Stigmata means marks, wounds and spots. In Christian belief, it is the appearance of wounds, marks, scars, pains at the locations which corresponds to the crucifixion wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is known with stories of many saints who received the stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ and experienced the appearance of the wounds of Jesus Christ at exactly those spots that the wounds of Jesus are. The Church recognizes this rare phenomenon as a sign of God’s love and proof of the truth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This rare phenomenon continually happens to let doubters know that Jesus truly came to the world, died and suffered. Many saints experienced this special privilege. It is not one or two but many with different experiences.
God in His infinite mercy grants those special privileges to some saints and enables them to participate In His passion. Among the saints who Jesus grants this privilege are:
1. St. Francis of Assisi.
The first example of the appearance of the wounds of Jesus Christ occurred in 1224 at Mount Alverno, on the body of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Church recognises him as a recipient of the stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ
It was recorded that while he was meditating on the suffering of Christ, St. Francis of Assisi had a vision in which he was visited by an angel, a seraph.
It was during this vision that he was miraculously marked with the wounds and scars, even the lance that Jesus received during his crucifixion and death.
Pope Alexander IV attests to this that he saw the marks before and after the death of Saint Francis. This is the reason Saint Francis is depicted with a brown habit with wounds of the stigmata in His hands and feet.
2. St. Catherine of Siena.
Saint Catherine of Siena is among the saints who received the stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At the age of 28, Saint Catherine of Sienna was praying before a crucifix. As She was praying, five red rays came out of the crucifix and pierced her hands, feet, and heart. For a time, she refused to eat or drink and depended only on holy communion.
It was recorded that She often levitates during prayers. A priest narrated that he saw the Holy Communion fly from his hand and went straight into Catherine’s mouth.
3. Saint Rita of Cascia.
One day when Saint Rita was also meditating before the crucified image of Jesus Christ, a small wound appeared on her forehead suddenly. The wound was like a thorn from the crown of thorns of Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the reason Saint Rita is often portrayed with a bleeding wound on her forehead. She bore this until she died in 1457. Several years later, when her body was exhumed several times, it was recorded that the wound remained the same and her body showed no signs of decay.
4. St. Gemma Galgani.
On the vigil of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, St. Gemma Galgani received the stigmata of the wounds of Jesus Christ. This happened on 8 June 1899.
According to reports, the wounds would appear every week at 8.pm on Thursday night and continue until 3.00 pm the following Friday. This experience is accompanied by pain and the flow of blood from the wounds. This rare phenomenon lasted until the year 1900 when it stopped at the command of the saint’s spiritual director.
5. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
The holy priest who loved the Blessed sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary so much received the first visible signs of the stigmata of Jesus Christ on 17th September 1915. But on the 5th of August 1918, His side was mysteriously pierced. Then on 20th September of that same year, his hands and feet were further pierced. This will be accompanied by a serious flow of blood. The five wounds of Lord Jesus Christ remained visible in his body for the next fifty years. The surprising part of this is that a few moments after his death on 23rd September 1968, the wounds disappeared mysteriously.
6. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.
From 1802, Blessed Anne received the stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ. It started with the wounds of the crown of thorns. Then in 1812, She received the full stigmata of Lord Jesus Christ including a cross over her heart. But at the end of 1818, because of the pains of the stigmata, Emerich prayed that She be relieved of the Stigma.
This was granted to her, with the wounds in her hands and feet closing. But on every Good Friday, the wounds would reappear again. She bore the wounds of the crown of thorns and the reappearing of other wounds until her death.
7. Therese Neumann.
Therese Neumann is yet to be declared a saint. She was a German Mystic who received visions and favoured with the stigmata. Her stigmata bleed on Fridays and during the final two weeks of lent.
She also received miraculous interventions on the beatification and canonization days of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, curing her respectively of blindness and paralysis in 1923 and 1925.
From 1927, She ate no food, surviving solely on daily Holy Communion until she died in 1962.
8. Bro Innocent Okorie.
Bro. Innocent Okorie is from Owerre Ebeiri in Orlu, Imo State Nigeria. Many things have also been written about him and the mysterious experiences he had. He was also favoured with receiving the stigmata of the five wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ. The wounds do appear especially during lent and on Good Fridays. There are reports that during this time, he will receive a series of flogging from unseen persons. Like Therese Neumann, Bro Innocent is yet to receive official recognition as a saint.
These miracles show the beauty and truth of the Catholic Church. There are many other saints, but we limit ourselves to these few. We can do extensive research on them. The story of these saints shows that Jesus is not imaginary as many think. He truly came, suffered, crucified and died for the sake of our sins. He granted some people the privilege to experience His passion and the pains He underwent. Let us love and embrace Him.