I remember watching the program "Is It Real:Stigmata" on National Geographic Channel while I was having my vacation in Pangkor Island two years back. It was something so new to me back then I felt an instant disgust at Catholicism. Call me stereotype =P
Stigmata could occur for no reason, and randomly. Some people obtain stigmata over prolonged prayer, some developed it after a visit to some holy places. It is perceived as a blessing, a sign of telepathic communication between the person and the gods. Those who receive stigmata are often adorn with adoration and praises, and canonization soon follows.
|St. Francis. The stigmata clearly visible on his hands.|
|St. Francis receiving stigmata. Image:keyposters.com|
Modern research has postulated stigmata are of hysterical origin or linked to dissociative identity disorders, especially the link between dietary constriction by self-starvation, dissociative mental states and self-mutilation, in the context of a religious belief.
A psychoanalytic study of stigmatatic Thérèse Neumann has suggested that her stigmata resulted from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.
|Thérèse Neumann. Image:ufodigest.com|
Researchers found no evidence from a study of contemporary cases that the marks were supernatural in origin. Some stigmatics marked themselves in attempt to suffer with Christ as a form of piety, for example from the movie The Da Vinci's Code, the angry dude whips himself after every murder blablabla I forgot. Go watch the movie yourself--but my point is: what the dude does is what some christians do as an attempt to emulate the suffering of Christ.
Others marked themselves accidentally and their marks were noted as stigmata by witnesses. Often marks of human origin produced profound and genuine religious responses.
One of the most prominent stigmatics today is Julia Kim. She is a South Korean, and her case is so bizarre I think most of us would pass out. She received stigmata in 2004. In another case during one of the Holy Communion, she felt a transformation of the bread she was eating and she spit it out, and remarkably the bread turned into the shape of a hear, bloody red. This and many more, refer to her website. She doesn't have a wikipedia entry and I wish not to see anymore of this egregious.
|The host turning into a heart-shaped thingy. |