St. Francis and the Stigmata

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and while there are a million things we can say about this great saint, I thought today we could speak of his having received the stigmata. In the older liturgical calendar, there was even established a special feast on September 17th to recall the stigmata of St. Francis.
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Stigmatists are those whose bodies bore wounds similar to Christ’s. Most had 5 wounds on hands, feet, and side, while others had only a wound on the shoulder from where Christ carried the cross. Although some suspect that St. Paul had the stigmata,  St. Francis is the first we know of with certainty, but then many other holy men and women.
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It was in the early hours on the feast of the Holy Cross, in the year 1224, when Francis was on Mt. Alverna in prayer. He had a hermitage there. Suddenly, all of the mountain seemed to be on fire; the bright flames which shined in the night, illumined the surrounding mountains and valleys more clearly than if the sun were shining over the earth.
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This mysterious light shone through the windows of houses in the area. Shepherds who were there, witnessed it. They were full of fear when they saw the mountain aflame; they would later tell the Franciscans, it lasted for over an hour. What was the cause of this firey mountain? It was at that moment that Francis saw in a vision, Christ-crucified, in the appearance of a 6-winged seraphim on the cross. He did not understand what this vision meant; still, he was filled with happiness because the Savior showed him a kind and gracious look.
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When the vision ended, his heart was burning with love of God. As Francis was trying to understand what he had seen, the marks of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just as he had seen them earlier, in the crucified Lord. The heads of the nails appeared on the inner side of his hands, and some pieces of flesh took on the appearance of the ends of the nails, bent backward. He tried to hide these from the brethren, but they noticed the blood and the great pain he had when walking. Not only did Francis have these stigmata, which became well-known, but he had also the gift of healing. He lived only 2 years after this, dying at the age of 45.
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St. Francis began his life as a spoiled, rich boy, who thought only of enjoying himself, but he responded to God’s call. Later he would say: ‘If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.’

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