A Pilgrim's Catechism

The Occasional Thoughts of a 21st-Century Roman Catholic on Journey

Towards the Reign of God 

 Gianlorenzo Bernin: St. Teresa in Ecstasy


Are visions, the stigmata and other mystical experiences from God?

Finally, everything that is, comes from God.  What God does offer immediately to all humans who will accept it, is the gift of a share in his divine life.  We all respond to this gift in different ways.  Of course, as it is accepted, it will manifest itself in a loving relationship not only with God be also with all our sisters and brothers.  In addition, there can be other responses originating in the individual.  For some this could mean having a vision, even manifesting the wounds of the Christ (the stigmata), or entering into an ecstatic state of mystical union with God.  All of these phenomena, if authentic, have their remote cause in God himself but their proximate cause in the human being involved.  


This explains how a very holy person, like St. John Vianney, could have visions of a saint whose very existence is suspect, St. Philomena.   The visionary with all of their being is trying to give concrete expression to the divine life that is filling them and the result corresponds to what the visionary understands as important which may fall short of what is in fact the case.


Although it is God's life that is being shared, the visionary will often project a vision not necessarily of Christ, the God-human, but of Mary or an angel or saint.


For the same reason, that mystic phenomena have their immediate cause in the individual themselves, stigmatists usually show Christ's wounds in the hands and not the wrists (probably more accurate) because artistic representations are usually in the palms.  Similarly, a stigmatist will often have the wound in the side opposite to that of the crucifix before which they pray:  a mirror image


This can explain as well why a certain individual might have a vision, another manifest the wounds of Christ, another an ecstatic experience.  The particular phenomenon expresses the need of the particular individual.


All of these experiences, including the stigmata, can be delusional as well, totally self-induced.


The real test of union with God is not, of course, extraordinary phenomena, but living a life of love and service of one’s sisters and brothers.





Other Pages:



Is it possible to prove the existence of God?

How is God eternal?

How is God one and yet three?

Does God act?

What does God know?

Does God answer our prayers?

Are visions, the stigmata and other mystical experiences from God?