Pope Francis laughs with Franciscan friars at the audience Pope Francis laughs with Franciscan friars at the audience  (Vatican Media)

Pope: Christians must tend to Christ’s wounds in humanity

Pope Francis recalls the 800th anniversary of the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, and encourages Friars Minor to offer God’s forgiveness and mercy to all who suffer in body and spirit.

By Devin Watkins

“Be forgiven bearers of forgiveness, healed bearers of healing, joyful and simple in fraternity, all in the strength of love which flows from Christ's side and which is nourished in your personal encounter with Him.”

Pope Francis offered that encouragement to Franciscan friars on Friday, as they celebrate the eight centenary of the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, which he received in the central Italian town of La Verna on September 17, 1224.

The Pope held an audience in the Vatican with Friars Minor of La Verna and the Tuscan Province in Italy, thanking them for bringing a relic of St. Francis’ blood for him to venerate.

Bringing God’s love to our stigmatized world

In his address, Pope Francis urged Christians to seek to conform ourselves to the image of “Christ poor and crucified.”

He said St. Francis of Assisi’s stigmata wounds were an eloquent sign of both the suffering Christ endured for our salvation and His victory over death.

“It is precisely through His wounds that the mercy of the Crucified and Risen Christ, like through channels, flows towards us,” he said.

The Pope noted that every Christian has the duty to care for all the “stigmatized” people they meet who bear the “scars of suffering and injustice or past mistakes.”

“In the communion of love of the Church,” he said, “each of us rediscovers who we are: a beloved, blessed, and reconciled child, sent to testify to the wonders of grace and to be a craftsman of fraternity.”

St. Francis, added the Pope, acts as a companion on our way, helping us overcome crushing difficulties and fears.

His povery of spirit, said Pope Francis, made him open to the Lord and the needs of his brothers and sisters, always trusting in the love of the Father.

Offering God’s forgiveness

The Holy Father went on to reflect on the image of the stigmata in the life of every Franciscan.

He emphasized the need for Franciscans to be united among themselves and to always forgive as part of their mission to “repair” the Church.

“You are good confessors,” he said. “The Franciscan has a reputation for this. Forgive everything. Always forgive. God never tires of forgiving: we are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness.”

Pope Francis said his namesake’s stigmata represents the “seal of the essential,” indicating the centrality of Christ in the Church’s mission.

He also urged the Friars Minor to bring to the Church and the world “a bit of that immense love that pushed Jesus to die on the cross for us.”

Graces of St. Francis of Assisi

In conclusion, the Pope told an anecdote from his homeland, Argentina.

When some people see a priest, he said, they touch iron “because it brings bad luck.”

Yet, he noted, no one ever carries out this superstitious act when they see a priest in a Franciscan habit.

“Who knows why,” he marveled. “But, your habit makes people think of St. Francis and the graces he received.”

Listen to our report

New prayer to St. Francis of Assisi

Concluding the audience, Pope Francis recited a new prayer he has written to ask for the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, which will be prayed at the Chapel of the Stigmata in Verna.

Saint Francis,
man wounded by love, Crucified in body and in spirit,
we look to you, decorated with the holy stigmata,
to learn how to love the Lord Jesus
and our brothers and sisters with your love, with your passion.
With you, it is easier to contemplate and follow
Christ, poor and Crucified.
Give us, Francis,
the freshness of your faith,
the certainty of your hope,
the gentleness of your charity.
Intercede for us,
so that it may be sweet for us to bear the burdens of life,
and in trials, we may experience
the tenderness of the Father and the balm of the Spirit.
May our wounds be healed by the Heart of Christ,
to become, like you, witnesses of His mercy,
which continues to heal and renew the life
of those who seek Him with a sincere heart.
O Francis, made to resemble the Crucified One,
let your stigmata be for us and for the world
resplendent signs of life and resurrection,
to show new ways of peace and reconciliation. Amen.

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05 April 2024, 09:50