Today, September 23rd is the Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina — commonly known as Padre Pio.
I feel called to focus on a mystical phenomenon that Padre Pio experienced for the last fifty years of his life: Stigmata.
Catholic Dictionary defines stigmata as:
Phenomenon in which a person bears all or some of the wounds of Christ in his or her own body, i.e., on the feet, hands, side, and brow. The wounds appear spontaneously, from no external source, and periodically there is a flow of fresh blood. The best known stigmatic was St. Francis of Assisi. During an ecstasy on Mount Alvernia on September 17, 1224, he saw a seraph offer him an image of Jesus crucified and imprint upon him the sacred stigmata. Blood used to flow from these wounds until the time of his death two years later. He tried to conceal the phenomenon but not very successfully. Since that time scholarly research has established some three hundred twenty cases of stigmatization, among them more than sixty persons who have been canonized.
Authentic stigmatization occurs only among people favored with ecstasy and is preceded and attended by keen physical and moral sufferings that thus make the subject conformable to the suffering of Christ. The absence of suffering would cast serious doubt on the validity of the stigmata, whos assumed purpose is to symbolize union with Christ crucified and participation in his own martyrdom.
Through centuries of canonical processes, the Church has established certain criteria for determining genuine stigmata. Thus the wounds are localized in the very spots where Christ received the five wounds, which does not occur if the bloody sweat is produced by hysteria or hypnotism. Generally the wounds bleed afresh and the pains recur on the days or during the seasons associated with the Savior’s passion, such as Fridays or feast days of Our Lord. The wounds do not become festered and the blood flowing from them is pure, whereas the slightest natural lesion in some other part of the body develops an infection. Moreover, the wounds do not yield to the usual medical treatment and may remain for as long as thirty to forty years. The wounds bleed freely and produce a veritable hemorrhage; and this takes place not only at the beginning but again and again. Also the extent of the hemorrhage is phenomenal; the stigmata lie on the surface, removed from the great blood vessels, yet the blood literally streams from them. Finally true stigmata are not found except in persons who practice the most heroic virtues and possess a special love of the Cross. (Etym. Latin stigma; from Greek, tattoo mark; from stizein, to prick tatoo.)
A person who experiences the wounds of Christ is known as a stigmatic or stigmatist.
The first person known to receive the stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi, and the most well-known was probably St. Padre Pio.
An overwhelming majority of stigmatics are women.
A vast majority are Italian.
Some had visible wounds that disappeared after their death.
Others had invisible wounds that became visible only after their death.
The reason for these details remains a mystery.
Below is a list of some who received the stigmata. It’s a brief list that certainly doesn’t include every stigmatic!
- St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
- St. Lutgardis (1182-1246)
- St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) *Invisible
- St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457)
- St. Catherine di Ricci (1522-1590)
- St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)
- St. Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piage (1715-1791)
- Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)
- Maria von Morl (1812-1868)
- Servant of God Domenica Lazzeri (1815-1848)
- St. Marguerite Bays (1815-1879)
- Bl. Mariam Baouardy (1846-1878)
- Servant of God Louise Lateau (1850-1883)
- St. Mariam Thresia (1876-1926)
- St. Gemma Galgani (1880-1903)
- Servant of God Don Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970)
- St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968)
- Sr. Josefa Menendez (1890-1923)
- Servant of God Therese Neumann (1898-1962)
- Marie Rose Ferron (1902-1936)
- St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) *Invisible
- Servant of God Maria Esperanza (1928-2004)
- Teresa Musco (1943-1976)
Saint Padre Pio
Below is an article from the Devotional Blog Dedicated to Padre Pio that explains his stigmata.
The Stigmata of Padre Pio, the Visible Signs of Christ’s Wounds
The stigmata of Padre Pio are the visible signs of Christ’s wounds – The stigmata appeared on Padre Pio on September 20th, 1918, and remained until his death.
On September 7th, 1910, in his first year of ministry, Padre Pio received the first stigmata beneath the elm tree in Piana Romana. In a letter he wrote to his spiritual leader, he describes the incident: “In the center of my hands, a red spot appeared, about the size of a coin, and with it, an intense pain in the soles of my feet.” This pain in his hands and feet were the first occurance of the stigmata, even though they were not visible at the time.
When did the stigmata visibly appear on Padre Pio?
Padre Pio’s stigmata became visible on September 20th, 1918. Padre Pio had finished celebrating his morning mass and was having a moment of prayer. While his mind was caught up in meditating on the passion and death of Jesus, and in the painful matters of the holy rosary, a heavenly being appeared to him. The hands, feet, and side of this heavenly being had been pierced and were spilling blood. Padre Pio was fully engulfed in this intense experience; exhausted, he fell asleep.
When he awoke, he felt an incredible pain in the center of his hands and feet, and he saw that the pain was due to bloody wounds about the size of a coin two centimeters wide. Padre Pio told his spiritual director: “I was praying before Christ crucified, and I felt myself being carried away, bit by bit, into an ever-growing state of serenity. It was like a gentle sleep that I rejoiced in while I prayed. A great peace came over me. At one point, a mysterious being appeared before me, like the one I had seen the evening of August 5th. The only difference was that there was blood flowing from this one’s hands, feet, and side. He didn’t say a word, and then disappeared. When I came to, I was on the ground, wounded.”
What are the stigmata (wounds) of Padre Pio?
The visible stigmata are a divine mark; they are the marks of Christ’s wounds. Padre Pio was a living icon used by God to show us the suffering of his Son, Jesus Christ, who underwent crucifixion and death for the love of His people. It’s said that Padre Pio didn’t like to show his stigmata; in fact, he always wore gloves and closed shoes, as seen in the majority of the photographs of him in public settings. These wounds were examined by doctors and experts, but no one was able to provide a scientific explanation.
The stigmata appeared on Padre Pio on September 20th, 1918, and remained until his death. The stigmata stayed the same for 50 years and never became infected, even though there were bloody, open wounds. It should be noted that, at the time, antibiotics did not exist, and their availability for purchase began around 1945. Even today, doctors can’t explain why they didn’t get infected. Even though he had open wounds on his feet, Padre Pio was able to walk normally and carry out all his regular daily activities.
Another extraordinary event took place after Padre Pio celebrated his final mass. He passed away only a few hours later, and the stigmata had disappeared. Again, no scientist has been able to give an explanation for this. In his letters, Padre Pio speaks of a love for God and his neighbor: “Yes, my soul is wounded with love for Jesus. I am sick with love; I continually experience the grievous pain of that fire that burns but does not consume.”
The stigmata remains a mystery that can’t be fully understood by man.
For some reason, Jesus chooses certain people to share in His Passion in this intense and intimate way.
Even though only a select few are chosen to bear His wounds, every Christian is called to suffer.
The stigmatics teach us how to bear our sufferings, whatever they may be, for love.
Let us pray for courage and perseverance so that we may also save souls through our suffering.
Saint Padre Pio, pray for us!