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Pope: the stigmata teach us to help those who are wounded


©M. Migliorato | CPP

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 04/06/24

Christians should “address themselves in a special way to the stigmatized,” the Pope said in the 800th anniversary year of St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

The stigmata are a “sign of the Paschal victory” as it is through “the wounds that the mercy” of Jesus “flows towards us,” said Pope Francis on April 5, 2024, at the Vatican, in a meeting with communities of Franciscan Friars from La Verna, a sanctuary located in Tuscany where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata. The Pope was meeting with the delegation on the 800th anniversary year of the saint receiving in his own body the wounds of Christ, and in his speech, the Pope highlighted how the stigmata can teach Christians to aid those who are suffering.

The stigmata “remind everyone in the holy People of God of the pain suffered by Jesus in His own flesh for our love and salvation,” the Pope said in the speech. “But they are also a sign of the Paschal victory: It is indeed through the wounds that the mercy of the Crucified and Risen One, as if through channels, flows towards us.” 

St. Francis received the stigmata on September 14, 1224, at La Verna in the Casentino valley in Tuscany. The Umbrian saint – whose name the Pontiff chose – was the first person in history known to be marked with the signs of Christ’s crucifixion, manifested by wounds on his hands and feet.

The delegation brought the Pope a relic of St. Francis’ blood, which has been pilgrimaging to various Franciscan monasteries.

Being close to those who are “stigmatized”

Pope Francis explained that the stigmata remind Christians that they are called to “address themselves in a special way to the ‘stigmatized’ they encounter: to those who are ‘marked’ in life, who bear the scars of the sufferings and injustices they have endured or the mistakes they have made.” 

“In this mission, the saint of La Verna is a companion on the journey, who supports us and helps us not to be crushed by difficulties, fears and contradictions — ours and those of others,” the Pope said, encouraging the faithful to rely on the Italian saint.

“In his poverty of spirit – let us emphasize this: Francis, poverty of spirit – and in his entrustment to the Father he left us all an ever-timely testimony to the Gospel.” 

Pope Francis also said that the faithful can find in the “stigmatized St. Francis” a “mirror” of their own identity and thus be reminded that Christians do “not belong to a group based on thought or action, held together solely by human forces, but to a living Body, the Body of Christ that is the Church.” 

Francsican robes

Even if you wear jeans under your habit, keep going!

During his speech the Pope also praised and encouraged the Franciscans’ and their charisma and encouraged them to keep following in the footsteps of their founder.

In Argentina “there are some anticlerical people who, when a priest comes along, touch iron, because he brings bad luck. But this is never, never done when one sees a Franciscan habit. It is curious. A Franciscan is never insulted. Why, I don’t know. But your habit makes one think of St. Francis and the graces received,” the Pope said.

He then added jokingly “Go forth in this way, and it doesn’t matter if beneath the habit there are blue jeans: there is no problem. But keep going.”

He also highlighted how St. Francis’ stigmata call the Franciscans to be merciful and focus on the essential. “You are good confessors: the Franciscans are famous for this. You forgive everything. You forgive always. God never tires of forgiving: We tire of asking for forgiveness,” he said. “In Francis, a man pacified in the sign of the cross, with which he blessed his brethren, the stigmata represent the seal of the essential. This calls you too to return to the essential in the various aspects of your life.”

“You are called to bring, in your communities and fraternity, in the Church and in the world, a little of that immense love that drove Christ to die on the cross for us. Intimacy with Him, as it was for Francis, will make you ever humbler, more united, more joyful and essential, lovers of the cross and caring towards the poor, witnesses of peace and prophets of hope in this time of ours that finds it so difficult to recognize the presence of the Lord.”

A special prayer

At the end of the meeting the Pope then recited a special prayer he had written dedicated to St. Francis :

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,
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 continue 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.

Pope FrancisSaintsVatican
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