Stigmata: Thoughts and Questions

by Jacob Juncker

The experience of devout Christians exhibiting the wounds and sufferings of Christ (stigmata) are well documented throughout Christian history.  Devout persons–the first documented case being St. Francis of Assisi in ca. 1224–have exhibited the wounds of Christ physically and emotionally and spiritually.  In all confirmed cases of the stigmata, persons had visions which correspond to their role as co-sufferers with Christ (often seeing the gory scenes of the Passion).  This is where the movie seems to get it wrong.  A person that does not practice their faith cannot, according to church tradition, receive the stigmata.  This kind of makes sense to me.  Those who do not follow Christ didn’t sign up to suffer like Christ.  I mean, as followers of Christ, we did agree to do a little suffering for God’s sake….right? 

Jesus said, “Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38, The Common English Bible).  In this passage, Jesus seems to suggest that faithfulness is gauged by one’s willingness to suffer, not needlessly, but for the glory of God.

What does it mean to bear one’s own cross?  How do we, through faith, willingly take on the sufferings and wounds of Christ?  How might we, in faith like Christ, willingly take on the sufferings and wounds of the world?