"...in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
For centuries, Christians have been awed or repulsed by suffering associated with the rare phenomenon of stigmata. In his letter to the Corinthians, above, could it be that St. Paul was the first to endure this special "gift"?
The first documented stigmatist, however, was St. Francis of Assisi who lived 8 centuries ago. Since then, according to one site, over 300 people have been recorded as having experienced the phenomenon, with 90% of them being women. Though Catholic journalist Michael Brown reports the number of alleged stigmatists is growing, the Church has never issued an infallible statement regarding the validity of this seeming miracle.
The agony associated with this mysterious phenomenon has been observed by relatively few people through the centuries. Now, however, thanks to modern technology, the credibility of the alleged passion of Bolivian Katya Rivas can be evaluated by anyone with access to the Internet.
This outstanding 35 minute documentary is the product of Australian investigative journalist Michael Willesee. It is well worth seeing in its entirety. However, for those who are short on time, I offer a guide to the most important 10 minutes, or so.
At 6 minutes and 30 seconds (6:30) into the video, we join Katya the evening before her predicted passion. Like Jesus during His agony in the garden, she begins to feel the "deepest sadness" and calls it "the worst time."
Then, starting at 8:30, viewers can forward ahead if they do not wish to hear a brief discussion regarding psychosomatic illness. At 9:25, however, watch how Katya's stigmata seems to be developing with wounds becoming visible by 10:50.
From 11:02 to 11:25, notice how the blood on Katya's foot appears to be flowing against gravity. This is not mentioned in the documentary, but it has been observed on other stigmatists. In the case of Jesus hanging on the cross, blood would have flowed from the foot wound to the toes. Here in bed, however, Katya's toes are pointing up. Still, the blood flows upward.
At this time, Katya's face is becoming bruised and exhibiting puncture wounds --as if from a crown of thorns-- and, by 11:50, we see how painfully pronounced the wounds have become. Between 12:30 and 14:30, she appears to be experiencing the last throes of tortured agony until her prayer partners declare, "It is over."
Then, in studio, reporter Willesee is questioned regarding whether trickery could have been employed. He insists, "There is no way that was self-inflicted." He adds, "We saw the wounds start from nothing."
The very next day, at 16:20, the journalist returns to the bed of Katya Rivas. Amazingly, her attitude is happy and her wounds are almost completely healed. At 17:20, Katya reads a message from Jesus Christ:
"I have been preparing you for this day,
because I needed to reach the world,
one more time, through someone like you,
to show the world my suffering.
At this point, hurried viewers can skip over a report on another subject until the stigmata discussion resumes at 26:20. However, pay close attention to the video, starting at 30:30 and especially at 31:23. There, you will see that when Katya says she noticed Jesus, the white of her eye appears to reflect a mysterious light.
What are we to think of this bizarre and bloody manifestation? If disturbing, should we ignore it?
Certainly, fear is from the evil one. But loving empathy for Christ's brutal passion cannot be bad.
At the time of this writing, it is Holy Week. On Friday, when I pray the Stations of the Cross, my mind will reflect on this video, because it has helped me to understand more deeply the agonizing sacrifice Jesus Christ endured for me. I pray you will be similarly moved by this miracle.