Saint Francis imitated Christ so perfectly that towards the end of his life our Lord wished to point him out to the world as the faithful imitator of the Crucified, by imprinting His five wounds upon his body.
Two years before his death, when, according to his custom, Saint Francis had repaired to Mt La Verna to spend the 40 days preceding the feast of St. Michael the Archangel in prayer and fasting, and there this wonderful event took place.
On the feast of the Stigmata of St Francis, 17 September1983, St John Paul II came as a pilgrim to Mount La Verna in Tuscany. There in the holy place were Francis encountered the Crucified Christ in such a profound way, the Pope pray this beautiful prayer:
O St Francis, stigmatized on La Verna,
the world longs for you,
that icon of the crucified Jesus.
It has need of your heart,
open to God and to others;
of your bare, wounded feet,
of your pierced hands raised in supplication.
It longs for your voice so frail
yet forceful with the power of the Gospel.
Francis, help the people of this age
to recognise the evil of sin
and to seek purification from it in penance.
Help them to become free from the very structures of sin
that oppress today’s society.
Rekindle in the consciousness of those in government
an urgent need for peace between nations and peoples.
Instil in young people your freshness of life
that is capable of withstanding the snares
of the many cultures of death.
To those injured by every type of evil
teach, O Francis, the joy of being able to forgive.
To all those crucified by suffering,
hunger and war,
reopen the doors of hope. Amen.