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Seasonal Reflection: The Stigmata of St. Francis

Franciscans around the world celebrated the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis last week, marking the moment when the saint received the marks of Christ while praying on Mt. La Verna in Italy. The following reflection, written by the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City, reminds us of the importance of prayer and reflection in Francis’s life.

We celebrated the feast of the Stigmata recently and we have all seen paintings of Francis receiving the sacred marks. Much has been written about this and what actually happened. Francis wanted nothing more than to conform his life to that of Christ and the stigmata has been used to support how he was successful in doing this. What I find more interesting is the internal conforming of his life to Christ. Those days in prayer in the caves on Mt. La Verna and elsewhere allowed him to be transformed internally.

Mt. La Verna is an impressive and beautiful place to visit. The first time I went there, I didn’t think I would ever get to the top and then I thought of St. Francis and wondered how he managed to climb this mountain. I was there one time after it snowed in Assisi. There were two- and three-foot drifts along the road as we walked from the bus to the friary and chapel.

Every day at La Verna at 3 p.m., the friars and visitors gather in the main chapel of the friary at La Verna and process through the corridors to the Chapel of the Stigmata. There they have a brief prayer service at the spot where St. Francis received the marks of Christ. It is a moving experience to be present for this time of prayer.

St. Francis took significant periods of time for prayer throughout his life. This continues to be a challenge to those who do very well with being active, but do not give as much time for prayer. Yet, when we see what prayer did for St. Francis, it is a call for us to examine how we nourish ourselves to have the mind and attitude of Christ. The Eucharist, scripture and prayer are our sources of nourishment for our active lives. There were many challenges that St. Francis faced throughout his life and he turned to the Lord to inspire him to do what he needed to do. We face many challenges too. We have the same opportunities available that St. Francis did to be nourished and to conform our thoughts, our ways and our attitude to Jesus.

We know that he would hear the words of scripture and act as if Jesus had specifically given them to him. His thoughts, his attitude, his way of living were all shaped by Jesus during these times of prayer. Our reflecting on Francis at this time in his life helps us in our active lives to be “instruments of peace” through our attitude and actions as they are formed by our times of quiet and prayer.

 Fr. Andrew has served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City since 2011.

The HNP Communications Office welcomes friars to submit reflections about holidays, feast days and other topics of a timely nature. Those interested in submitting a reflection for consideration for a future issue of HNP Todayshould contact communications director Jocelyn Thomas by email at JThomas@hnp.org.