As Franciscan women, we celebrate Sept. 17 as the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi — the day he received the crucifixion wounds of Christ. St. Francis is the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history.
Thomas of Celano, Francis’ first biographer, reports that it was Francis’ habit to spend 40 days of fasting and prayer at Mount Alvernia, preparing for the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. In 1224, a six-winged angel appeared to Francis while he was praying; as it came closer to him, he could see that the angel was crucified and suffering. Thomas of Celano says Francis was filled with wonder and both joy and grief — “Francis wondered anxiously what this vision could mean…as his understanding sought in vain for an explanation and his heart was filled with perplexity…the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet.”
Dear Lord, we do not ask for the wounds of your crucified body to be marked on our physical bodies as they were on St. Francis of Assisi. However, as members of your Body, we ask that you inflame our souls with love and compassion, and then give us the courage to pass on these gifts to all those with whom we come in contact.
-Sister Kathleen Murphy
Artwork by Sister Rosaire Kopczenski, OSF