I am going to speak to you about a Christian phenomenon that has perplexed scientists for almost a millennium. This phenomenon is known as stigmata. Stigmata comes in two forms- Some stigmatics bear on their hands, feet, head, back, or side the marks of the passion of Christ. This is call "visible stigmata." Others experience only the sufferings of Christ, without any of the outward marks. This is what is called "invisible stigmata." The existence of stigmata is so well established historically, that its existence is no longer disputed. Skeptics now only seek a natural explanation. Interestingly enough, there are no known stigmatics before the 13th century. The first known was St. Francis of Assisi in Italy in the 1200's. His stigmata were of a character that has never been seen subsequently; in the wounds of his feet and hands, flesh had formed in the shapes of nails. There have been 320 documented stigmatics after St. Francis, though the number of actual cases may be significantly higher. Only 41 of these cases are men. One of the more fascinating cases was that of Louise Lateau, a young 19th century Belgian nurse who administered to the abandoned Cholera patients of her parish. At the age of eighteen, she became ecstatic and stigmatic. Numerous physicians witnessed her painful ecstasies and (get this) established that she neither ate nor slept for twelve years, save for weekly communion. One of the most recent cases was Fr. James Bruce- a D.C. area priest who also claimed the statues wept in his presence. So what causes this? Two views- Some scientist- say that the person who experiences stigmata is so keenly impressed by the sufferings of Christ and penetrated by an intense desire to empathize with him, that this preoccupation acts on them physically, reproducing the wounds of Christ. That these symptoms are caused by an overactive imagination. Other instances are merely hoaxes. They point out that no stigmata occurred before the 13th century, when the Crucified Jesus became a standard icon in western Christianity. Moreover, most stigmatics have wounds on their hands, where most crucifixes haves depicted the wounds of Jesus to be- historians have established, however, that those who the Romans crucified were nailed in by their wrists. Additionally, it has only occurred to Roman Catholics. Vatican that this is a miracle. While is it known that the mind can cause illness- there is no instance of its actions on the tissues. Also, they claim, if sheer religious fervor can cause these wounds, why is there nothing comparable in other religions? The other evidence they offer it that 1. These wounds are most often untreatable by common medicines. 2. Unlike natural wounds of a certain duration, these wounds do not give off a fetid odor- in fact, they often give off perfumes. They dispute the theory that these are merely hoaxes, as some physicians have watched patients day and night, often sealing the wounds so they cannot be touched. One doctor placed on the foot of one stigmatic a copper shoe with a window in it through which the development of the wound might be watched, while it was impossible for anyone to touch it.