Saint Francis of Assisi and the Stigmata
Francis and his faithful company of three, went to the mountain
of Alverna (La Verna) to pray, from the Feast of the Assumption
(August 15) to the Feast of St. Michael (September 29). He called
this period the Lent of St. Michael. Francis had a special rapport
with Mary and Michael from the early days of his conversion. He
went to them often, for comfort and consolation, when things got
rough. He was going there now to give, by fasting in honor of their
feasts; but he knew he would be receiving from them as well.
He always had an exalted devotion to St. Michael. He felt that
Michael should be honored because he had the office of presenting
souls to God. He also said "Everyone should offer to God, to honor
so great a prince (Michael), some praise or some special gift."
He loved Mary reverently. As he loved Jesus, he could not do otherwise
than love "the womb that bore Him." He sang to her, offered special
prayers to her, shared his joys and sorrows with her. She was his
very best friend, the Mother of his God. While he was honoring Michael,
he was also honoring Mary on the Feast of her Assumption into Heaven,
August 15, and her birthday, September 8.
There was a crag on that mountain, a deep crevice which separated
one part of that high place from the other. Tradition has it that
at the very moment Our Dear Lord Jesus died, this mountain split
in two, as the whole earth shook in protest over the demonic act
of murdering our Savior. Francis loved to sit on that jagged rock,
and meditate on the Passion of Jesus. The brothers brought him some
bread and water from time to time, but for the most part, he was
alone with his Lord and Savior.
According to the Divine Plan, another special Feast fell during
the Lent of St. Michael. It took place on September 14, and was
called The Exaltation of the Cross. Today, we celebrate it on the
same day, but we call it the Triumph of the Cross. On that day,
in 1224, the Lord gave Francis a distinctive gift, as reward for
a lifetime of service. Might not our Lord also have been telling
Francis that he was right, he had shepherded his flock the way Jesus
wanted, but that it didn't matter anymore? For on this day, Jesus
gave His brother Francis, the gift of His wounds, His Stigmata.
Francis had been meditating deeply on the Passion of our Lord.
He had asked his best Friend, Jesus, for two gifts. The first was
that somehow, before he died, he might feel the wounds of Jesus
in his own body and soul; and secondly, he might experience Jesus'
love for those who inflicted the wounds on His Body, and killed
Him. Francis went through a dark night of the soul. His mind kept
interfering with his spirit. He thought of what he had given up,
his Fraternity, his Rule. He tried desperately to put these things
in the back of his consciousness, and just zero in on the pains
of His Redeemer. His humanity fought him all through the night,
but with the dawn, a stillness, a heavy blanket of peace came over
the mountain. Everything was quiet; not a sound from any of the
creatures. It was as if they knew what was to come, and were preparing
themselves for the entrance of a Heavenly Being.
Light began to emerge from the darkness. Francis thought it was
Brother Sun greeting him. But the light was too intense, much stronger
than the sun. The curtain separating Heaven from earth split open.
A figure came forth, slowly, and carried the brilliant light with
it. Francis couldn't look at it; the light was too strong. Then
the Lord allowed Francis' eyes to open. Before him, suspended in
the air, was a huge Angel, who appeared to be made of fire, he was
so bright; but there were no flames coming from him. He had six
wings, two extended over his head, two extended as if for flight,
and two covering his body. The angel was nailed to a cross; the
wounds of Jesus flared up, and shivered against the light. They
were of a deep crimson, sprinkled with gold.
Francis stood up joyfully, to greet the Seraph. At that moment,
beams of heated illumination shot out of the Angel's wounds, and
penetrated Francis' body, hands, feet and side. He fell from the
force of the thrust; his body experienced devastating pain, mixed
with inconceivable joy. His blood raced throughout his body; he
was sure he would die. Then the sensation calmed down to a constant
throb of joy and pain. He looked up at the Heavenly creature. The
eyes of the Angel were studying Francis. The stare was compelling.
There was at once fear and bliss, mixed together. He didn't know
what was happening to him. The eyes of the Angel were the most beautiful
he had ever seen. He could not look away from them.
The Heavenly vision spoke gently to Francis' heart. He told him
things he had to hear, which were for him alone; he would not in
his lifetime, reveal them to anyone. He stayed with Francis for
the better part of an hour. This is according to the testimony of
the farmers, and mule keepers at the foot of the mountain. They
mistook the brilliant light for the sun coming up, and began their
day. Then, when it disappeared, and the natural sun came out, it
was colorless by comparison.
Many insights were revealed to Francis on top of Mount Alverna.
His whole life was put into perspective. He finally understood his
journey, and while his humanity would tend to kick in over the next
two years, he could always fall back on this time, and the revelations
he received, and a peace would come over him.
Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors and television hosts
on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are prolific writers about
the Catholic faith, especially the Saints. More information about
Saint Francis of Assisi at http://www.bobandpennylord.com/St_Francis_of_Assisi.htm
Re-published from TrueChristianity.info
in October 2012
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