The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1255 - 515 

The law of divine providence required it because God willed to make this cloth merchant a fisher of men, and the leader of those who imitate Christ perfectly. Therefore, he handed over to him his own ensign, namely, the marks of the Crucified Lord.

Further, it was made necessary by the needs of the church in these last times. At the beginning of the Church unbelief held sway; as it developed heresy reigned and at the end wickedness will prevail, for then most men's love will grow cold. Mt 24:12 So at the beginning of the church, the Lord granted powerful miracles to drive out idolatry. Later on he endowed learned men with proofs of wisdom to root out heresy. In these latter times, he bestowed the signs of goodness and mercy on Saint Francis to enkindle love, and what are the signs of consummate love except the marks of the passion which God chose to endure for us out of measureless love?

Third, this miracle was made necessary because of Saint Francis's eminent holiness which found expression in his most fervent love of the Crucified Lord. For the sake of that love he so weakened his eyes by tears of compassion that he lost his sight. Hugh of Saint Victor tells us: "Such is the power of love, that it transforms the lover into the Beloved."a Love of the Crucified Lord was supremely and gloriously aflame in his heart, and so the Crucified himself, in the form of the Seraph, an angelic spirit burning with the fire of love, appeared before his saintly eyes and imprinted the sacred stigmata on his body.

We should not consider this impossible to believe or less than reasonable, for it is recorded that something similar happened to Saint Ignatius of Antioch.b When he was ordered by the tyrant to deny Christ, he replied that Christ could not be taken from his lips. Then the tyrant threatened that he would cut off his head and so remove Christ from his lips. Saint Ignatius answered that though Christ might be taken from his lips, he could never be removed from his heart. Then consumed with fury to prove the Saint of God wrong, the tyrant had his head cut off and ordered his heart to be torn from his body. When it was done his heart was found to have written on it the name of Jesus Christ in gold letters. How fitting that was, for he had




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 515