Stigmata – Hidden Wounds

 March 28, 2023

People new to the Catholic faith are often fascinated by the “extraordinary” – tales of saints that lived outstanding lives, stories of miracles. They often ask about stigmata, such a tiny part of the beautiful history of the faith. But I’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for stigmata recently through the life of Francis of Assisi, a saint who kept his stigmata secret. It occurs to me that they may represent the hidden wounds we carry, wounds that don’t keep us from serving. Hence, stigmata – hidden wounds.

What are Stigmata?

Stigmata, plural for stigma, are bodily marks or pain resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus, four wounds from the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet, and one for the spear that pierced his side. They sometimes accompany religious ecstasy. The presence of stigmata is a sign of mystical union with the suffering of Christ.

Genuine cases of stigmata occur in people who have lived a life of heroic virtue. These saints keep their wounds hidden out of humility. Two of the most well-known people with stigmata, Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio, hid their wounds. Anyone who publicly claims to bear the marks is most likely a fraud.

Hidden Wounds

Every day I receive an email from Franciscan Media with a saint for the day. I’ve been doing this for a number of years. Sometimes I read them, other times I just scan or delete them as I’ve read them multiple times over the years. Over the course of these years though, I’ve noted there are numerous saints afflicted with deep and/or chronic pain, yet that pain didn’t slow them down or keep them from serving their God. They didn’t just suffer in silence, there were cheerful as they went about their good deeds.

This got me thinking. The older I get, the more aches and pains I experience. This is just the reality of living in these flesh and blood bodies that eventually give out. I look at those saints as models of how to live with aches and pains without fixating on them, or letting them keep me from serving others, or giving me an excuse to complain and be miserable, making those around me miserable.

Stigmata – Hidden Wounds

The hidden wounds of the saints inspire me. Maybe they did not have stigmata, but they carry the suffering of Jesus in their bodies. Many of us have hidden wounds as well, may we carry them with Jesus.

What are the stigmata – hidden wounds that you carry in your body? How do they unite you with the suffering of Jesus?

Reflections on Holy Week – On April 2 we will be entering the most significant week of the Christian calendar, Holy Week. Holy Week – Season of Dying, offers reflections on the readings and special church services for the week. Walk with Jesus and the Christian community through Jesus’ final days on this earth. Reflect with Christians throughout the world on the meaning of those days. Find comfort and strength from the example of Jesus as he faced his death.

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