Skip to comments.What is the Stigmata? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 10/04/2008 10:00:19 PM PDT by Salvation
Some skeptics would attribute such wound marks on a person to some pathology or even to a psychological condition without considering any notion of the supernatural. Of course, the Church too strives first to ascertain that the origin is not of natural causes, and looks for supernatural evidence to prove that the stigmata is truly a sign from God. Moreover, the Church would also want to insure that the stigmata is not a sign from Satan to cause some spiritual frenzy and lead people astray. Accordingly, since the stigmata is a sign of union with our crucified Lord, the genuine stigmatic must have lived a life of heroic virtue, have endured physical and moral suffering, and have almost always achieved the level of ecstatic union with Him in prayer.
The wound marks themselves of the genuine stigmata are also distinct from any arising from some pathology: The genuine stigmata conforms to the wounds of our Lord, whereas those of a pathological nature would emerge at random on the body. The genuine stigmata bleeds especially on days when our Lord's passion is remembered (such as Fridays and Good Friday), whereas those of a pathological nature would not. The genuine stigmata emits clean and pure blood, whereas those of the pathological origin suppurate. The blood flow from a genuine stigmata can be great at times without harm to the person, whereas that of a pathological nature would seriously weaken a person and require a blood transfusion. The genuine stigmata cannot be healed through medication or other treatments, whereas one of pathological origin can. Finally, the genuine stigmata appears suddenly, whereas that of a pathological origin appears gradually over time and can be linked to underlying psychological and physical causes.
Finally, the genuine stigmatics have been surprised at the appearance of the stigmata. This sign is not something for which they had "prayed." Moreover, in humility, they have often tried to conceal it so as not to cause attention to themselves.
The first "certified" stigmatic was St. Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226). In August, 1224, he and several Franciscans journeyed to Mount Alvernia in Umbria, near Assisi, to pray. Here Francis begged to share in the sufferings of Christ. On the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14) in 1224, St. Francis had a vision of being embraced by our crucified Lord. The agony of the first Good Friday poured into his being, and he received the stigmata. He tried to conceal this sign of divine favor from others, covering his hands with his habit and wearing shoes and socks on his feet (which he normally did not do). Eventually, his confreres noticed the change in St. Francis' clothing and his physical suffering, and his stigmata became known. Eventually, upon the advice of his confreres, he revealed the stigmata publicly. St. Francis said, "Nothing gives me so much consolation as to think of the life and passion of our Lord. Were I to live to the end of the world, I should stand in need of no other book." Surely, St. Francis' love for our crucified Lord, witnessed in his care for the suffering poor, gained him the stigmata.
St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380), who had mystical experiences and visions from the time she was six years old, also received the stigmata. In February, 1375, while visiting Pisa, she attended Mass at the Church of St. Christina. After receiving Holy Communion, she fell into deep meditation, gazing upon the crucifix. Suddenly from the cross came five blood-red rays which pierced her hands, feet, and side, causing such great pain that she fainted. Here she received the stigmata, but it remained visible only to her until after her death.
Perhaps the most famous stigmatic is Padre Pio. Born in 1887, he had visions from the time he was five years old, and from an early age decided to dedicate his life to the Lord. He entered the Capuchin Franciscans in 1903, and was ordained a priest in 1910. He said, "I am devoured by the love of God and by the love of my neighbor."
On August 5, 1918, Padre Pio had a vision in which he felt himself pierced with a lance; afterwards, the lance wound remained with him. Later, on September 20, 1918, while he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, he also received the wounds of our Lord in his hands and feet. Each day, he lost about one cup of blood, but the wounds never closed or festered. Also, a sweet odor emanated from his wounds instead of the smell of blood.
During his life, Padre Pio came to know the depth of the suffering of our Savior at the hands of those within and outside of the Church, and of the Devil himself. Nevertheless, Padre Pio said, "I am an instrument in divine hands. I am useful only when manipulated by the Divine Mover." The stigmata would stay with Padre Pio to the time of his death. Pope Paul VI said, "What renown he has! What an international following! And why? Because he was a philosopher? A scholar? A person of means? No, because he said Mass in a humble manner, heard confessions from morning to night. And because he was Our Lord's representative, certified with the stigmata."
Although very few saints have been granted the stigmata, those who have, like St. Francis, St. Catherine, and Blessed Pio, have known the sufferings of our Lord. While the stigmata may intrigue us, the sign itself and those who bear it should inspire us to seek a closer union with our Lord, especially through frequent confession and reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Saunders, Rev. William. "What is the Stigmata? ." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald
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LOL! I knew someone would come up with that. You have no idea how many of those links I had to search for to find the article I was looking for. Something that would explain what stigmata are.
I actually watched the movie because I knew what stigmata was and wanted to see how it was treated. In the end I just thought it was a cool movie.
Did you think it portrayed someone having the wounds of Christ accurately? I have never seen it. (And with all the anti-Religion films now, I would hate to even watch anything.)
Our priest said that there would be no less that five films coming out against the Catholic Church soon. I think I have seen mention of one on FR, but don’t remember the name right now.
Honestly, I barely remember the movie, I just remember it being a weird, dark movie that I liked. I watched it on a bootleg one time, during a field exercise back when it first came out. All I remember was that it was a pretty cool movie that my wife had no desire to see so I haven’t seen it again.
As far as anti-Catholic films... I have no idea. Haven’t even heard a rumor. Sorry, but, coming from a Reformed Baptist (which I am) not hearing anyting should be no real surprise.
Southern Evangelicals and Catholics get it the worst from unHolyWood. It seems any time they have to depict a southern accented preacher or a priest they are always shown as inhuman monsters or at the most stiffs without a clue.
Do the marks on the hands appear on the wrists or the palms?
St. Francis’s were different, they were protrusions in the shape of nails. I don’t know if there was blood.
Pedantic? Yes, pedntic and unashamed, well, more or less.
However, it is possible that topes were used to provide the actual support of the body and nails were run thorugh the palms for torture only. I was thinking about this the other day and I would think the leverage provided by the ropes as fulcrum would make it even more painful when the victim pushed himself up to be able to inhale.
In general, I would think that there wasn't one prescribed way to crucify, and that sadism and creativity may have provided a number of different ways to make the death slow, humiliating, and agonizing.
true for 't'='r' such that "topes" = "ropes".
***Don’t worry. The rubes will never catch on. ***
From the FR donation advertisement with Barney Frank holding up his hand...I figured he would have a “stigmata” on it after Bill O’Reilley got through with him last week. ;-D
Thanks. I’m guessing ropes were used as well then, But I don’t really know the anatomy of the hand.
I believe there are some pictures on the threads. Hard to tell.
I did not know that.
I wondered if I used the correct verb in my post. What I copied from somewhere else is their error. LOL! Glad I got it correct — plural
It was hypothesized that ropes were used; also, the experiment with cadavers that tended to prove that a nail through the center of the palm would not support the weight, had this flaw, — that a living man would support himself in part by pushing against the plank to which the feet are nailed.
Another subject is what exactly the stigmata are. It is true that they, as the author writes, conform to the wounds of Christ. But do they conform to the wound as received by Christ or as the stigmatist imagines them to be? Since icons of the crucifixion show wounds through center of palms — not through the stronger cluster of bones near the wrist — a stigmatist receives them through palms also.
I am inclined to think that stigmata are there not to make an icon of Christ in the flesh of the stigmatist, but rather they are granted the stigmatist who desires to share in the suffering of Christ. Indeed, many stigmata are granted women, most that I saw depicted are through the center of palms, St. Francis’s excrecenses represent the Holy Wounds only symbolically; all true stigmatists are moved to conceal these signs. If so, there should be no expectation that the stigmata reveal to us the anatomical nature of the Holy Wounds. The stigmata are granted not for us to look at, but to the stigmatist as a special grace.
Let us say, one prays to receive martyrdom and he is indeed martyred for the Church. We would not expect him to be scourged and crucified in order to conform to Christ; a labor camp or a firing squad are the part of the individual journey of the martyr toward Christ. Likewise the stigmata are a collaboration of the particular stigmatist with grace.
I was going to say the shroud shows the nails going through the wrists. Therefore in my opinion any other signs would be false.
They won’t show the anatomically correct position of the wounds, but as I tried to explain in my previous posts, any wound received supernaturally driven by the desire of the mystic to share in the wounds of Christ would be a real sign of grace.
I would suggest that we slow down a little. I think annalex has sketched out some good issues.
Assuming the stigmatist (or somebody else) didn't cause the wounds with a pen knife, it's at least a prodigy, a wonder. Can't we say that?
At MY most cynical, I would suggest that something like this MIGHT could happen as a result of something like self-hypnosis. But even in that case it wouldn't be a garden variety, everyday sort of thing. I don't think the average hypnotist could induce someone to somehow create such wounds in himself, but then I don't know what I'm talking about.
And the associated phenomena are also hard to explain, if we grant that they really happened. That is, the sweet, rather than bloody, odor, and the like.
I mean, I'm the kind of guy who usually ends up napping when I attempt something like lectio divina. When I pray a full rosary (all 20 mysteries) I have to do so while standing or walking.
To me the gift of being so caught up in prayer that some psychosomatic phenomenon like the stigmata happened would itself be a miracle, even if subsequent generations could explain the sort of bio-mechanics of it. ("Psychosomatic" is here intended as a descriptive, not an evaluative term.)
Am I a little clear?
My point was if the wounds are in the wrong places then they would be false. They bible speaks of lying signs and wonders. From, my research it was St. Francie’s who first had these manifestations. His description of what happened brings doubt into my mind, he spoke of seeing the 6 winged seraphin who looked like Jesus.
What does it profit having marks? And why would they not be anatomically correct?
Let us remember that it is our suffering that benefits the Church, when it conforms to the suffering of Christ. The Biblical example is St. Paul who had a poor vision and a "thorn in his side":
7 And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. 8 For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful.
(2 Cor. 12)
continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister. 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God
What do we see here? The sign of suffering is a form of grace; it is applied to the suffering of Christ; it builds up the treasure of grace in the Church. Nowhere does the sign anatomically conforms to Christ. One wracked with cancer can, God willing, apply his pain to the pain of the scourging or the Crucifixion. If cancer anatomiically unrelated to the Holy Wounds can do it, then why demand anatomical correctness in the stigmatic wounds?
Yes, I know that's your point. I was suggesting that your point needed examining.
4742 stigma (stig'-mah); from a primary stizo (to "stick", i.e. prick); a mark incised or punched (for recognition of ownership), i.e. (figuratively) scar of service: KJV-- mark.
Yes, and that is the grace of stigmata in the narrow sense of marking the holy wounds as well.
And still my question would be what does it profit to have such marks. On all the accounts in the bible of visitations there is no odor accompanying them. Odors were synominus to pagan encounters. There was no odor when Paul encountered Christ or when the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost.
Interesting picture where did it come from?
And why does it rename the Greek letter ‘sigma’ ‘stigma’?
Don’t know thats why I asked where did it come from.
The name of the letter is SIGMA, not STIGMA. An majuscule (upper case) Sigma looks like this: Σ and the lower case in the middle of a word looks like this: σ Generally the 's' form of the letter only appears at the end of words. So I was taught anyway.
There may be other good things about this site but I find it very hard to take seriously anybody who presents such stuff.
We take very seriously Col 1:24 and, loving Jesus, we long (or some of us do) to share His sufferings. The marks alone aren't the whole deal. The accounts that I've read of stigmatic Dominicans always mention that the stigma were very painful, and that sometimes the stigmatist had the pain without the visible marks.
He or she did not consider them "profitable" but a gift of love. Or, I should say, of Love Himself.
I don't know, though, I keep hearing and reading about a "sweet-smelling savor," and while I think we would agree that miracles aren't the real deal, that our Lord Himself did not do many flashy miracles and often tried to get people to be quiet about them, yet when God DOES do a miracle, sometimes it's pretty spectacular. Sweet smells neither make me believe nor make me doubt.
Mark 8:36-37 36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 "Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (NKJ)
It appears that you have a very large chip on your shoulder. Christ never said that we were to share His sufferings, He said that we would suffer for His sake but as far as I've read God does not lay illness or suffering on His children just as a father would not put sickness or suffering on his child.
The word there profit was used in the sense that Paul used in his letter to the Corinthians when he said, 1 Cor 14:6 6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? (NKJ)
"What's the use of it?" If I understand you, I'd say that stigmatists prompt some of us to recommit ourselves or to strengthen our commitment to holiness of life.
Mark 8:36-37 36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 "Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (NKJ)
I guess I've always understood the "profit" here as in the same line of country as "What's the point? What's the good of it?" And of course there's no good in gaining the world and losing your soul.
Are you asking then what is the good to the stigmatist? I guess we'd have to ask the stigmatist. My impression from my very little reading is that the stigmata spur them to deeper devotion.
It appears that you have a very large chip on your shoulder.
I'll think and pray about that, and if there indeed is a chip, maybe God will give me the grace to, well to do whatever one is supposed to do with chips.
Christ never said that we were to share His sufferings, He said that we would suffer for His sake ...(the question of the origin of suffering is a wholly different one, hence the break.)
To me this is a dramatic difference in view. To me every Christian husband who grieves over his wife's loss of something that means nothing to him but a great deal and dole to her, every Christian who takes up the boredom and bad smells and frustration and likely failure of helping a drunk make yet another attempt to clamber out of the gutter, every Christian soldier who is wounded or killed helping his unit and defending the country, heck every Protestant who swallows his anger and frustration and tries, in charity and sincerity of heart, to straighten out us befuddled Catholics is sharing in Christ's mission and suffering.
When on a fair day with family and iced tea beckoning someone goes into the the room of an aphasic stroke victim and holds her hand and strokes her hair and whispers to her of God's love, the renunciation of iced tea and cool breeze and the patient soft evangelism is a participation in the work of Christ, and comes with His pain, albeit, in that case, not very great measure of his pain. — though maybe that night the terror of being trapped in an unresponsive and uncommunicative body may disturb his rest.
I thought that when, as a protestant, I was a hospital chaplain. Why would I go out of my way (unpaid as I was) to become close to a dying child and to his family so that when the death came I would grieve with them, if I didn't think I was privileged to walk where IHS walks and suffer as he suffers? "What profit" indeed in intentionally entering that world of grief?
... but as far as I've read God does not lay illness or suffering on His children just as a father would not put sickness or suffering on his child.
And so again we have the 90 degrees difference of view. I do not see God gratuitously throwing pain around, but I see an awful lot of pain. And while no humane father would lay sufferings on his children for no reason, yet a young boy (a very young boy — by the time they're old enough to be useful helping Dad is the last thing on their mind!) would eagerly blister and tear his skin and strain his muscles for the privilege of being allowed to help his father cut down a tree, saw it into logs, and stack the logs for the winter fires. (I have no son, but we heat with wood, so this is a vital example to me, and the 'orrible brat child did help me a few times before I became a ludicrous fossil in her eyes. Fortunately my fossilhood was brief and we have a lot of fun and many many good talks these days.)
Between the Fall and the Kingdom there is suffering. That just seems to be a commonplace to me, so true that I would not know how to dispute it. There's no avoiding it, as far as I can see, at least without serious harm to the soul.
It also seems true that willingly entering into suffering for the sake of others is something nearly everyone admits to be noble and virtuous. It's why we respect warriors, not so much for their victory as for their willingly taking on great risks and pains for our sake.
And, to provide a hint of where I think this line of thought goes, we are made members of His body, grafted into it. By His love and grace and by His Spirit and His life in us, our sufferings are His and His are ours.
I try to avoid arguing from my own authority. (It never works with my wife or my kid; why should it work here?)(joke) But I first learned the Greek alphabet in High school, from which I graduated in 1965. That was self taught, but I studied Greek in College and in Seminary. In the more than 30 years since then I have spent some time in the Greek New Testament and in various dictionaries and grammars. Never have I heard the letter called "stigma", not once, until your post.
Are you going to tell me that proctologists examine the stigmoid colon, which is named the sigmoid colon because of it's 's' shape?
As to the form of the letter, get a Greek testament and note the three forms. Or examine some old MSS.
And in that connection, last line of the table makes no sense. The Greek letters are χ (chi) and ι (iota) while the English gives THREE letters, chi, xi and the famous "stigma". The conjecture of a loss of concentration leading to a typo is attractive to me.
I sent a mesage to the site:
see the last line of the table on
There must be an error. The two Greek letters χ and ι are given and explained as chi, xi, and "stigma". I am guessing someone meant to give χ, ξ, and σ, but got tired or distracted.
**And, to provide a hint of where I think this line of thought goes, we are made members of His body, grafted into it. By His love and grace and by His Spirit and His life in us, our sufferings are His and His are ours. **
John 15: The Vine and the Branches BTTT!
I don’t have a Strong’s. Just a Young’s analytical. What’s the URL of the Strong’s boo-boo?
I just Googled "Strong's Concordance stigma" and found some fun stuff.
I don't know my way around Strong's.
Another thing that vexes me: In my Greek NT there is not only no "Chi, Xi, [whatever]" but none of the textual apparatus gives any indication of a textual variant including it!
So now I have to wonder in what texts it appears. And I have to wonder since it looks just like a terminal sigma, how the reader would know it wasn't a terminal sigma.
And it's interesting because the word στιγμα, (stigma) meaning mark or brand, is used in the NT, notably by Paul in Galations:(I bear on my body ...).
Do you know of a source other than Strong's and not depending on Strong's which refers to this obsolete character? I see reference to the chi xi [whatever] sequence in my Young's. I'm beginning to think that there is a major textual issue here.
You've ruined my morning, and I thank you. I hit my IDB, my Interpreters one volume Commentary, my Theological Dictionary of the NT, my Greek NT, my Greek lexicon of the NT (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich)and just about everything I have. Oh, wait, I have a Greek Grammar (Blass Debrunner) somewhere.
OKay, I'm back. I have NOTHING on this sequence of characters. Nothing whatsoever!
I don't know what to make of this I'd feel a lot better about this if there were independent confirmation.
it seems there's the question of the character (or numeral?) "stigma" and the textual question of the sources and texts used for the KJV. It's clear that subsequent sources have appeared which discredit SOME parts of some of the sources used by the KJV translators. (For example the differences in Isaiah 9) but clearly the magisterial references for the KJV (Young's and Strong's) think there is good reason to go with this notion.We need some scholars here!
Then that doesn't even touch the connection, if any, between stigmata as we Calf licks talk about them and the use of this character in Rev 13:18.
But again, I thank you for the work out and the question.
and while they know of the Theological Dictionary of the NT it APPEARS, I could be wrong, that for their article here they only refer to Thayer's and Smith's, which comports, (but by no means proves) my contention that this is a KJV textual/source issue.
Oh Wait. I looked it up under Chi in my B.A.G. lexicon and they have it as "textus receptus". Heigh ho, off to the 10 volume dictionary again .....
I'm back to my guess that this is a discredited variant of the t.r.. I would assume the KJV (and therefore Strongs, Young's Thayers; etc) would work off the t.r.. And maybe the obsolete "Stigma" is not archaic but a medieval type of obsolete.
Thanks again. More work needs to be done, nut not by me. I have a deadline I've been neglecting.