Stigmatists bearing 'wounds' of Christ expanding in number
The once-rare gift of stigmata -- the mystical wounds of Christ -- is proliferating across the landscape. By one recent estimate there are 25 ongoing cases -- a number that may be too small by several times -- and it presents the same question raised by apparitions: how many are real?
It's everywhere you go. In Michigan is a man who wears round stick-bandages on his palms. In Virginia is a priest named James Bruse. In Ireland are the claims of a seer named Christina Gallagher, and on the island of Mali Losinj in Croatia a priest named Father Zlatko Sudac.
There is also a seer in Argentina who develops shallow wrist wounds, and there are countless alleged locutionists who show no overt wounds but claim they suffer "invisible" or interior ones.
Since the time of Christ there have been at least 321 said to have been touched in this way. That's by one academic count. There have been at least 62 saints with the manifestation (the first known being St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century ). St. Catherine of Siena initially had visible stigmata, but through humility asked God to make them invisible. And then there was the great Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Italy -- whose wounds were covered by special gloves and mysteriously vanished upon his death.
Could it be that in our special times this rare gift will border on the commonplace?
We don't know about that, but we are in unusual times and there are cases where the flow of blood exceeds what we know of historical cases. Some of the current stigmatists bleed to such a point that towels are soaked. From Europe to the U.S., we've seen photos and videos of this. One time little pinpricks appeared on the forehead of a seer as we were interviewing her. Another has thorns that materialize in the scalp, and even a full garland of them!
It can get pretty bizarre, and bishops are nervous -- either skeptical of the supernatural to start with or concerned that it's a product of hysteria. Others fret that it could be the work of the devil. Indeed, in the 16th century a nun in Cordova, Spain, exhibited stigmata with a number of other mystical gifts but was found to have been aided by a demon (and had to undergo an exorcism).
This is one reason bishops are wary. The other is simple scientific skepticism. Stigmata is unbelievable. To watch blood flow in a way that can't be fixed -- that defies the legerdemain of magicians -- brings one to a state of incredulity. We were ready to report on one extraordinary case Monday, a case that exhibited more blood than any other we have seen, but stopped when we were issued an advisory from the bishop (who has recommended to the stigmatist that she remain strictly private and not make her manifestations into a spectacle).
It may not have been bad advice. At this point we have no idea how many are real. But one thing's for sure: as we enter the steeper curve of purification -- as spiritual agitation continues to rocket -- buckle your seat belts: we can expect even more spectacular alleged manifestations.
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