- Therese Neumann became partially paralyzed after falling off a stool in her uncle’s barn but claimed her vision fully restored on a sacred day.
- After the experience, she claimed to have Stigmata – wounds that appear on her body, similar to injuries suffered by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, with the agonies Jesus Christ had to endure.
The term Stigmata is used mainly by the members of Roman Catholic Church to describe the body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations resembling the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, Such as the hands, wrists, and feet, sometimes even eyes. Believers argue they feel the very same was suffering Jesus Christ did, but in their own body along with all his agonies.
The pictures of Therese Neumann, such as pictured above, became a worldwide interest and sensation for Roman Catholic followers and the morbidly curious people.
In 1918, Therese Neumann, who was German Catholic, became partially paralyzed after falling off a stool in her uncle’s barn. She lost most of her eyesight and claimed her vision fully restored on April 29, 1923 – the day Roman Catholic Saint Therese of Lisieux was sanctified.
On March 5, 1926, during the forty days of fasting, on the first Friday of Lent, she had a vision of Jesus at Mount Olivet with three Apostles. A wound slightly above her heart appeared, but Therese decided to keep it a secret.
On Easter Sunday, she had a vision of the resurrection of Christ. For several consecutive Fridays after that, she stated she was experiencing the Passion of Christ.
On November 5, 1926, nine wounds on her head as well as on her back and shoulders appeared and the iconic photo was made.
According to close ones, these wounds never healed or became infected, and were even found on her body even at the time of her death. Therese Neumann claimed that from 1922 until her death in 1962, she had consumed no food other than The Holy Eucharist – a piece of bread and wine during the holy mass – and drank no water from 1926.
Theresa Neumann, a peasant girl from Konnersreuth, Bavaria, became famous as the stigmatic. Mainly because she was born in Austria near the birthplace of Adolf Hitler and became the target of ridicule and defamation as the Nazis feared her growing popularity. While the Gestapo kept a close eye on her, she was never physically harmed, unlike her family and priest’s, whose homes were all target of direct attacks.
Before Therese Neumann, there was a man called Padre Pio – also famous for having mysterious Stigmata on his hands and feet. While St. Francis of Assisi (1224) is the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history, Padre Pio was the first who was thoroughly studied by several 20th-century physicians.
According to Italian historian Sergio Luzzatto, Italy’s most-loved Saint Padre Pio faked his Stigmata by pouring carbolic acid on his hands. He claimed all the wounds were self-created using acid, and he has Vatican’s secret archives as evidence to prove it.
When Pius XI became pope in 1922, the Vatican became suspicious, and Padre Pio was subject to numerous investigations. Because of his popularity, the Vatican imposed severe sanctions to reduce the publicity. They forbid him from blessing people, answering letters and, more importantly, showing his Stigmata in public.
While the word Pious Fraud is used to describe fraud in religion or medicine is similar to the name of Padre Pio, the term doesn't come from his name. The Oxford English Dictionary say the phrase was first used in English in 1678. Padre Pio claimed to have Stigmatic experiences in 1918.
Only Orthodox claim to have Stigmatics. Then the question why these body marks and sufferings appear in just one fraction of Christianity arouses.
Many of those Stigmatic signs appear in the palm of hands. Jesus Christ didn’t have his palms pierced but instead wrists. If you place nails through the palm of the hand, it’s impossible to support the body weight of a grown-up for any considerable time before the nails would simply tear through the hands.
Some scientists suggest that Stigmata result from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.
Pragmatists believe Stigmata is usually self-inflicted rather than psychosomatic or miraculous. There are no known cases when Stigmatic symptoms are recorded from start to finish in the presence of others - only when they are alone they start to bleed.
Hoax or not, Stigmata is an interesting phenomenon. If it is a miracle – it’s fascinating. If people self-harm, the question remains: why? – is it attention seeking or mental disorder?