The Stigmata of St. Francis

from the Liturgical Year, 1903

Feast Day: September 17th



The great Patriarch of Assisi will soon appear a second time in the holy Liturgy, and we shall praise God for the marvels wrought in him by divine grace. The subject of today's feast, while a personal glory to St. Francis, is of greater importance for its mystical signification.

The Man-God still lives in the Church by the continual reproduction of His mysteries in this His Bride, making her a faithful copy of Himself. In the thirteenth century, while the charity of the many had grown cold, the divine fire burned with redoubled ardour in the hearts of a chosen few. It was the hour of the Church's passion; the beginning of that series of social defections, with their train of denials, treasons and derisions, which ended in the proscription we now witness. The Cross had been exalted before the eyes of the world: the Bride was now to be nailed thereto with her divine Spouse, after having stood with him in the pretorium exposed to the insults and blows of the multitude.

Like an artist selecting a precious marble, the Holy Spirit chose the flesh of the Assisian seraph as the medium for the expression of his divine thought. He thereby manifested to the world the special direction he intended to give to the sanctity of souls; he offered to heaven a first and complete model of the new work he was meditating, viz: the perfect union, upon the very cross, of the mystical Body with its divine Head. Francis was the first to be chosen for this honour: but others were to follow; and henceforward, here and there through the world, the Stigmata of Our blessed Lord will ever be visible in the Church.

Let us read in this light the admirable history of the event composed by the Seraphic Doctor in honour of his holy father St. Francis.

Two years before the faithful servant and minister of Christ, Francis, gave up his spirit to God, he retired alone into a high place, which is called Mount Alvernia, and began a forty-days' fast in honour of the Archangel St. Michael. The sweetness of heavenly contemplation was poured out on him more abundantly than usual, till, burning with the flame of celestial desires, he began to feel an increasing overflow of these divine favours. While the seraphic ardour of his desires thus raised him up to God, and the tenderness of his love and compassion was transforming him into Christ the crucified Victim of excessive love; one morning, about the Feast of the Exaltation of holy Cross, as he was praying on the mountain-side, he saw what appeared to be a Seraph, with six shining and fiery wings, coming down from heaven. The vision flew swiftly through the air and approached the man of God, Who then perceived that it was not only winged, but also crucified; for the hands and feet were stretched out and fastened to a cross; while the wings were arranged in a wondrous manner, two being raised above the head, two outstretched in flight, and the remaining two crossed over and veiling the whole body. As he gazed, Francis was much astonished, and his soul was filled with mingled joy and sorrow. The gracious aspect of him, who appeared in so wonderful and loving a manner, rejoiced him exceedingly, while the sight of his cruel crucifixion pierced his heart with a sword of sorrowing compassion.

He, who appeared outwardly to Francis, taught him inwardly that, although weakness and suffering are incompatible with the immortal life of a seraph, yet this vision had been shown to him to the end that he, Christ's lover, might learn how his whole being was to be transformed into a living image of Christ crucified, not by martyrdom of the flesh, but by the burning ardour of his soul. After a mysterious and familiar colloquy, the vision disappeared, leaving the Saint's mind burning with seraphic ardour, and his flesh impressed with an exact image of the Crucified, as though, after the melting power of that fire, it had next been stamped with a seal. For immediately the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, their heads showing in the palms of his hands and the upper part of his feet, and their points visible on the other side. There was also a red scar on his right side, as if it had been wounded by a lance, and from which blood often flowed staining his tunic and underclothing.

Francis, now a new man, honoured by this new and amazing miracle, and, by a hitherto unheard of privilege, adorned with the sacred stigmata, came down from the mountain bearing with him the image of the Crucified, not carved in wood or stone by the hand of an artist, but engraved upon his flesh by the finger of the living God. The seraphic man well knew that it is good to hide the secret of the king; wherefore, having been thus admitted into his king's confidence, he strove, as far as in him lay, to conceal the sacred marks. But it belongs to God to reveal the great things which he himself has done; and hence, after impressing those signs upon Francis in secret, he publicly worked miracles by means of them, revealing the hidden and wondrous power of the Stigmata by the signs wrought through them. Pope Benedict XI. willed that this wonderful event, which is so well attested and in pontifical diplomas has been honoured with the greatest praises and favours, should be celebrated by a yearly solemnity. Afterwards, Pope Paul V., wishing the hearts of all the faithful to be enkindled with the love of Christ crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church.

Prayer:

Standard-bearer of Christ and of his Church, we would fain, with the Apostle and with thee, glory in nothing save the Cross of Our Lord Jesus. We would fain bear in our souls the sacred Stigmata, which adorned thy holy body. To him whose whole ambition is to return love for love, every suffering is a gain, persecution has no terrors; for the effect of persecutions and sufferings is to assimilate him, together with his mother the Church, to Christ persecuted, scourged and crucified. It is with our whole hearts that we pray, with the Church: "O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, when the world was growing cold, didst renew the sacred marks of thy Passion in the flesh of the most blessed Francis, to inflame our hearts with the fire of thy love; mercifully grant, that by his merits and prayers we may always carry the cross, and bring forth worthy fruits of penance. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."






Novena for the Feast of the Stigmata
September 17th

FIRST DAY

O sweet Jesus, who hast Thyself taught us to be meek and humble of heart, I offer Thee Thy own deep humility, and in union with it, the humility of St. Francis, in reparation for all my sins of pride, and to obtain grace from henceforth to practise the most profound humility in my every thought, word, and action.

Five Gloria Patris in honour of the wounds of Jesus, and the sacred Stigmata of St. Francis.



SECOND DAY

O sweet Jesus, who for our love wast born poor, of a poor mother, in a poor stable, and who hast so singularly loved and honoured poverty; I offer Thee Thy own most blessed poverty, and in union with it the holy poverty of St. Francis, praying, that like him I too may become truly poor, and henceforth desire nothing but to be poor with Thee on earth, that I may be rich with Thee in heaven.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



THIRD DAY

O sweet Jesus, who for our sake didst so often fast and watch in prayer, I offer Thee all Thy blessed fastings and watchings; and in union with them the constant fasts and great austerities of the blessed Francis, praying that through his merits I may obtain grace henceforth so to mortify my body on earth, and to conquer my miserable self-love, that I may daily become more fervent and devoted in Thy divine service.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



FOURTH DAY

O sweet Jesus, who didst bear with such exceeding patience all the trials and distresses of our mortal life, I humbly offer Thee Thine own adorable patience; and in union with it the great patience with which St. Francis supported so many sicknesses and trials, praying that through his merits I may obtain the grace of patience, and glorify Thee by bearing meekly all the little trials and annoyances of my daily life.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



FIFTH DAY

O sweetest Jesus, who hast loved us so much, and who art loved so little by us, I rejoice in the great love which the blessed Francis had for Thee, and I humbly pray Thee by his merits, for the sake of Thine own inconceivable love, to kindle in my heart such an ardent fire of charity, that henceforth I may be entirely consumed with love, and have no other thought or desire but to please Thee.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



SIXTH DAY

O sweetest Jesus, who didst so tenderly love Thy own Immaculate Mother, and dying didst give her to us that we might honour and cherish her, and us to her that she might be our very own Mother; I offer Thee the tender love which St. Francis entertained for her, and the ardent desire he had that all men should honour her, particularly in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception, and I pray, sweet Jesus, by Thy love for Mary, and the merits of Francis, that I may ever increase in fervent devotion to Thy blessed mother, and may never say, or do, anything that would be in the least displeasing to her dear and adorable Heart.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



SEVENTH DAY

O sweet Lord Jesus, who wast obedient at Nazareth to Mary and Joseph, and on the cross to Thy cruel executioners, I offer Thee the deep obedience of the blessed Francis to Thy holy will, to his ecclesiastical superiors, and to all creatures for Thy sake; and I pray that through his merits I may obtain the grace of a prompt, cheerful, and loving obedience to those whom Thou hast placed over me, and that Thou wouldst grant to them the special graces and consolations they need for their holy office.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



EIGHTH DAY

Oh sweet Jesus, Good Samaritan, who wert so full of the tenderest charity for all Thy creatures, I offer Thee the devotion with which St. Francis nursed the lepers and consoled the sick, the great love which he had for his spiritual children, and his unwearied zeal for the welfare of all mankind; by Thy own ineffable charity towards poor sinners, and through the merits of Francis I humbly pray for the grace of a most tender and self-sacrificing charity towards all men, and that I may exercise it specially towards those with whom I live.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



NINTH DAY

O sweet Jesus, whose most bitter Passion is so little thought of, and so little loved, I rejoice in the great tenderness that the blessed Francis felt for it, and the tears he shed over Thy sufferings; O sweet Jesus, for the sake of Thy most bitter and cruel Passion, and for the great merits of Francis, which obtained for him the favour of the impression of Thy most sacred wounds, grant me grace so to love and compassionate Thy sufferings that I may be incited to a continual reparation for them, and to an ever increased devotion to the adorable Sacrament of the altar; and may so weep with Thee here, that I may be made worthy to rejoice with Thee eternally in heaven.

Five Gloria Patris, &c.



Prayer to St. Francis of Assisi

O seraphic Francis! who art now in possession of that seat among the seraphim, which from all eternity was prepared for thee, vouchsafe we beseech thee to join us, while we thank thy Divine Benefactor for having chosen thee to be the companion of His cross. and the peculiar object of His love. We most confidently present to thee all our present petitions, convinced that thy influence in heaven must be great, since thy likeness to Jesus Christ secured the success of thy prayers even on earth. Thou didst early burst every human tie, and disdain any father but God. Penetrated with the great truths of faith, thou didst trample on all that the world calls delightful and valuable, and didst embrace such destitute poverty, and austere penance as soon likened thee to that Man of Sorrows, who had not whereon to lay His Sacred Head. The cross of Jesus became Thy delight, thy only treasure; and intimate union with its adorable Victim was the only joy thy pure soul could value.

At length, the sword of mortification opened for thee a passage to the Heart of Jesus, the most profound humility introduced thee into the inmost recesses of that sacred sanctuary, the gift of sublime prayer disclosed to thee such transporting beauties in Jesus, that every human object disappeared from thine eyes. Jesus became truly "thy God and thy All." The ardour of thy love rendered thy whole being a burning holocaust; and thy body itself, purified and subdued, was honoured with the most precious of all favours, the sacred marks of thy Redeemer’s wounds. From that happy moment the remainder of thy banishment was a martyrdom of love, until love itself put an end to thy mortal life. O seraph of the earth! have compassion on our tepidity. Heavenly contemplative enlighten our darkness, remember that the blindness of sinners often drew tears from thy eyes. Thou didst unceasingly lament that Jesus should have endured such torments, and yet that no one thought of His sufferings. Thou canst now satisfy thy ardent desire of seeing Jesus loved by obtaining for us the most generous and perfect love of God, the most profound and practical humility, a sincere love of poverty, lively zeal for our own perfection, and that of others, the spirit of prayer founded on, and nourished by universal mortification, and the particuar intentions of this novena.




Litany of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis

Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us!
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us!
God, the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us!
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us!

Holy Mary, conceived without sin,
Pray for us. *

Holy Mary, special Patroness of the three Orders of Saint Francis, *
Saint Francis of Assisi, *
St. Francis, Seraphic Patriarch, *
St. Francis, most prudent Father, *
St. Francis, despiser of the world, *
St. Francis, model of penance, *
St. Francis, conqueror of vices, *
St. Francis, imitator of the Saviour, *
St. Francis, bearer of the marks of Christ, *
St. Francis, sealed with the character of Jesus, *
St. Francis, example of purity, *
St. Francis, image of humility, *
St. Francis, abounding in grace, *
St. Francis, reformer of the erring, *
St. Francis, healer of the sick, *
St. Francis, pillar of the Church, *
St. Francis, defender of the Faith, *
St. Francis, champion of Christ, *
St. Francis, defender of thy children, *
St. Francis, invulnerable shield, *
St. Francis, confounder of heretics, *
St. Francis, converter of the pagans, *
St. Francis, supporter of the lame, *
St. Francis, raiser of the dead, *
St. Francis, healer of the lepers, *
St. Francis, our advocate, *

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us!


V. Pray for us, blessed Father Francis:
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:


O God, Who by the merits of St. Francis, dost amplify the Church with the increase of a new progeny, grant to us by his imitation to despise earthly things, and forever to partake of, heavenly graces, by our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who with thee, and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.








Hymn to St. Francis


Let Alverna's holy mountain
That high mystery proclaim,
Of the sigus of life eternal
Which on blessed Francis came;
While he sobbed, and while he sighed,
Grieving for the crucified.

There, within a lowly cavern,
Far from all the world withdrawn,
As the Saint his watch was keeping,
With incessant scourgings torn,
Ever musing more and more
On the wounds that Jesus bore;

As he prayed in cold and hunger;
As he poured his glowing tears;
In his fervent spirit mounting
Far above terrestrial spheres,
Every earthly thing forgot
In his Saviour's bitter lot;--

Lo to him, in form seraphic,
Borne upon a cross on high,
Six irradiant wings expanding
Came the King of glory nigh,
Gazing on him with a face
Of benignity and grace.

He saw that tender glance returning,
Saw th' Incarnate Light of Light;
Saw his gracious meek Redeemer,
Robed in glory infinite;
Drank the words that from Him fell,--
Words divine, unspeakable!

Straightway all the sacred summit
Kindles like a flaming pyre;
Holy Francis sinks enraptured
Fainting with ecstatic fire;
And upon his flesh appear
Christ's immortal stigmata!

Honour to the high Redeemer,
Who for us in torments died,
In whose image blessed Francis
Suffered and was sanctified,
Counting everything but loss
For the glory of the Cross.



___________________________


Devotions in Honor of St. Francis of Assisi

The Five Sundays in Honor of the Sacred Stigmata (Feast, September 17th)

O all the faithful who, upon the five Sundays which immediately precede the feast of the sacred Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, or upon any other five consecutive Sundays during the year, shall exercise themselves either in pious meditation, or in vocal prayer, or in any other work of Christian piety, in honor of the said sacred Stigmata, a plenary indulgence is granted once a year, on each of the five Sundays, on the usual conditions.

(Leo XIII, Nov. 21, 1885.)






Music: Crux Fidelis (Gregorian Chant)










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