"To be like Him in His suffering and torment, before death comes!" (Timmermans) This was the revelation that St. Francis of Assisi came to the night before the stigmata was conferred upon him. The stigmata is the appearance of wounds on the hands and feet, and sometimes on the side and head, which duplicate the wounds of Christ's crucifixion. There are many theories as to why the stigmata occurs, many accept it with blind faith as a sign from God, while many more approach the whole matter with skepticism. This phenomenon, which manifests itself in our world, be it good or evil, raises many questions: what is it, where did it come from, what causes it, and why are some so fortunate (or unfortunate) to have this miracle bestowed upon them?
The word "stigmata" originates from the Latin "stigmat", which means a tattoo indicating slave or criminal status. The wounds, which appear most commonly from the stigmata, are representative of Christ's wounds when he was condemned as a criminal and put to death.
Today the word has lost its denotative meaning almost all together; now a stigmata, or rather "the stigmata" has a very positive connotation. The stigmata usually corresponds with the Passion and Death of Christ. Many wounds appear during the celebration of the liturgy of the Last Supper, and the holy days of Easter. They disappear on Easter itself. Stigmatics reportedly speak to visions of Christ and angels during their trials, and smell strange scents. There have even been some cases reported where the blood types did not match between the stigmata and the wounds. (Thiers)
The cause of stigmata is one of the largest debates in the Catholic Church. One would hope that the marks of Christ's suffering would come from God, however, that is not...