St Clare of Assisi

Friday, September 16, 2011

17th September - Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis

Stigmatization of St. Francis - Giotto di Bondone

In the year 1224, two years before his death, whilst St. Francis was spending his customary 40-day retreat on Mount La Verna, prior to the feast of St. Michael Archangel, our Lord granted him the gift that he had so much longed for by imprinting His five wounds upon the saint's body. Pope Benedict XI gave the Franciscan Order permission to publicise this event and to remember it every year by liturgical celebration. St. Francis had imitated our Lord so perfectly that God chose to manifest him to the whole world as an example for all. Thus, the feast of the stigmata commemorates something which goes beyond the life of any single man. It signifies that Christ made man lives on in His Church, as He reproduces His mysteries on His Spouse which Christ wants to be similar to Himself. 

Since his conversion St. Francis had a devotion for Jesus Crucified, a devotion which he sought to spread by his words but mostly by his life. The saint imitated Jesus in his passion and crucifixion by accepting his daily trials and difficulties with love for Christ and thus he made himself similar to Christ. Commemorating this event we are invited to imitate St. Francis by joining our everyday difficulties, sorrows and suffering to those of Jesus. We will be thus become living witnesses of Christ allowing Him to live through us. Participating in this manner in His Passion we will also participate in His resurrection, a joy which will experience from this world. Whilst thanking God for providing us with saintly guides to encourage us and teach us the way to Him, may we today and every day open our hearts to receive the grace to live through Him, with Him and in Him.

Gal 6,14-18;  Gal 2,16-20;  Fil 1,20-22;  Lk 9,23-26

From the Legenda Minor of St. Bonaventure
(de Stigmatibus sacris, 1-4; ed. Quaracchi, 1941; pgg. 202-204)

Two years before Francis, the faithful servant of Christ, gave his soul back to God, he was alone on the top of Mt. Alverna. There he had begun a fast of forty days in honor of the archangel Michael and was immersed more deeply than usual in the delights of heavenly contemplation. His soul became aglow with the ardor of fervent longing for heaven as he experienced within himself the operations of grace.

As he was drawn aloft through ardent longing for God one morning near the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and was praying on the mountainside, he saw what appeared as a seraph with six bright wings gleaming like a fire descending from the heights of heaven. As this figure approached in swift flight and came near the man of God it appeared not only winged but also crucified. The sight of it amazed Francis and his soul experienced joy mingled with pain. He was delighted with the sight of Christ appearing to him so graciously and intimately and yet the awe-inspiring vision of Christ nailed to the cross aroused in his soul a joy of compassionate love.

When the vision vanished after a mysterious and intimate conversation it left Francis aglow with seraphic love in his soul. Externally, however, it left marks on his body like those of the Crucified as if the impression of a seal had been left on heated wag. The figures of the nails appeared immediately on his hands and feet. The heads of the nails were inside his hands but on top of his feet with their points extending through to the opposite side. His right side too showed a blood-red wound as if it had been pierced by a lance, and blood flowed frequently from it.

Because of this new and astounding miracle unheard of in times past, Francis came down from the mountain a new man adorned with the sacred stigmata, bearing in his body the image of the Crucified not made by a craftsman in wood or stone , but fashioned in his members by the hand of the living God.

Defying nature, he lived on with his side opened; blood flowed from it; a memorial of the blood of the living God, shed for us. Breathtaking are these signs; they call for maximum veneration of the Saint and love of the exceedingly good Jesus. They make for an unshakable confidence in those contemplating the following of Jesus. 
They are reminders of God;
they are evidence of the sanctity of the man;
they are indications of what we are to be.
For by this sublime imprinting,
Jesus in his exceeding goodness, demonstrated:
His benevolent approval of Francis,
His divine providence in sustaining him,
His justice in upholding him,
His power by imprinting upon him what was beyond the limits of nature. 
(taken from The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus excerpts by Ubertino Da Casale 1305)

The Praises of God - St. Francis of Assisi 
 You are holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty king. You holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility,
You are patience, You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice,
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender,
You are strength, You are refreshment. You are our hope,
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Savior.

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