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Joe Paprocki Answers:
Stigmata, from the Greek word for “marks” or “signs,” refers to the physical manifestations of the wounds of Jesus on the hands, feet, side, and brow, accompanied by intense suffering. These are called visible stigmata. When someone experiences the sufferings without any outward marks, these phenomena are called invisible stigmata. Although a small number of saints over the centuries have been known to bear the stigmata as a means of participating in Jesus’ suffering, no reliable list exists. Certainly no one in Scripture was known to have the stigmata. Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the best-known examples of a saint bearing stigmata, is considered the first to bear these marks. The Catholic Church is very cautious about reported instances of the stigmata because of the possibility of a hoax and the possibility that some people could distort the meaning of the stigmata. Ultimately, the stigmata are associated with the holiness of an individual. By contrast, the 1999 film titled Stigmata wrongly portrays it as a type of possession that overtakes an atheist. Despite the curiosity over such phenomena, Catholics are to remember that nothing is more central to a person’s faith than the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Scriptures, and the Sacraments.