We in the XXI Century do not know what to make of the Stigmata as borne by Francis, Padre Pio and others. Our predecessors were not the credulous peasants we might choose to imagine. Francis did not want his wounds to be a wonder, to be seen by the curious. His brethren were concerned for his welfare as we have seen. The leaders of the order wanted to be sure the wounds were not self-inflicted but from God, a question that certainly bothered Friar Matthew, for he spent hours praying about it. The answer he received was overwhelming, and agreed to be from God, not the dreams of an over-fervent old man.
In the year of our Lord MCCLXXXII in the month of October, Friar Matthew, a man of great devotion and sanctity, told what he knew concerning the day and the hour whereon the most holy Stigmata were imprinted by Christ on the body of Saint Francis.
“While I was in the community of Alvernia, last year in the month of May, I one day betook myself to prayer in my cell, which is on the spot where it is believed that that seraphic vision took place. And in my prayer I besought God most devoutly that He would reveal unto some person the day and the hour and the place wherein the most holy Stigmata were imprinted upon the body of Saint Francis; and, when I had continued in prayer and in this petition beyond the first watch, Saint Francis appeared to me with very great radiance, and said unto me: ‘Son, for what dost thou pray to God?’
And I said unto him: ‘Father, I pray for such and such a thing’. And he said unto me: ‘I am thy Father Francis. Dost thou know me well?’ ‘Father,’ I said, ‘yes.’
Then he showed me the most holy Stigmata in his hands and feet and side, and said: ‘Know that He which appeared unto me was not an angel, but was Jesus Christ, in the form of a Seraph, who, with his own hands, imprinted on my body these wounds, even as He received them in His body on the Cross. On the day before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, an angel came unto me, and, in God’s name, bade me be patient and to receive that which God might will to send me. And I answered that I was ready to receive and to endure everything which might be God’s good pleasure.
The following morning, the morning of Holy Cross, at daybreak I came forth from my cell, in very great fervour of spirit, and went to pray in this place where thou now art and where I ofttimes prayed, and, as I prayed, lo, through the air, there came down from heaven, with great swiftness, a young man crucified, in the form of a Seraph with six wings; at which marvellous sight I humbly kneeled me down and began to contemplate devoutly the boundless love of Jesus Christ crucified, and the boundless pain of His passion; and the sight of Him engendered in me such pity that I verily seemed to feel His passion in my own body; and, at His presence, all this mountain shone as doth the sun; and He came to me.
And, standing before me, He said certain secret words unto me, the which I have not yet revealed unto any man; but the time draweth nigh when they shall be revealed. Then, after a while, Christ departed, and returned into heaven, and I found myself thus marked with these wounds.
‘Go then,’ said Saint Francis, ‘and tell these things to thy minister nothing doubting; for this is the operation not of man but of God.’ And, when he had said these words, Saint Francis blessed me and went back to heaven with a great multitude of youths, exceeding bright.” All these things Friar Matthew said that he had seen and heard, not sleeping but awake. And he swore that he had of a truth told these things to the said minister in his cell at Florence, for obedience’ sake.
Photograph, Ste Anne de Beaupre, Christina Chase.