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Religious riddles

Sugar Miracle and Stigmatism in Normandy

This case was recounted in the book “Physical Manifestations of Mysticism” authored by the Jesuit priest Herbert Thurston, which was published in the early 20th century. The book examined cases of observing poltergeists, ghosts, and other strange phenomena in Christian churches and monasteries.

In 1840, at a hospital attached to an unnamed monastery in Normandy, France, an 18-year-old girl with frequent hysterical seizures and signs of mental retardation was admitted.

This girl often entered a state resembling a trance, after which pieces of sugar or caramel appeared in her hands, obtained from a completely incomprehensible source.

The girl was searched multiple times, looking for stashes of sugar on her body or in her clothes; her room was also constantly examined, trying to find a hiding place with sugar, but to no avail. Sugar was nowhere to be found, yet after each trance episode, the girl would open her palm, and there would be a piece of sugar on it.

When directly asked where she got the sugar from, she replied that it came from heaven and was given to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Infant Jesus, or Saint John the Baptist.

Thinking that someone in the hospital or monastery was secretly giving the girl sugar, it was decided to transfer her to another monastery. And in the new environment, sugar began to appear even more frequently than before. And again, no one could understand where it was coming from.

At some point, sugar appeared so often with the girl that it reached up to 20 pieces per hour! She definitely couldn’t hide such an amount of sugar on her person, otherwise, it would have been quickly found. And if she hid sugar in her cheeks or somewhere else in her body, the sugar would have dissolved.

And then the girl claimed to have stigmata (bleeding wounds of Jesus Christ) on her body, although stigmata usually appear on the hands and feet, while hers were on her chest and legs. Every Friday, blood would ooze from the wounds, and many people saw it with their own eyes.

In a report written by one of the priests who witnessed these events, it was described as follows:

“To make sure that she did not inflict the wounds herself and did not do anything to reopen them, her leg was tightly bandaged, and the bandage was sewn in such a way that she could not remove it without revealing this fact. Furthermore, an unconsecrated pyx [a container for the Eucharist] was placed under the bandage so that she could not secretly prick the wound with an unnoticed pin or needle.

But on Friday evening, it was discovered that blood was flowing from the wound, and that the bandage had not been untucked or moved from its place, and that the pyx was completely intact as it was placed there. This girl is not a Saint, she seems feeble-minded, but I have doubts about this. There is reason to believe her to be simultaneously malicious and cunning.”

So, the priest concluded that the girl somehow deliberately deceived and obtained sugar on her own, staging fake “stigmata miracles.” However, much indicates that he was wrong.

Firstly, it was noted in both the first hospital and the second location that sugar appeared with the girl after she entered an altered state, in the first case referred to as a trance, in the second, the priest wrote about somnambulism (sleepwalking).

In such states, a person does not control their actions, and faking it would be extremely difficult because she would have had to pretend to be in a fit and with amazing dexterity, reach into a hiding place and pull out sugar from there. Moreover, in the presence of other people, as the girl was closely observed.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the story of this strange unnamed girl in the monastery is not indicated in Thurston’s book.

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