The Evening Sermon on Saint Francis, 1262 - 727 

the point where your heart is aflame with love? Just as iron when heated to the point where it becomes molten can take the imprint of any mark or sign, so a heart burning fervently with love of Christ crucified can receive the imprint of the Crucified Lord himself or his cross. Such a loving heart is carried over to the Crucified Lord or transformed into him. That is what happened with Saint Francis.

Some people express surprise that when the stigmata of Christ's passion were to be imprinted on Saint Francis, a Seraph was sent to him. Surely none of the Seraphim was crucified! But the Seraphim are the angels whose name comes from "burning flame."a Thus, what this detail tells us is that Saint Francis was aflame with love when the Seraph was sent to him. The cross or sign of the cross imprinted on his body symbolized his love of Christ crucified and by the flame of that love he was totally transformed into Christ.

I want to tell you something that happened in the province of Rieti which confirms what I have been saying. There was a fatal epidemic which had attacked the animals of the region so that they could not take food. Suddenly, all the animals were dying and the people did not know what to do to save them. One of the local people went to see a devout man and told him how the animals were dying and asked his advice. The devout man advised him to get some of the water in which Saint Francis had washed his hands and feet, sprinkle it over the animals and they would be cured. He did this and the animals came running for their food. I was told this by someone who saw it happen.

So, because Saint Francis had a love as vast as the heavens, and the cross is the sign of the greatest love in the world, it is to be expected that we should find this sign on him.

Moreover, the heavens contain mysteries. The Latin word for heaven, caelum, is derived from the verb celare meaning to keep secret or conceal.b Saint Francis can be compared to this feature of the heavens because he reached the heights of contemplation. It says in the Psalms: You stretched out the heavens like a tent and covered its higher rooms with waters. Waters are indeed limpid, refreshing, and shimmering with light and are a symbol of contemplation. There where the waters meet a man sees the reflection of his own image and the




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 727