Monday, September 17, 2018
St. Francis and the Stigmata.
Francis being indeed a faithful servant and minister of Christ, about the space of two years before he gave back his spirit to heaven, withdrew himself into an high mountain apart, even that mountain which is called Mount Alverno, and began to fast for forty days to the honour of the Archangel Michael. To think of the things above gave him sweeter comfort than beforetime he was wont, and the hot longing for heaven was kindled in him, so that he began to feel that the gifts from above were poured forth upon him in such fulness as he had never felt before. The burning of his desire made his heart rise towards God like the heart of a seraph, and his tender answering love yearned to be changed into the likeness of Him Who hath so loved us that He was content to bear the Cross. And it was so that one morning early, about the time of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, he was praying upon the side of the mountain, and there appeared unto him as it had been one of the Seraphim, having six wings, glorious and fiery, flying to him from heaven. It came therefore very swiftly, and stood in the air, hard by the man of God. He beheld then the appearance thereof that it was not winged only, but crucified also. His hands and feet were stretched forth and nailed to a Cross. Twain of his wings were lifted up and joined one to the other over his head, and twain were stretched forth to fly withal, and with twain he wrapped around his body. When Francis saw it, he was sore amazed, and his soul was.filled with sorrow and gladness, for the eyes of him that appeared were full of strange love and tenderness, so that he conceived great rejoicing thereat, but the nailing to the Cross was so exceedingly dreadful, that as he saw it, a sword of sorrow pierced his soul.
Then He Whom he beheld with his bodily eyes, began to speak silently unto him in his heart, and he understood that albeit the deathless Seraphim cannot suffer or faint, this vision was nevertheless therefore set before him, that he might know that as a friend of Christ he was to be all changed into the likeness of Christ Jesus crucified, not by the martyrdom of the body, but by the fervour of the soul. Then they held together some sweet converse, as of a man with his friend, and the vision passed from him, but his heart was kindled inwardly with the fire of the Seraphim, and his body was outwardly changed into the likeness of Him Who was crucified, even as wax is softened by the fire and taketh the impression of the seal. From thenceforth there were in his hands and feet the marks of the nails. The heads of the nails were seen in the palms of his hands and on the insteps of his feet, and the points came out on the backs of his hands and the soles of his feet. In his right side also was a long raw wound, as though he had been pierced with a spear, from which wound his holy blood oftentimes ran and stained his shirt and breeches.
Thereafter Francis was a new creature, famous for a new and awful sign. The holy marks of the Lord Jesus, whereon living man for twelve centuries had not been allowed to look, were his adornment. He came down from the mount bearing in himself the form of Jesus Crucified, not portrayed upon tables of stone or wood by the hand of any earthly craftsman, but drawn upon his flesh by the finger of the living God. The dying Seraph knew well that it is good to keep close the secret of a king, Tobit xii. 7, and knowing the secret of his King, he strove as far as in him lay to keep the sacred marks hidden from men. Nevertheless, forasmuch as it is the will of the Lord God for His Own glory to make manifest the greatness of His Own works, He openly showed forth divers wonders through these wounds which He had Himself made in secret, so that the hidden and wondrous power of the marks might become known by the fame of the miracles. The foregoing marvellous but thoroughly witnessed facts, which were already spoken of in Papal documents with especial praise and joy, were made, by the pleasure of Pope Benedict XI, the subject of a yearly memorial, which was afterwards extended by Paul V. to the whole Church, in the hope of fanning in the hearts of the faithful the love of Christ Crucified.
(from) From the Readings upon the Life of St. Francis, composed by St. Buona- Ventura, Cardinal Bishop of Albano.