Tomorrow is the feast of the Stigmatization of St. Francis. After 40 days of fasting on Mount La Verna with his disciple, Brother Leo, Francis was caught up in ecstasy. Brother Leo could see a flaming seraph in the shape of a man descending to the earth. The seraph, depicted in art as Christ Himself, imprinted on St. Francis’s body, the five wounds of Christ’s Passion on the Cross. Indeed, St. Francis’s hands, feet, and side had been pierced completely by nails and a lance making it difficult for him to even walk.
In many ways, the Stigmata is the summit of St. Francis’s life. It was a life that was lived in complete imitation of Christ. Indeed, St. Francis’s imitation of Christ did not extend merely into poverty. It extended into meekness, mildness, and heroic charity as well as a a desire to preach God’s Word to anyone who would listen. Yet above all, it was poverty that Francis embraced and it was in this way that he imitated Christ.
The stigmata itself is a phenomenon that cannot be explained by modern science. In the twentieth century, St. Gemma Galgani and St. Padre Pio were both privileged to experience the stigmata. For more than fifty years, Padre Pio’s wounds continuously bled. Many people thought that the wounds were self-inflicted, but it turned out that they weren’t. Blood kept spilling out of them continuously no matter what kind of treatment was applied.
Yet the interesting thing is that the wounds of the stigmata do not become infected like other open wounds. One of St. Francis’s disciples, who took him back to Assisi, used handkerchiefs and wrapped them around the wounds fearing infection. In fact, nothing of the sort happened.
Another marvellous thing about the stigmata is that it disappears in some cases. For example, Padre Pio’s stigmata disappeared during his final agony. According to a doctor, the flesh on his hands, feet, and side was like that of a newborn child. Yet St. Francis died and was buried stigmatized.
Let us pray on this great feast day of the Stigmatization of St. Francis that we may be made more like unto Christ and let us ask St. Francis to help us embrace whatever crosses may be sent our way.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
St. Gemma Galgani, pray for us!
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us!