Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Mystery of Stigmatization Part II

According to Brother Elias, the minister general of the young order, the stigmata took the form of nail punctures son both hands and feet. Thomas of Celano, the author of the first official biography of St Francis, spoke of nails running right through his body, formed by extensions of the flesh. The Franciscans have long emphasized the uniqueness of St. Francis’s stigmata, and the Catholic Church has responded cautiously.
Nevertheless, there have been other incidents of stigmatization since St. Francis. To date, 320 have been noted, most of them women. In the middle ages, the most celebrated cases were Elisabeth of Spallbeck, who died in 1274; a Dominican monk named Gauthier of Strasbourg and Catherine of Siena who wrote down her visions and ecstasies in the so called Dialogo, The Book of Divine Providence. In the modern times, the most famous cases have been those of Therese Neumann from Germany’s Rhineland region, and an Italian Franciscan monk by the name of Father Pio (1887-1968).

Virtually all cases of stigmatization share certain features. Wounds appear at regular intervals on specific days, mainly Fridays, and above all on Good Friday. The wounds do not become infected, but remain open and do not respond to medical treatment. Scientists and experts have advanced a number of explanations for stigmatization. Some see it as a fraud, while others regard it as the effect of hysterical neuroses. In spite of its reservations, the Catholic Church admits that God might make use of an individual predisposition towards stigmatization.

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