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A New Week – April 28, 2024

This is my favorite of the year! I love the Easter season, the springtime turning away the winter, and the anticipation of summer. Axel and I enjoy walking the neighborhood and seeing the budding trees and the blooming flowers. This week’s celebration of Earth Day had me praying in thanksgiving for God’s beautiful gift of creation, so manifest at this time of year. St. Francis of Assisi is so often associated with nature and the created world, and our Pope who took his name has made the care of creation one of the hallmarks of his papacy.  

These years are seeing a bevy of Octocentennial celebrations for St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in 1181 and died in 1226.  For example, the 800th anniversary of the first Nativity scene was celebrated last year and this year is the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan rule. The Octocentennial celebrations will culminate in the 800th anniversary of the death of St. Francis coming up in 2026.  Recently, Pope Francis met with a group of Franciscan priests, who are anticipating the 800th anniversary of St. Francis receiving the stigmata on September 17, 1224. The stigmata, as you may know, are the wounds of Christ shown miraculously on the hands, feet, and side of men and women of faith throughout the millennia, including St. Francis, St. Rita, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Padre Pio, and others.  At this recent meeting, the Holy Father offered a new prayer to St. Francis that he composed:

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.

St. Francis’ stigmata remind us that the risen Jesus still bears the wounds of his crucifixion, as evidenced many times in the Gospels. So too, for us, all the pain and hurt that we have experienced in life does not disappear, but rather is transformed by the grace and power of God. Our wounds remain, but we are healed! Amid the struggles of this world, may these beautiful Easter days continue to remind us of the beauty and goodness of our God, who binds our wounds with love and care.  St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

Image: Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, by Gentile da Fabriano, 1420

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