Subversive Stigmata

Saints Thérèse of Lisieux and Gemma Galgani are the subjects of a review essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books that looks at the connections between holiness, anorexia and stigmata in a way that goes beyond reductionism into “hysteria” or merely dwelling on the morbid aspects of their illnesses and self-abasements:

The saint first affected by the stigmata was Francis of Assisi, but it has afflicted many more women than men. It insists on the likeness of the believer’s body to that of Christ. It argues that the gender of the redemptive body does not matter. It undermines the notion of a masculine God. It shows that Christ can represent women and women can represent Christ – no wonder it makes the church nervous.

One Response

  1. Women instinctively understand Christ’s teachings better than men do, I think. Many of the great Christian mystics were women. Men tend to interpret the teachings in a more worldly, aggressive manner and to presume that they are to be used in service to the state, whereas women see the teachings as medicine for the people… Heaven forbid the church should listen to women — if it made them its leaders, it would have to redefine its raison d’etre. The church wouldn’t be available to government as a source of propaganda.

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