It all happened in flash of a second: It was on the 20th of September 1918. That was the day of Padre Peo, the latest known stigmatic of the twentieth century. The stigmatic Saint was alive till the Seventeenth of September, 1968.
The episode went like this: Padre Peo was in his prayer room. He just finished the Holy Mass. He was totally tired and exhausted. Suddenly his sleepish eyes twinkled. It was the moment of fruition of his great ambition: Blood, reddish but yellowish red blood, started flowing drip by drip from inside his two palms, from inside his feet and from his chest. The blood was oozing from cross-like wounds formed on the body parts. They were ulcerous wounds. These ulcerous wounds on his body proclaimed Padre Peo as a Stigmatic.
Stigmata are spontaneously occurring cross-like wounds on the body of believers of the Christian faith. Stigmata are regarded as the holiest of all the Holy Miracles. The faithful believers revere these wounds as the wounds sustained by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.
Historically, there are only 62 known stigmatics as on date. The list includes both men and women. Of the sixty two, twenty stigmatics belonged to the nineteenth Century. The list begins with the name of St. Francis Assisi who lived during AD 1181-1226. Padre Peo ranked the first list of the twentieth Century Stigmatic.
Stigmatic is a person whose body carries the so-called “holy wounds of crucified Christ”. Generally there are five wounds in number, one each on the palms of the hands and the legs and one on the chest. Stigmata are the rarest of the rare phenomena ever happening.
Are Stigmata real or are they faked? If not fake, how stigmata are formed on human physic? Very inquisitive questions are these. The life history of St. Padre Peo will shed light on these questions.
Parents of Padre Peo were orthodox Christian believers. Their great ambition was to see young Padre Peo a devout priest. They planned everything for the boy for the priestly upbringing. They sent him to a monastery for education and nurtured him to priesthood. Study of religious texts and prayer were his only pastime. A grown-up Padre Peo was no different; he became a priest and spent all his life in prayer. He knelt before the crucifix and prayed and prayed for hours, unending. He cut short his food and sleep. Christ and the great sacrifice were his only thought process. He spent long sixteen years praying and infusing all thought processes directed at being on the Cross and getting crucified as Jesus was subjected during crucifixion. The end of it all saw Padre Peo in the ladder of the stigmatics.
The spontaneous local bleeding ulceration called stigmata are symptoms of a very serious mental disorder. These disorders are of very rare occurrence. Very rarely persons, who suffer from hysterical neuroses, might fall prey to the local subcutaneous bruises during the ecstatic states. Stigmata appear without any external causes as we have seen in the case of Padre Peo.
Answer to the question how subcutaneous bruises like stigmata had developed in the human body was revealed in the experiments conducted in the summer of 1927 by V. Finne in the presence of Professors M. Chernorutsky and K. Povarnin. The relevant portion of the experiment is briefed below:
Subject M. 35 years old, easily suggestible, was put under deep hypnosis. A copper coin was placed in the inner side of her left forearm with the suggestion that the coin was a burning-hot metal disc: As a result the subject sustained a heavy burn inside the palm which caused acute pain. After awakening, the subject was continuously watched: According to the record of the observations, 25 minutes after the aforesaid suggestion and awakening from suggested sleep the subject’s skin in the forearm was red at the point of the ‘burn’; 55 minutes later, a swelling was observed; 2 hours later, a white spot appeared in the centre of the ‘burned’ spot. After 3 hours, a blister was observed on the spot.
Yes, under deep hypnosis a suggestion to the effect of ‘burning’ brings in a Second Degree burn on the body of the subject where the hypnotist wanted the burn to occur. This is the result of the extra-ordinary reactions of the paradoxical hypnotic phase.
In religious ecstatic states the same phenomenon takes place. It should be clearly understood that appearance of stigmata is not a common feature. It occurs in very rare cases of rigorous practices arising out of acute, dedicated religious fervor. It is nothing short of self-sacrifice. During the long spells of prayful and dedicated sessions, the believer becomes completely exhausted: The exhaustion takes place as a consequence of excessive excitation of nerve cells due to strained body postures and concentration of the sensory centres. The believer falls into deep hypnotic states. His delusional beliefs of the ‘holy wounds’ turn out to be strong suggestions. Thus the believer develops blisters and wounds in the palms and the chest just like the Second Degree burn explained in V. Finne’s experiments.
There is a marked difference between the ecstatic experiences created through hypnotic suggestions and the experience of the believer. In the case of the believer, the suggestions are self-made under auto-hypnosis and the experience arises here out of delusional beliefs.