Besides the obvious that it can draw people to the faith, why does God inflict mystics and saints with the wounds of Christ?
Those afflicted have mentioned about “sharing” the pain of Christ’s crufixion, and suffering for others, but is this necessary? Christ suffered for us already, so any further suffering in this regard to others should be obsolete.
Is it known if the suffering endured by those afflicted do anything else on a higher level (e.g. free souls from purgatory, etc.)?
All miracles contain a message for the Church and the world. A stigmata is the work of God, not the individual. It has a message. It is usually the work of Mystical Theologians to try to discern the message using reason, tradition, scripture and dogma.
Not everyone who has received the stigmata has been a saint. There are some dubious cases recorded in history.
A saint becomes a saint by living the Gospel in his or her state of life by fulfilling God’s will in his/her life, not because they get a stigmata or have some other miracle in their lives. They have lived heroic Christian lives. That’s what makes them saints.
The Church examines the person’s life, not the miracles before the person dies. The miracles come from God. But God is not up for canonization, the individual is. Those saints who have lived with the stigmata have accepted the suffering that comes from it as a share in Christ’s sufferings, not because there is anything lacking in Christ’s redemptive act, but out of pure love for Christ crucified.
It’s not the “what” that is important about a stigmata. It’s how the person lives with God’s gift. The other important part of it is the “why”. Why did God do this? There is a message. What is this message? When God performs a very visible miracle, like a stigmata, it is for the good of the Body.
Several people can receive the same gift, but for different reasons. The needs of the Church and humanity are not always the same. They change with time. There may be different messages, but the theme is always the same, God’s mercy and his desire to save humanity.
These miracles have to be looked at within that context of what God wants to tell us about our salvation and our journey to him. The question on the table is usually, what is God trying to tell us?
Unfortunately, we often get stuck on miracles and we fail to look at the holiness of the person’s life. That is usually more helpful to our own spiritual growth and development. It is something that we can imitate. Miracles are beautiful, but the example is more useful to us.
When St. Bonaventure became the Superior General of the Franciscans he studied the life of Francis. Of course he studied the stigmata. He, Aquinas, Dominic, Anthony of Padua, Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Assisi, Giles of Assisi, Thomas Celano, Duns Scotus and Pope Gregory IX were in agreement that Francis had lived the Gospel to perfection. Bonaventure summarized it in his sermons by saying that Francis had become the perfect disciple. This does not deny the perfection of any other disciple. However, Bonaventure was focussing on one person, Francis.
He had the body exhumed and studied by those who new something about these things. As years passed the conclusion that was reached was that the stigmata in Francis was a call to discipleship, which was very much needed during Francis’ lifetime. This was not something that was concluded in a year or two. Francis died in 1226 and canonized in 1228. The conclusion about his stigmata did not come out until 1255. It took 39 years to formulate a theology on the stigmata of St. Francis. The understanding of these miracles often takes time because of study, discussion, discernment, prayer and great humility that is necessary to study these things.
In the meantime, the sanctity of the individual is there as a beacon of light for us to imitate. That’s the most important part. We can’t all have miracles, but we can all learn to be saints.
There is such a thing as redemptive suffering. When we suffer, we ourselves are purified, and we can offer our suffering up for others.
Quoting Deacon Ed B from the Wisdom of St. Faustina thread:
In my last post I stated I would give a brief synopsis of what we discussed on redemptive suffering. St Faustina while very ill had a younger room mate who was regularly visited by other young nuns at the convent. Even while in the room, none spoke to St Faustina. In one of her apparitions she complained to Jesus who pointed out to her that what she felt was the abandonment he felt when in the garden and on the cross. He pointed out that this suffering when united to his suffering on the cross has great redemptive merit for one’s self and for others. (following is my commentary) This is why now even any pain, suffering, etc can be offered as a prayer. Pain was the redemptive prayer of suffering of Jesus on the cross. Our pain, whether it be physical, mental, psychological, etc. when offered up to Jesus unites with his redemptive suffering and is powerfully efficacious. One of the cenacle asked how do we offer it up, and my response was that all we have to say is, “My Jesus, I give it to you.” Its that simple.
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B
I would just like to add that St. Gemma Galgani received the stigmata, and her wounds were verified by not only her spiritual director (Fr. Germanus Stanislaus, who was well-regarded for his expertise in the area of mystical theology), but by other priests, bishops (including her confessor, Msgr. Volpi), and, of course, her family and closest relatives; however, when Gemma was canonized by Pius XII in 1940, she was canonized not because she received the stigmata but because of her heroic virtue.
As my favorite saint, I must confess that I am not particularly drawn to Gemma because of the sufferings she experienced on her body but the ones she experienced in her spirit. Even if Gemma had never received the stigmata, I am quite positive that she would have still been canonized due to her profound humility.
One who shares in the sufferings of Christ with great humility will advance in holiness. But one who receives this kind of favor from the Lord and does not live it with great humility has wasted an opportunity for great grace.