Today is a special day on the Franciscan calendar. Its the celebration of St. Francis' reception of the wounds of Christ, also known as the Stigmata (nota bene: St. Francis of Assisi was the first person in history to receive this gift of the Stigmata). This day remembered for one holy man's desire to share, truly share, in the sufferings of Christ is also a time for us to reflect on how much do we or don't allow ourselves to conform to Christ in our own lives. Is our faith as visible as the wounds St. Francis wore.
As I sat in our little chapel here at the Friary. I could hear the traffic going by (all driving insanely fast for such a narrow road... of course), and I see the clouds moving in the sky with all their threat of rain, and I could feel the tiniest of breezes coming from under the window next to me that had been left open, ever so slightly to along air into this sacred space. In the midst of this two other sights crept into my mind.
The first, was how close the relic of St. Francis and the Blessed Sacrament were to each other in the small glass Tabernacle we have. This stuck me as a perfect moment... St. Francis of Assisi strove his entire life, after his embracing of his vocation, to be as close to Christ in every way possible and desiring for people to see how loving Christ, to allowing each person to embrace an intimate relationship with Christ can truly be a reality. Or as Fr. Murray Bodo wrote in his book, Francis: The Journey and the Dream, that St. Francis would look at the Eucharist as a grace given, a Sacrament offered for the transformation of souls. He had seen its effects in his own and every time he would look upon the Eucharist he would see that possible transformation for all people, "He thought of all who would let Christ transform them into what they needed to become in order to be happy."
So, as I gazed upon an earthly remnant of St. Francis and a Divine wholeness of Christ found in the Blessed Sacrament I could not help but think how He still is calling to be intimate with Him, even to the point of suffering. After all, that's what "passio" or "passion" means, to suffer.
Today, we celebrate one man's bonding himself to the suffering of Christ and in the process becoming a living embodiment of we should strive in our reception of the Eucharist... to become a people who give thanks to God for every moment and long to more intimate with Him as each days passes.
The second thing that caught my heart in this period of reflection was how truly small this chapel is... and yet, in its simplicity and tiny size there was something to be seen as well. St. Francis was not a physically large man (although, after climbing the hills in Assisi, I believe he had calves the size of footballs), yet he gave every ounce of himself in service... to the point of literally wearing his small body out. Would that we all could do that! Then, again, my eyes were brought back to the Eucharist... it too is physically small, yet how many miracles (its own moment of Transubstantiation being counted among them) have flowed out of such a tiny gift from God.
I would ask all who read this is take a moment... look at your hands, your feet, your head and your sides. Those places were St. Francis received the wounds of Christ and reflect with me.
Do we use our hands for His glory?
Do we use our feet to go were He leads us?
Do we use the gift of our minds for His making His Kingdom a reality?
Do we fill our hearts with His love and breathe it out for all the world to see?
Let us all ask to share in a spiritual Stigmata today that the next time we ask those questions our answers will be more profound.
You are all in my prayers.