Stigmatization of Saint Francis
Feast of the Stigmatization of St. Francis of Assisi
Feast Day – September 17
Saint Francis imitated Christ so perfectly that towards the end of his life our Lord wished to point him out to the world as the faithful imitator of the Crucified, by imprinting His five wounds upon his body.
Two years before his death, when, according to his custom, Saint Francis had repaired to Mt La Verna to spend the 40 days preceding the feast of St. Michael the Archangel in prayer and fasting, and there this wonderful event took place. St Bonaventure gives the following account of it:
"Francis was raised to God in the ardor of his seraphic love, wholly transformed by sweet compassion into Him, who, of His exceeding charity, was pleased to be crucified for us.
On the morning of the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, as he was praying in a secret and solitary place on the mountain, Saint Francis beheld a seraph with six wings all afire, descending to him from the heights of heaven. As the seraph flew with great swiftness towards the man of God, there appeared amid the wings the form of one crucified, with his hands and feet stretched out and fixed to the cross. Two wings rose above the head, two were stretched forth in flight, and two veiled the whole body.
"Francis wondered greatly at the appearance of so novel and marvelous a vision. But knowing that the weakness of suffering could nowise be reconciled with the immortality of the seraphic spirit, he understood the vision as a revelation of the Lord and that it was being presented to his eyes by Divine Providence so that the friend of Christ might be transformed into Christ crucified, not through martyrdom of the flesh, but through a spiritual holocaust.
"The vision, disappearing, left behind it a marvelous fire in the heart of Saint Francis, and no less wonderful token impressed on his flesh. For there began immediately to appear in his hands and in his feet something like nails as he had just seen them in the vision of the Crucified. The heads of the nails in the hands and feet were round and black, and the points were somewhat long and bent, as if they had been turned back. On the right side, as if it had been pierced by a lance, was the mark of a red wound, from which blood often flowed and stained his tunic."
Thus far the account of St Bonaventure. Although St Francis strove in every way to conceal the marvelous marks which until then no man had seen, he was not able to keep them a complete secret from the brethren. After his death they were carefully examined, and they were attested by an ecclesiastical decree.
To commemorate the importance of the five wounds, Pope Benedict XI instituted a special feast which is celebrated on September 17th, not only by all branches of the Franciscan Order, but also in the Roman missal and breviary.
from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS edited by Marion Habig, OFM
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