The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1255 - 514 

great number of witnesses, their authority, and their holiness, that God wondrously imprinted these signs on his body.

The great number of witnesses furnishes definite assurance. Many trustworthy lay people actually saw the stigmata of Saint Francis and more than a hundred clerics confirmed it by their own testimony. And if every word is confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses, Mt 18:16 how much more by the evidence of a hundred?

The authority of the witnesses strengthens the minds of believers with certainty. The fact of the stigmata was established and confirmed by the Roman Curia which possesses the highest authority on earth. Should any contradict this, they are by this same authority to be cut off from the communion of the faithful, as they have estranged themselves from the faith.

The holiness of the witnesses totally dispels all doubt. His companions are men of outstanding holiness, upright life, and manifest virtue. They affirm, not in timid defense, but unhesitatingly by steadfast oath, that they themselves saw those wonderful signs with their own eyes and touched them with their own hands.

The whole world, therefore, ought to give thanks to the Most High Creator for this sublime gift, that by the stigmata imprinted on Saint Francis, he deigned not only to reveal the way of truth, but to establish it in a wondrous way and for readily intelligible reasons.

It happened in a wondrous way indeed when considered in terms of natural causes. The stigmata were imprinted in a way outside usual experience, contrary to nature's laws and above human powers. They were outside usual experience, for whoever heard of such precious gems appearing on a human body? They were also contrary to nature's laws, for there was a wound in his side from which his holy blood flowed, yet without applying bandages to it, the saint of God went on living and continued untiringly in his works; and they were above human powers: for his hands had no open wounds nor were they injured, which would have been the case had iron or wooden instruments been used. On the contrary, the nails came up out of the flesh, the heads on one side and the points bent over on the other, quite above the surface of the skin and distinct from the rest of the flesh of his hands and feet. It was so remarkable that no believer could possibly doubt that these signs were imprinted other than by an unparalleled miracle.

If we raise our minds a little and consider the stigmata in terms of supernatural causes, we discover they were imprinted for readily understandable reasons. This miracle was made necessary under the law of divine providence, for the needs of the church in this final age and because of Saint Francis's eminent holiness.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 514