Opening of the VIII Centenary of the Stigmata of St. Francis

From the wounds to new life, 5th January 2024

05 January 2024

On Friday, 5th January, 2024, the Franciscan Family officially opened the VIII Centenary of the Stigmata of St. Francis, at the Sanctuary of La Verna, with an event entitled "From the wounds to new life".

The day began at 7:00 a.m. with the Office of Readings, followed by Lauds and the celebration of the Mass presided over by Br. Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General of the Friars Minor. In the homily, Br. Massimo recalled how the mystery of the Cross marked Francis' entire life: “I like to think of Francis' interior biography as a path of concentric circles that led him to the centre, which is Jesus. We have just contemplated in Greccio at Christmas, where Francis wanted to see with his own eyes the poverty and hardships in which Jesus wanted to be born, that poor and humble path that He chose to come to us, to reach even here in La Verna - and from Greccio to La Verna the path is not exactly straight, but internally it is - where Francis allows himself to be attracted by the mystery of his Crucified and Risen Lord, because the Seraph both manifests pain and ineffable joy; indeed, the heart of Francis' path is Jesus Christ. It seems so simple, and the Centenary that we open today can remind us of it, in fact, like the entire Centenary that we are celebrating.".

At 11:00 a.m., in the Basilica of the Sanctuary, the ceremony for the solemn opening of the Centenary was held, which ended in the Chapel of the Stigmata.

Present, amongst others, were the Ministers General of the Franciscan Family and representatives of all the Franciscan realities; the Bishop of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Msgr. Andrea Migliavacca; the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, with the banner of the Municipality; the Mayor of Chiusi della Verna, Giampaolo Tellini, and other institutional Authorities.

During the celebration, each Minister General left his own message for the Franciscan Family. 

Tibor Kauser, OFS, spoke of Francis as a probable “influencer” of today: “Many have wanted to follow him, imitate him. Everything he did and said had a great impact on the lives of his classmates. […] God transformed Francis, maintaining many things in his style, without destroying his personality. This is the miracle, how God can transform a person by changing the things in life and turning bitter into sweet."

Sister Frances Marie Duncan, CFI-TOR, underlined how Saint Francis is in all respects an "Alter Christus", united with Him in the sign of the stigmata, which links love to the suffering experienced by Jesus on the Cross.

Br. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR, focused on the profound bond between Francis and the Crucifix: from the church of San Damiano, where the Lord showed him the way to repair His Church, to Mount La Verna, where he beheld the wounds imprinted of Christ on his own body.

Br. Carlos Trovarelli, OFMConv, stated that “it is before the Crucifix and at the foot of the Cross that we are capable of fully understanding the perspective of the whole Gospel. In the Cross of Christ the community of the faithful is formed as a brotherhood/sisterhood, in which the theological foundation is the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus. [...] Francis of Assisi, who said he was not a theologian, indicates to us a high Christ-centered spirituality, a source of love for all creatures."

Br. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM, recalled how the Poverello-the poor man went up to La Verna in a moment of crisis, due to the difficulties that the drafting of the Rule had entailed: "From the encounter with the crucifix at La Verna, the seal of his entire journey, Francesco does not leave so intimately withdrawn in himself. The biographies tell us how Francis became an even greater herald of the Gospel which marked him on his flesh. […] Proclaim the Lord first with your life and then with your word. Francis lived this word of the Rule until the end. More than ever, mission was the fruit and transparency of the encounter with the Lord. Here is a living and permanent lesson of the Stigmata."

Br Roberto Genuin, OFMcap, highlighted how "the Cross of Jesus is at the centre of the world and of human history. It stands as a double sign: a sign of the cruelty of humanity who, in his confusion, came to crucify the Author of life; sign of God's free and infinite love that no violence, no refusal can stop. […] Francis of Assisi experienced the love of God in his life and was "marked" by it. In turn he has become a sign, a reminder, the proof of a God who loves infinitely and freely”.

"Francis, commented fr. Livio Crisci, Minister Provincial of the Friars Minor of Tuscany who have custody of the sanctuary of La Verna, "just as at Christmas 1223 wanted to represent the Nativity scene “to see with the eyes of the body the love of God incarnate in the Child”, so in September 1224 he wanted to feel a little of that pain that Christ suffered on the Cross to save humanity. From Bethlehem to Calvary is the itinerary that, as Franciscans, we are preparing to take to celebrate this event, after eight centuries since the first Nativity scene, eight centuries since that prodigious when the impression of the stigmata was formed on the body of the Poverello of Assisi."

Until the 17th September, 2024, the Franciscan Family of Tuscany will promote numerous initiatives between La Verna, Florence and the Tuscan territory, to rediscover and actualize the message that comes from Francis' experience on the sacred mountain: what is wounded and defeated for the world can become an opportunity for a new life and reconciliation with humanity and creation.

Programme Link:
Download the booklet of the event
Read Br. Massimo's Homily (Italian)

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