For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week, I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Wounded: A Love Story by Claudia Mair Burney (David C. Cook, 2008), 384 pages
Book description (from the back cover)
If a miracle happened to you, wouldn’t you tell everyone? What if they thought you were crazy?
Poor in health but rich in faith, Gina Merritt — a young, broke, African-American single mother — sits in a pew on Ash Wednesday and has a holy vision. When it fades, her palms are bleeding. Anthony Priest, the junkie sitting beside her, instinctively touches her when she cries out, but Gina flees in shock and pain. A prize-winning journalist before drugs destroyed his career, Anthony is flooded with a sense of well-being and knows he is cured of his addiction. Without understanding why, Anthony follows Gina home to find some answers. Together they search for an answer to this miraculous event and along the way they cross paths with a skeptical evangelical pastor, a gentle Catholic priest, a certifiable religious zealot, and an oversized transvestite drug dealer, all of whom lend their opinion. It’s a quest for truth, sanity, and grace … and an unexpected love story.
The thoughts expressed on the book were diverse, and we had a great discussion. I did want to share a couple things with you about the book before we get to my part of the discussion, though.
I loved Gina’s use of a breath prayer — hers is “Share with me, Jesus.”
And this quote stood out to me: “I know things about Jesus because I’ve suffered. Sometimes I wonder if suffering isn’t a secret initiation into a special kind of intimacy with God” (Gina speaking, page 111).
And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants. I got the section on stigmata:
Amy: I think Wounded is a very unique contribution in the Christian fiction market. I don’t think I’ve previously read a book that deals with stigmata. In fact, I knew very little about it, despite the fact that I do have an interest in Christian mysticism.
Carrie: I don’t need to believe stigmata is a real phenomenon in order to read about a character that is a stigmatic, but it did raise the question in my mind. Do you believe stigmata is a real thing that God inflicts upon His people? And if so, then why?
Sheila: It is hard to imagine how I would react to witnessing something like that. As I looked up cases on line I was surprised to see how many claims there actually are on stigmata. I had no idea and that is one of the things I appreciate about a book like this. It not only opens my eyes to topics I have not really spent a lot of time with, but for me actually creates a desire to know more about the truth within the topics. Books like this many times become an ongoing study for me as I start researching to find out more.
Julie: I have only read one other book where a character has stigmata, and it was a Jodi Picoult one — KEEPING FAITH. It was entirely different to me, but I did read it for a book club discussion. I had issues with believing it then and I still did after reading WOUNDED. I’d say in the grand scheme of life I believe that “anything is possible” through God. But that stretch to “anything” is harder for me to accept. So I guess what I’m saying is that I do think it’s possible, I just don’t know that I’d be a person without doubts. Although I’m terribly afraid that if I had been alive during Jesus’ time, I might not have recognized him either. Now that’s really saying something about my faith — or lack thereof.
Sheila: Great discussion, Julie! I too have read Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult and totally forgot that it was about stigmata. The fact that I didn’t remember actually seems significant. Wounded was so so much more on the subject.
Hannah (that’s me!): I have read other books with/about stigmata — namely, Mariette in Ecstasy, which Burney loves and which Gina references.
In this book the stigmata drew several people to God.
The United States is now slowly becoming post-Christian; perhaps a show of power is needed here.
Many things about this book rang true for me.
Heather: First of all, I really, really liked Wounded. It challenged me and I love that. And as someone new to the genre of Christian fiction, I liked that it was different from my typical expectations of Christian fiction. It really forced me to examine my own beliefs about stigmata — having never read anything, fiction or otherwise, about stigmata, I really had a good long think about my beliefs on the subject. Of course I believe generally that God can do pretty much whatever He wants, but I have a hard time understanding the point of stigmata. Like Amy said, I guess it’s to draw the person closer to God, and like Gina said, so he/she can understand Jesus’ suffering, but what purpose does this serve in a modern world where everyone is skeptical of everything? So I have a hard time believing that it really happens to people. I am not sure what I would do if this happened to someone in my life, I hope to the bottom of my heart that I would be like Priest, that I would love and try to protect the person, but I don’t know if that would be the case.
Thomas: After I had finishing the book for the first time, the next time I was in church, it caused me to not pay attention to my pastor’s sermon, but instead I spent it wondering what would happen if someone at my church began to show sings of stigmata. For some reason I feel there would be more Mikes then there would be Priests.
I was surprised with how I could see a little bit of myself in each of the main characters in the book. It is scary that at times I have God owes me this as Veronica exhibited through out the book.
Down a New Road :: Mental Illness and the church
I purchased this book.