What happens when you have stigmata can vary quite a bit from person to person, though the experience is almost always harrowing. "Stigmata" is a term used in the Christian faith to describe the experience of immense pain and sometimes actual wounds corresponding to those of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. An individual suffering from stigmata might bear one or more of the five holy wounds which include marks from the crown of thorns on the forehead, whipping marks, nail wounds at the hands and feet, and the mark of a spear through the side.
In addition to these wounds, however, stigmata signs can encompass many supernatural abilities that a person suddenly develops, abilities that are believed to be gifted from God. These gifts can include but are not limited to: angelic visions, the ability to converse with God, and the ability to heal others. While some symptoms are awesome, others are downright terrifying. Collected here are some signs you have stigmata, as well as frightening but inspiring stories of stigmata sufferers.
The very first recorded stigmatic in Christian history is St. Francis of Assisi. Now, Francis was quite the rambunctious youth and he got himself into multiple situations that could have resulted in death. His near misses inspired him to turn over a new leaf, and he devoted the rest of his life to God.
In 1224, there was a mountain retreat and 40-day fast in honor of the Assumption. It was while on this retreat that Francis had his first vision that marked the onset of stigmata. He saw the heavens explode as a seraph with wings of fire descended from heaven. He felt the wounds of the crucifixion and heard Jesus speak to him. In his waking life, scars on his body mirrored Christ’s wounds. Although he suffered great pain and died within two years of becoming stigmatic, he never had any open wounds, only scars.
In the case of St. Catherine, she too experienced the pain of the crucifixion while having visions and conversations with Jesus for most of her life. The wounds however, didn’t appear until after her death.
While the wounds of the crucifixion are the first thing that come to mind when hearing the word "stigmata," not all stigmatics receive actual open, bleeding wounds. Those who do have real wounds often don’t get them all at once, and they may seem to come and go. There are only about 30 stigmatics in existence who have experienced all of Christ’s wounds at once.
The deeply pious Marie Rose Ferron is one of those extremely rare cases. She began receiving visions of the crucifixion at the age of six. In her teens, she was stricken with a mysterious paralysis that led to her becoming completely bedridden. In 1927, whip-like wounds appeared on her arms and soon her body bore all five of the holy wounds. Rose lived in agony, the stigmata never left. Rose cried out to God, asking when he would take her home. "Seven years" was his reply, and seven years later she died. She was 33 years old - the same age Jesus was when he died on the cross.
When fresh blood mysteriously appeared on the hands of Ethel Chapman on Good Friday in front of witnesses at the Cheshire Home in England, there was no denying she was becoming stigmatic. In addition to the wounds, she also began smelling sweet perfumes and levitating.
Chapman, who has suffered with multiple sclerosis and was paralyzed from the waist down, had asked for a sign from God to give her hope and she received it. In 1973, she told the BBC, ‘
I remember saying quite plainly, "Oh Lord, please show me in some way you're there." I felt myself being drawn on to the Cross. I felt the pain of the nails through my hands and through my feet… I felt myself all the agony and all the pain that the Lord Himself went through.
A 31-year-old priest named Zlatko Sudac began to demonstrate signs of the stigmata while at a social gathering back in 1999 (only slightly awkward). Apparently, he felt no pain, but about a year later, he began bleeding from his wrists, feet, and side. These wounds would pulse and ache as he prayed, but it wasn’t all strange bloody wounds. Not only does he claim to be able to levitate, but he has the gifts of prophecy and bilocation - meaning he can literally be in two places at once.