Stigmata: A Wonder or Medical Phenomenon?


The term stigmata have been taken from the Letters of Saint Paul where he writes about some mysterious wounds on his body. It can be stated as miraculous or mysterious appearance similar to the ones suffered by Jesus Christ during his crucification. The stigmatics have reported the appearance of wounds on their feet, wrists, ribs, hands and even head that are similar to the ones faced by Jesus Christ on the cross. The wounds in some cases appear and disappear at will while in some other cases they do not heal at all. But there are no rotting or bad odours from the wounds. On the contrary they give out a sweet perfumed smell. Some people even have the vision of Christ in his passion and feel the whips at their back. It has largely been seen as an integration of god. According to the Catholics, only the most blessed on devout Christian followers are offered with this phenomenon.

Stigmatic Therese Neumann

Such a supernatural phenomenon is suffered entirely by the Roman Catholics and the majority of them being women. Stigmata came into the limelight as early as 1222 when Saint Francis of Assissi reported of having holy marks on his hands and feet. Since then there have been more than 300 accounts of stigmatics. Saint Pedre Pio Forgionne is another notable stigmatic who developed wounds and piercings on his hands and feet as well as gashes on his sides. These wounds kept bleeding until his death. When the doctors examined his wounds they described it as caused due repeated hammering with a sharp object or thick nail, but these wounds never caused infection. Therese Neumann another stigmatic bled from her feet, hands, forehead and sides. She lost about 0.5 litres of blood in a day, yet the wounds disappeared miraculously the following day. She was also exceptional because she had reported surviving without any food or water by consuming wine and wafer solely. Doctors had diagnosed withering of her intestinal tract yet she survived in good health until her death.

Wounds of Stigmatics are similar to wounds of Jesus Christ on the Cross

It has been observed that the wounds start bleeding more during the holy Christian days. Some of the stigmatics have reported they bled more during the Easter. Another startling fact about stigmata is when tests were conducted on the wounds of the stigmatics, the blood test results were astounding. The blood coming out of the wounds did not match the actual blood group of the stigmatics. Many Church followers have even commented that the wounds are similar to the wounds present in the statue of Christ the stigmatic worships.

Stigmatics Bleed from their Hands and Feet

Now let us try to examine Stigmata from the medical point of view. One of the reasons for such unnatural and abrupt blood loss may be a complication of malaria better known as Pupura. It causes blood haemorrhage in the skin and causes bleeding of hands and feet. Such a disease was very popular during Saint Francis Assissi’s times. The bleeding caused due to purpura would resemble much like the wounds of Jesus Christ on the cross. But this explanation however address the issue of continuous bleeding and no decay even when the wounds remain exposed for long periods of time. Another explanation for Stigmata could be diabetic ulcer which occurs on the feet, hands and back. In such cases the infection grows within the skin and bursts open to resemble wounds. As most of the ulcers are recurrent so they could open up from time to time. But again the consistent blood loss element cannot be met. From the Psychological point of view, the devout Christians want to share the pains of Christ. Thus they unconsciously create the wounds themselves and then forget after the phase has passed by. But this again does not explain why the wounds smell sweet or why they are not infected.

So till date it can be assumed that Stigmata is a wonder and only the devout Roman Catholics can face such a physical situation.

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