Saturday, September 17, 2005

Feast of the Stigmata

The Parchment given to Friar Leo
This document had its origin in the incident reported by both Bl. Thomas Celano and St. Bonaventure. Friar Leo, a close companion of St. Francis, came to him, revealing that he was in the midst of a severe interior trial, and asked for the Saint's assistance. To satisfy his request, St. Francis wrote "The Praises of God Most High" [LaudDei] and the "Blessing given to Friar Leo" [BenLeo] on a single piece of parchment: the former on the obverse, the latter on the reverse. Upon receiving it, Friar Leo was instantly freed of his temptation. This parchment is preserved to this day at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, and bears a note of authentication by Friar Leo himself. For this reason the place and date of its composition are known very accurately: sometime after St. Francis received the stigmata (Sept. 14) and before the Feast of St. Michael (Sept. 29) in the year 1224 A.D., while both were in retreat on Mount Alverna.

The Praises of God Most High [LaudDei]
The praise of God is one of the most characteristic and essential aspects of St. Francis spirituality, so much so, that for him it was a solemn duty, borne of the most profound gratitude and love of the Most Holy Trinity, our Creator and Redeemer. It is thus quite consistent with the spirituality of the Saint that these Praises are associated with a miracle worked by him during his life.

Thou art" the Holy Lord, the only "God, who works wonders" 12 (Ps 76:15).
Thou art strong, Thou art great (cf. Ps 85:10),
Thou art the Most High, Thou art the Omnipotent King,
Thou "Holy Father" (cf. Jn 17:11) King "of Heaven and Earth." (Mt 11:25).
Thou art Three and One Lord, God of gods (cf. Ps 135:2),
Thou art good, all good, the Highest Good, Lord God living and true (cf. 1 Thes 1:9).
Thou art Charity; Thou art Wisdom, Thou art humility,
"Thou art patience" (Ps 70:5), Thou art Beauty,
Thou art gentleness; Thou art security, Thou art quiet, Thou art our Hope
Thou art joy; and gladness, Thou art justice, all
Thou art temperance, Thou art riches unto sufficiency.
Thou art beauty, Thou art gentleness,
"Thou art Protector" (Ps 30:5), Thou art guard and our defender,
Thou art fortitude (cf. Ps 42:2), Thou art refreshment. Thou art our hope,
Thou art our faith. Thou art our charity,
Thou art our eternal life:
Thou art our entire sweetness, Great and admirable Lord, God Omnipotent, merciful Savior.

The Blessing given to Friar Leo [BenLeo]
Friar Leo was one of St. Francis' close companions. This writing of St. Francis has the unique honor of containing the signature of St. Francis, in the form of a Tau Cross drawn in red ink, between the letters of Leo's name [i.e. Le-T-o]. This blessing has become the customary one in Franciscan communities, and is recited over the friars by the local superior as the last prayer of the day. St. Francis' ability to use language emphatically is seen particularly in the last sentence of this blessing.

May the Lord bless thee and keep thee; may He show His face to thee and be merciful to thee. May He turn His countenance to thee and give thee peace (cf. Num 6:24-26). May the Lord bless, friar Leo, thee (cf. Num 6:27b).

Text: The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi
Translated from the Critical Latin Edition, edited by Fr. Kajetan Esser, O.F.M.

Images: El Greco 'St Francis Recieves the Stigmata'
Hermano Leon 'Cruz'

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