Ask a Franciscan

Problem With the Stigmata

I became a Catholic in 1991 and am very happy to be one. The phenomenon of the stigmata, however, troubles me. After researching this, I cannot understand why God would inflict this on anyone. Because I have found no reference to the stigmata in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I doubt that this is part of the official teaching of the Catholic Church.

But why do Catholics venerate stigmatics? Why have they been canonized? I can accept that Saint Francis of Assisi was a stigmatic because his spirituality so closely resembles that of Jesus. Other stigmatics, however, give me the creeps. Am I “out of step”?

The stigmata are not part of essential Catholic teaching. You could deny that any person other than Christ ever received the marks of his passion—and be a good Catholic.

The Church has canonized several people who apparently had these wounds, but the Church does not commit itself on their authenticity.

I do not deny that some people (like St. Francis of Assisi) have had the stigmata. In the best situation, the stigmata remind us that Christ’s passion and resurrection are very real and that we need to be open to God’s grace. The stigmata cannot be the object of faith but could, if properly understood, be a support to faith.

Someone could use claims regarding the stigmata for a very unspiritual motive. In the case of Padre Pio, some unscrupulous people tried to use his stigmata to their advantage—commercial or otherwise.

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