Stigmata, are the appearance of bodily wounds, scars and pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds, such as the hands, wrists and feet. An individual bearing the wounds of stigmata is a stigmatist or a stigmatic.
Some cases have also included reportings of a mysterious chalice in visions being given to stigmatics to drink from or the feeling of a sharp sword being driven into one’s chest.
Reported cases of stigmata take various forms. Many show some or all of five Holy Wounds that were, according to the Bible, inflicted on Jesus during his crucifixion: wounds in the wrists and feet, from nails; and in the side, from a lance. Some stigmatics display wounds to the forehead similar to those caused by the Crown of Thorns.
Many stigmata show recurring bleeding that stops and then starts, at times after receiving Holy Communion; a significant proportion of stigmatics have shown a strong desire to receive Holy Communion frequently.
A relatively high percentage of stigmatics also exhibit inedia, claiming to live with minimal (or no) food or water for long periods of time, except for the Holy Eucharist. Some exhibit weight loss, and closer investigation often reveals evidence of fakery.
Some stigmatics claim to feel the pain of wounds with no external marks; these are referred to as “invisible stigmata”. Some stigmatics’ wounds do not appear to clot, and seem to stay fresh and uninfected. The blood from the wounds is said, in some cases, to have a pleasant, perfumed odor, known as the Odour of Sanctity.
Individuals who have obtained the stigmata are many times described as ecstatics, overwhelmed with emotions upon receiving the stigmata. No case of stigmata is known to have occurred before the thirteenth century.
Appearance of stigmata frequently coincided with times when issues of authority loomed large in the Church. What was significant about stigmatics was not that they were predominantly men, but that they were non-ordained. Having stigmata gave them direct access to the body of Christ without requiring the permission of the Church through the Eucharist. Only in the last century have priests been stigmatized.