To believe or not to believe?
A young woman who claims she is carrying the marks of Jesus Christ’s suffering during his crucifixion has become the target of verbal abuse and threatening remarks on social media.
So much so the 23-year-old stigmatist, Toaipuapuaga Opapo, was afraid to talk about her ordeal when the Samoa Observer visited her house yesterday.
“I am still trying to pull myself together because of the negative comments from people,” she said. “It took me a while to get out of bed as well. I had been warned by my sister not to go on Facebook but I’ve now seen those comments. It can only make me stronger.”
On Tuesday night, Ms. Opapo appeared on TV1’s News programme to speak about the marks.
“Two weeks prior to the Easter, I saw the first vision, I couldn’t work out what it was,” she said. “The second vision I saw on Thursday prior to the Easter weekend…
“When I first saw the vision, I was confused… I did not think that the Messiah will reveal himself to me in this way…I was thinking I’m not a pastor, I’m not a missionary.”
Ms. Opapo said if this happened to a Pastor, people would have found it easier to believe.
“But me? I’m a sickly person,” she said. “It’s been three years since I’ve been carrying this sickness. It’s a sickness without a cure. All I know is that Jesus is the doctor of all doctors.”
To receive a vision from God is humbling. But she added that it is also a message to the church and to Samoa.
“I’m just another human being … but my body has been used as a reminder because God knows that the faith of his servants are dying. It starts from the people who are heading the churches, the sin begins there…”
Toaipuapuaga is the daughter of Reverend Opapo and Luisa Soanai of the Si’ufaga Falelatai Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.
“I didn’t think something like this would happen,” Rev. Opapo told TV1. “She just said to me on Sunday night that she has received a vision. She warned us that we have to be strong because she will suffer on Friday….and we will see signs that we haven’t seen before.
“It was hard for me to figure out what it meant because I didn’t believe that something like this would happen. So on Friday, I was surprised to see the marks on her hands, feet… but I was comforted as she had already told us.”
Since the story was posted online, Ms. Opapo and her family have become the subject of ridicule and sniping remarks from some Samoans.
In one thread sighted by the Samoa Observer last night, it had more than 200 comments with Facebook users swearing at each other, posting nude pictures and cursing Ms. Opapo, calling her names.
Ms. Opapo is a mother of a young daughter and she said her husband is her number one supporter.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, Rev. Opapo said he understands that people will find it hard to believe.
He confirmed that the marks started appearing on Good Friday. During their church service that morning, Ms. Opapo played the role of Jesus in a church skit.
Rev. Opapo said they saw blood pour out when the boys started hitting her.
“I am just telling you what I have seen.”
The signs of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet then followed, continuing on Saturday.
Close to midnight on Saturday, he said he was kneeling with her in the front of the church when she collapsed.
“I heard a big bang on the church roof, the wind blew stronger and then heavy rains but it didn’t last long it just faded away,” he said.
Rev. Opapo said they couldn’t wake her up..
“She died,” he said.
He then rang the church bell to call all the church members back to church.
“I wanted them to be there. If anything had happened, I would feel warmth and comfortable being around them.”
Rev. Opapo said his daughter passed out around 12:30 midnight, but she woke up between 2:30 to 3am.
“She couldn’t talk about it. She only revealed to us the next morning on Sunday where she was and her trip to heaven.”
Stigmata is primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith, according to Wikipedia.
Many reported stigmatics are members of Catholic religious orders.
St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. For over fifty years, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin reported stigmata which were studied by several 20th-century physicians.
A high percentage (perhaps over 80%) of all stigmatics are women.
In his Stigmata: A Medieval Phenomenon in a Modern Age, Edward Harrison suggests that there is no single mechanism whereby the marks of stigmata were produced.