Monday, September 17, 2007

Stigmata of St. Francis

We commemorate today the reception of the sacred stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, by St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was the first known in the history of the Church to receive this high honor from the Lord. Below is the Encyclical Letter of Brother Elias upon the death of St. Francis in 1226. It was in this letter that Elias, then General Minister of the Order, revealed to the world this incredible miracle:

A Reading from the Encyclical Letter of Brother Elias:
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Brother Elias, a sinner, sends greetings to our beloved brother in Christ, Gregory, the minister of the friars who are in France and to his brethren and ours. Before I begin to speak I sigh. What I shrink from has come upon me and has come upon you; our comforter has been taken away from us, and he who carried us like lambs on his shoulders has set out abroad into a far country. He who was beloved of God and of man has been received into the most resplendent dwellings.
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In truth, in very truth, the presence of Francis, our brother and our Father, was a light not only to us who were close to him, but also to those who were more removed from in calling and in life. He was a light sent forth from the true Light to enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, that he might guide their feet into the way of peace.
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He did this, even as the true Daystar from on high enlightened his heart and inflamed his will with the fire of his love. When he preached the kingdom of God, when he turned the hearts of fathers to their sons, when he brought the foolish to the prudence of the just, he made ready for the Lord a new people throughout the whole world.
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His name was spread far and wide, even to the islands and all nations marveled at his admirable works. For this reason, my sons and brethren do not mourn beyond all measures; for God, the Father of orphans will comfort us with his holy consolation. And if you weep, brethren weep for yourselves but not for him; for in the midst of our life we are in death, while he has passed from death to life.
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Now that I have told you these things, I announce to you a great joy and a new miracle. It is a sign which has been unheard of from the very beginning of time except in the Son of God, Christ the Lord. Not long before his death, our brother and our father was seen to resemble the crucified Lord, bearing in his body the five wounds which are the marks of Christ.
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Therefore, my brethren, bless the God of heaven confess him in the sight of all, for he has shown to us his mercy. Hold fast to the memory of our father and brother, Francis, for the praise and glory of him who made him great among us and glorified him in the sight of the angels. Pray for him, as once he asked us, and pray to him that God may make us sharers with him of his holy grace. Amen.
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Brother Elias, The Sinner

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