During the month of September Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity highlight the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis celebrated by all the brothers and sisters of the three orders on September 17. On this day we remember a transforming moment in our holy Father Francis’ life that happened two years before his death. He was studying in his hermitage at Mount LaVerna and saw a vision. Thomas of Celano, an early friar who wrote The Life of Saint Francis hoping to encourage others toward an intimate union with God, writes about this spiritual occurrence:
…he saw in the vision of God a man, having six wings like a Seraph, standing over him, arms extended and feet joined, affixed to a cross. Two of his wings were raised up, two were stretched out over his head as if for flight, and two covered his whole body. When the blessed servant of the most High saw these things, he was filled with great awe, but could not decide what this vision meant for him…Signs of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just as he had seen them a little while earlier on the crucified man hovering over him.
His hands and feet seemed to be pierced through the middle by the nails, with the heads of the nails appearing on the inner part of his hands and on the upper part of his feet, and their points protruding on opposite sides. Those marks on the inside were round, but rather oblong on the outside; and small pieces of flesh were visible like the points of nails, bent over and flattened, extending beyond the flesh around them. On his feet, the marks of nails were stamped in the same way and raised above the surrounding flesh. His right side was marked with an oblong scar as if pierced with a lance and this often dripped blood, so that his tunic and undergarments were frequently stained with his holy blood.”
Only a few including Brothers Elias and Rufino saw the sacred wound in St. Francis’ side. The Poverello was careful to conceal it from even those close to him. He did not want to exploit this gift of grace from God, but rather wished to suffer as Jesus did quietly.