sense grounded in solid Church teachings. As Scriptures state: “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16)
“Oh, how full I am of compassion... and how I desire - I need - the generosity of some
to make reparation for others. It is love that makes reparation.”
~ Words of Our Lord to Sr. Mary of the Holy Trinity,
I firmly believe that we - the people of the entire world - owe a big debt of gratitude to true Stigmatics, as these people, throughout history, have been the “lightning rods” of Divine Justice for all of us sinners. Contrary to the popular opinion that the Sacred Stigmata goes against the concept of a loving God, I beg to differ - sure, it’s disturbing and painful just to view graphic photos of those who suffer this grace... but that is the reality of the Passion of Christ; what Jesus endured to save us from the ugliness of sin wasn't a pretty sight.
For me, I’ve come to comprehend that the lives of holy stigmatized souls are all part of God’s plan of Divine Mercy and Love... and I am grateful to the Lord and all these souls who were (and are) willing to suffer for us. The many sins committed by today’s society cry out loudly for God’s justified wrath, but in his goodness and mercy, he works with a few hand-picked souls who voluntarily cooperate with Christ in absorbing into their own flesh the well-deserved punishment meant for a much wider group of people. At the same time, through the holy example and the heavenly messages delivered by true Stigmatics, we are given the opportunity to reconcile with God and return to his loving embrace.