19 Sep La Verna: a place of solitude, the cross and the joy of the blessed | Homily for the Feast of the Stigmata
Homily of the Vicar General for the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi
La Verna – 17 September 2019
By climbing this sacred mountain, we naturally want to draw the message that the Lord continues to give us in this place where He makes His presence felt. It is, therefore, He Himself who summons us today: Friars Minor, the Franciscan family, and all the people of God. I would like to emphasize in particular three dimensions of what happened to St. Francis here at La Verna, concerning this precise place which is: 1) place of silence/solitude; 2) place of the cross/passion; 3) place of the joy of the blessed.
- Place of silence/solitude. Francis’ life was entirely centred on “observing the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rb 1:1). In order to be ready to welcome the Lord, he took long periods that he loved to call “Lent”, times dedicated to prayer and fasting. On this mountain of La Verna, in September 1224, the Saint withdrew for one of these times of silence and solitude, of more intense prayer during which he received the stigmata. Here we find a beautiful icon of the desert, both exterior (around us) and interior (within us).
- Place of the Cross/Passion. Saint Bonaventure defines Francis as “man of the Gospel” (LM 13:1), who embraced the Cross of Christ at the beginning of his conversion. From that moment on he will always carry the Cross and the Passion of the Lord “giving example to others, with such clarity of certitude” thus reaching “the summit of Gospel perfection”, (LM 13:10).
- Place of the joy of the blessed. Celano describes Francis’ experience at the moment of the apparition, saying that: “ When the blessed servant of the most High saw these things, he was filled with the greatest awe, but could not decide what this vision meant for him. Moreover, he greatly rejoiced and was much delighted by the kind and gracious look that he saw the Seraph gave him” (1Cel 94). Here are the gifts received: joy, delight, beauty and sweetness. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 15/16) helps us to meditate on this experience of Francis.