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Stigma(ta)

By Trish Briggs


We are back! With our last blog post, I introduced you to my Polish maternal grandmother.  With the Easter season upon us, I wanted to share this special memory of her.

 

When I was in my early teens, she shared her terrible secret…

 

I think we had been talking about the rosary and Mother Mary. She decided to share with me how she faithfully used to pray her rosary every morning and evening. She also shared she had visitations from Mother Mary in the past.



As she shared, she nervously was rubbed her hands and spoke in a whisper. She was ashamed to tell me that she developed wounds on her hands that bled. When she asked Mother Mary to help her heal these wounds, Mother Mary told her that they were a sign of her devotion. My grandmother tried to accept them as a sign of her devotion, but instead only felt shame and could only see it as a sign that there was something wrong or different with her. It made her question if she prayed too much?

 

She begged and asked the wounds to be gone. I remember her justifying why to me…. She could not work on the farm with wounds on her hands. I realized she was reliving the trauma as she nervously rubbed her hands.

 

The wounds did disappear without her having to show them to anyone else and she never saw Mother Mary again.

 

I looked up the word stigmata and learned that it is the plural of stigma (I never knew this). Stigma is a mark, shame, sign of disease or a scar, and/or a negative, often unfair belief that a society or group of people have about something. When used in its plural form, it takes on a religious connotation (appearance of bodily wounds, scars, and pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ).

 

There was the conflict. My grandmother saw it as a stigma, and I could see the stigmata within it. (Possibly my grandmother didn’t know what stigmata or maybe she did and didn’t want anything to do with it. I will never know!)

 

To this day, I can still feel her shame and embarrassment during the telling. I never shared the story with anyone while she was alive because I felt it would be a betrayal to the courage she showed that day in the telling. I never had the opportunity to ask my mother if she knew before she died.

 

I will share with you, I am very proud to say my grandmother experienced stigmata though I can appreciate the inner turmoil it caused her.  

 

Happy Easter!

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