The Stigmata of St. Francis

On September 17, 1224, St. Francis of Assisi was meditating on Mt. La Verna:

Giotto,  Stigmatization of St Francis.  1295-1300.

Giotto, Stigmatization of St Francis. 1295-1300.

He saw what appeared as a seraph with six bright wings gleaming like a fire descending from the heights of heaven. As this figure approached in swift flight and came near the man of God it appeared not only winged but also crucified. The sight of it amazed Francis and his soul experienced joy mingled with pain. He was delighted with the sign of Christ appearing to him so graciously and intimately and yet the awe-inspiring vision of Christ nailed to the cross aroused in his soul a joy and compassionate love.
When the vision vanished after a mysterious and intimate conversation it left Francis aglow with seraphic love in his soul. Externally, however, it left marks on his body like those of the Crucified as if the impression of a seal had been left on heated wax. The figures of the nails appeared immediately on his hands and feet . . . . His right side too showed a blood-red wound as if it had been pierced by a lance, and blood flowed frequently from it.

We are taught to hide our wounds. We cannot show ourselves to be vulnerable. So we hide them. But the wounds of Christ teach me that our wounds are not signs of weakness or defeat.

Rather, our wounds are marks of holiness because they are the gateway to compassion. Only by recognizing and accepting our own wounds--and surrendering the idea that they somehow make us weak, flawed, or unworthy--will we be able to recognize and accept the wounds of others.

Take a moment to reflect on your wounds. Where do you experience pain or disappointment in your life?

As you name your wounds, do not dismiss them or try to heal them. Let them be. Instead, ask yourself, "Where do I experience God in these wounds?"

Close with this prayer or one of your own choosing: Mark us with your wounds, Lord, so that our heart may be set on fire with your love. Amen.