Perhaps one of the strangest modern day religious mysteries is that of Stigmata. The strange condition that gives victims the same wounds that Jesus is suspected to have received during crucifixion has been traced back to at least September 14, 1224.

St. Francis of Assisi, of Monte Alvernia, was praying on the holy day of Holy Cross Day when a vision of an angel appeared from the sky and floated towards him. The vision was that of crucified man with the face of Jesus. St. Francis felt great sorrow over the sight and almost immediately he developed the very same wounds.

Most cases of stigmata seem to occur to Catholic woman who reside in Europe. Although other cases have been reported, this demographic is the largest group to receive the strange disorder. A stigma usually occurs in five areas of the body: hands, feet and the torso. It should be understood, though, that during the time when crucifixions were performed, the wrists were nailed to the cross while the hands were left alone.

Therese Neumann, born in 1898, was known to suffer from many illnesses during her childhood that seemed to cure themselves on certain religious days. As she grew older, wounds seemingly caused by a crown of thorns appeared on her brow and on each Friday she would lose a pint of blood and nearly 8 pounds. By the following Sunday, though, Neumann would be cured.

The most famous, and perhaps recent, case is that of Padre Pio. Padre was born in 1887 and died in 1968. Spending his life as a Capuchin monk, the Padre lived in Giovanni Rotondo of Italy. After praying on September 15, 1915 the Padre felt strange pains in his hands and found that he had gained five wounds of stigmata. For the rest of his life, the Padre was in pain from the wounds that would not heal. The father seemed to gain healing powers and the ability to appear in multiple locations at once.

There are two main theories behind what causes stigmata. The first and most wide spread is the thought that the victims are chosen by God to help spread the faith and bring good will to others. Those who experience the disorder and the churches usually hold this belief.

The "scientific" theory behind stigmata is that the victim is actually causing the wounds on themselves by means of the mind. Through unconscious thought the body is given the wounds through suggestion and psychic-like powers.