On the 16th and 17th September on the occasion of the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, Br. Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General, participated in the celebrations organized by the friars at the Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna, where the Poverello (the poor man) of Assisi was stigmatized in 1224, a year that marks the eve of the 800th anniversary of the Stigmata, whose celebrations will officially begin on the 5th January, 2024.
In the late afternoon of Saturday, the 16th September, in the Basilica of the Sanctuary, the liturgical celebrations officially opened with the First Vespers of the solemnity. In the Parish Church of Chiusi della Verna the Vigil began with catechesis by the Bishop of Fiesole, Monsignor Manetti, followed by a pilgrimage to La Verna, with young Franciscans from all over Italy, Franciscan nuns and friars, Civil Authorities, pilgrims and lay people. Upon arrival at Beccia, after the lights of the Sanctuary were turned on, Br. Massimo prayed for all the people suffering from war or natural disasters, asking that the lights may be lit for them too in the midst of the darkness of suffering, especially for the young people of Syria.
The procession continued to the Sanctuary, whereupon at 23.00 the Solemn Mass was celebrated, presided over by Br Massimo. During the homily he reminded us of the journey that Francis made in the footsteps of Christ crucified, with all the richness of his humanity. "Now Francis responds to the call to follow Christ crucified by allowing himself to be fully conformed to His death and Resurrection.” His baptism is fulfilled and marks his spirit and his flesh, with the sign of fire. He is now assimilated to Christ, one body and one spirit with Him. He can say with Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!". This Liturgical rite, amongst others, was attended by the young people involved in the "Night of the Stigmata", and continued throughout the night with moments of prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and confessions, organized by Br. Alessandro Martelli and the friars of the youth ministry of the Tuscan Friars Minor.
On Sunday the 17th September, the actual day of the Solemnity, the Eucharistic celebration was presided over by the Minister General, Br Massimo; he focused on the importance of being in communion with Jesus, according to the experiences of St. Francis. “ To-day we still look with wonder and love at the wounds of Christ impressed on his servant Francis and we know that our own baptism propels us towards this encounter and this profound transformation so evidently manifested in him. As we make out way up to La Verna it seems to asks us to accept that, as believers, we remain on the journey, taken by an adventure, that of faith, which does not leave us calm and sedentary in what we already know how to repeat. Faith is like an expedition that makes us venture into the land of the other, to dare to believe in God even to-day, and to believe in others, as brothers and sisters in the Church, not on our own, but with the little ones and the poor. It is meeting, seeing, and being transformed in Christ that takes place through faith in Him. Let us ask that this gift be revived by us so that we may show with our lives the Good News of Christ's transforming love for the difficult yet blessed times that we live in”.
"The celebration of the Stigmata this year is part of a broader journey - said Br. Livio Crisci, Provincial Minister of the Province of St. Francis of the Stigmata - which is one of the Franciscan Centenaries, which began in 2023 and will continue until 2026. During this time we will remember the 800th anniversary of the death of Father St. Francis. The timeliness of the Franciscan message and its evangelical freshness urge us as friars, with the whole Franciscan family, to a generous commitment and vigour, giving reason to and for our vocations that may continue to solicit and call young people and adults to a full, beautiful, and edifying life as we endevour to live in the footsteps of Christ through our Franciscan charism".
Read the homilies of the Minister General: