Ask a Franciscan

Problem With the Stigmata

I became a Catholic in 1991 and am very happy to be one. The phenomenon of the stigmata, however, troubles me. After researching this, I cannot understand why God would inflict this on anyone. Because I have found no reference to the stigmata in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I doubt that this is part of the official teaching of the Catholic Church. But why do Catholics venerate stigmatics? Why have they been canonized? I can accept that St. Francis of Assisi was a stigmatic because his spirituality so closely resembles that of Jesus. Other stigmatics, however, give me the creeps. Am I “out of step”?

The stigmata is not part of essential Catholic teaching. You could deny that any person other than Christ ever received the marks of his passion—and be a good Catholic. The Church has canonized several people who apparently had these wounds, but the Church does not commit itself on their authenticity.

I do not deny that some people (like St. Francis of Assisi) have had the stigmata. In the best situation, the stigmata remind us that Christ’s passion and resurrection are very real and that we need to be open to God’s grace. The stigmata cannot be the object of faith but could, if properly understood, be a support to faith.

Someone could use claims regarding the stigmata for a very unspiritual motive. In the case of Padre Pio, some unscrupulous people tried to use his stigmata to their advantage—commercial or otherwise.

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3 thoughts on “Problem With the Stigmata”

  1. Bernard Dissanayake

    Catholic Church’s interpritation about Stigmata is it is a God given virtue to people (Mystical Souls) selected by Him. The person who receive Stigmata is a Mystic who are Contemplative souls. In the case of Canonization it is not regard as a virtue to count in a Canonization. In the Case of your St. Fransis also same, he was not Canonized because of his Stigmata, but due to dream seen by then Pope he regarded that Stigmata as Miraculous award given by the Almighty God.
    The manner of God’s presence in a Contemplative Soul (Stigmatist) may also be considered in such moments. God is present in all things substantially by His essence, His presence and His power. He is present in a special and peculiar manner to the Saints in Heaven by the light of Glory, and to the just souls on Earth by the light of Faith and Contemplation. By this hidden, substantial and vital presence to the just souls; He communicates a certain power and vitality in a Divine manner, so as to enable the power of the will and of the intellect to produce sublime and contemplative acts. Then God may be said to be in the soul by way of mystical Union as the principle subjecting the Soul entirely to Himself. God is in the Soul not as such a form, but as the efficient and cleating cause of sanctification and perfection and by His special dwelling. As such, for a contemplative soul which filled with lively faith and ardent charity, God can award any gift even the wounds (Stigmata) of His begotten Son.

  2. Marguerite Thompson

    Romans crucified through the wrist; they were very pedantic about procedure. I feel if stigmata was given by God, it would be in the correct place. However, the presence of questionable wounds would not negate the good a saintly person did.

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