In 2006 while I was doing an Italian course prior to my studies in Rome I visited mount La Verna in Tuscany (Italy). Since I was a teenager I was fascinated by the life of St Francis due to a biography written by Fr, Ignacio Larranaga (founder of the Prayer and Life workshop; members of this movement are working in our parish from Monday). La Verna holds an important place within the life of Francis. St Bonaventure tells us what happened there

Two years before Francis, the faithful servant of Christ, gave his soul back to God, he was alone on the top of Mt. La Verna. There he had begun a fast of forty days in honour of the archangel Michael and was immersed more deeply than usual in heavenly contemplation. As he was drawn aloft through ardent longing for God one morning near the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and was praying on the mountainside, he saw what appeared as a seraph with six bright wings gleaming like a fire descending from the heights of heaven. As this figure approached in swift flight and came near the man of God it appeared not only winged but also crucified. The sight of it amazed Francis and his soul experienced joy mingled with pain. He was delighted with the sight of Christ appearing to him so graciously and intimately and yet the awe-inspiring vision of Christ nailed to the cross aroused in his soul a joy of compassionate love.

When the vision vanished after a mysterious and intimate conversation it left Francis aglow with seraphic love in his soul. Externally, however, it left marks on his body like those of the Crucified as if the impression of a seal had been left on heated wag. The figures of the nails appeared immediately on his hands and feet. The heads of the nails were inside his hands but on top of his feet with their points extending through to the opposite side. His right side too showed a blood-red wound as if it had been pierced by a lance, and blood flowed frequently from it.

Today 17th September together with the Franciscan family we celebrate the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francisand through his intercession we pray that we may also bear our Cross with Christ.

Fr. Javier