On the Road

Imitating the Virtues of Christ in His Passion

Written by: Denise Serafini on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Never was a saint more beautifully loved by Jesus than Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis received in his hands, feet and side the Sacred Wounds from Our Lord’s own body, an occurrence known as “stigmata”. Presenting “Call from the Crucified Heart” in St. Francis of Assisi Church in Torrington, CT on March 5 gave us the opportunity to consider the message Christ has for us in manifesting the visible evidence with the associated pain and suffering of His crucifixion in the poor and humble Franciscan from Assisi. In order to do that we have to look more carefully inside, to the interior life of a Christian disciple who wished nothing more than to follow in the footprints of Christ.

In the conclusion of his book on the Five Wounds of St. Francis, Fr. Solanus Benfatti, CFR writes:

"It is essential to comprehend that Francis had never thought to pick and choose aspects of the life of Christ to dress himself up in, but rather had chosen something that I would say is much harder because there is far less control in it: he had chosen, simply, to follow. Francis chose to move forward step-by-step in the footprints of the Lord, which I say is dangerous, because who can know where it will lead?"

The very essence of the physical stigmata that appeared externally on Francis's body was reflective of his interior conformity to the lived example of Jesus Christ. He was consistently meditating on the life and Passion of Christ. It has been said that no one else in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way.

The "grace" that was given to Francis was not some random burden or some freak sideshow illness, it was a visual and corporeal representation of what only God can typically see -- a baptized man who lived as fully as he could, bearing the resemblance of Christ. We are called to do the same and follow the example of St. Francis.

The “Call from the Crucified Heart” is a meditative experience that leads you through each step of Christ’s Passion. It calls each of us to consider the great love that the Father has for us in sending His Only Son to suffer and die for our salvation. Moreover, it challenges us to look within, see how each of us does or does not bear the marks of Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. As we progress in the meditations through each element of His Passion in our program, we can see all the virtues Jesus exemplified in praising the Father, forgiving his enemies and literally pouring himself out for our salvation. We are expected to imitate all the virtues Christ demonstrated in his crucifixion just as St. Francis did. Unlike St. Francis however, we very likely won't receive the marks of Christ in the form of five wounds, but we could certainly—and should certainly—make visible the presence of Christ in every other way.