Life of St. Francis of Assisi | 15


Chapter 15.

His canonization and translation.

Thus Francis, the servant and friend of the Most High, the founder and leader of the Friars Minor, the professor of poverty, the model of penance, the preacher of truth, the mirror of sanctity, the example of all evangelical perfection, being prevented by grace from on High, ascended from the base to the summit of perfection.

This marvellous man, whom God glorified in his mortal life, turning his poverty to exceeding great riches, exalting his humility, turning his mortification to life, his simplicity to prudence, making him conspicuous for all good works, having been made glorious in life by the power of the Lord, became beyond comparison more glorious in death.

For when the holy man had departed from this life, and his sacred spirit had entered its eternal house, there to drink abundantly from the fountain of glory, certain wonderful tokens of its future glory were left on his body,

that the most sacred flesh, which, having been crucified with sin, had already passed into a new creature, and, by a singular privilege, bore the image of Christ, might by a new miracle show forth the glory of the resurrection.

For now were discerned in those blessed members the nails which, by the Divine power, had been marvellously fashioned out of his own flesh, so that, being pressed on either side, they moved to the other.

In his body was found also an open wound in the side, made by no human hand, like to the wound which our Redeemer bore for us and from which issued forth the sacraments of redemption and regeneration.

The appearance of the nails was black like iron; the wound in the side was red and rounded, after the appearance of a beautiful rose.

All the rest of his body, which had been dark by nature, and became darker by reason of his infirmities, was now of a marvellous whiteness, and so dazzling as to show forth the brightness of the second state of glory.

His limbs seemed to those who touched them so soft and supple as to appear like the limbs of a young child, thus figuring the innocence with which he was adorned.

Now, beholding the black nails in that white flesh and the wound in the side ruddy as a rose in spring, it is no marvel that all who saw them were filled with wonder and admiration.

The sons wept for the loss of so beloved a Father, and yet were filled with unspeakable gladness when they kissed the seals of the King of Heaven; the novelty of the miracle changed their tears into joy, and the understanding remained in amazement at the sight.

So unwonted and wonderful a sight was, to all who beheld it, a confirmation of faith, and an incitement to love to those who heard of it; it afforded matter of admiration, and excited a desire to behold it.

As soon, therefore, as the departure of the Holy Father was heard of, and the fame of the miracle was spread abroad, all the people ran together to see with their own eyes what might remove every doubt from their minds, and satisfy the love of their hearts.

Many of the citizens of Assisi were admitted to see and kiss the Sacred Stigmata:

Among these was a certain soldier, a learned and prudent man, named Jerome, held in high estimation in the city, who, doubting of the Sacred Stigmata, and being incredulous like another Thomas,

more boldly and eagerly than the rest moved the nails in the presence of his fellow-citizens, and touched with his own hands the hands and feet of the holy man;

and while he thus touched these palpable signs of the wounds of Christ, his heart was healed and freed from every wound of doubt.

And he, having thus received such certain knowledge of the truth, became a most effectual witness of the same, and confirmed it by oath on the holy Gospels.

Now all the brethren and children of the holy Father, who had been called to witness his departure, with the great multitude of people who were come together on the night in which Christ’s glorious confessor departed to Him, passed the night in the praises of God, so that it seemed not to be a requiem for the departed, but the rejoicing of angels.

When the morning dawned, the whole multitude took branches of trees, and with many tapers and torches, and with hymns and canticles, they bore the sacred body to the city of Assisi.

And passing by the church of St. Damian, where that noble virgin, Clare, now glorious in heaven, abode with the virgins, her sisters, the holy body, adorned with celestial jewels, remained there awhile, till those holy virgins could see and kiss them.

Then with great joy they came to the city, and laid the precious treasure which they had brought with them with all reverence in the church of St. George:

For in that place, when he was yet a child, he had learnt the first beginning of letters; there he had begun to preach; and lastly, in that same spot he found his first resting-place.

The venerable Father passed away from the wreck of this world in the year of our Lord’s Incarnation, 1226, on the 4th of October, on the evening of Saturday, and he was buried on Sunday.

The sacred and blessed body, glorified by Divine grace, began at once to work manifold and great miracles, that the excellence of his sanctity was proved by the miracles wrought by the Divine power in confirmation of the faith, by which he was believed to be in heaven.

These glorious miracles, having become known in various parts of the world, and the great benefits attained by his merits having excited great multitudes of men to greater devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, and deeper reverence for His Saint, the sound both of these words and works came to the ears of the Sovereign Pontiff; Gregory IX.

The Holy Pontiff knowing his marvellous sanctity by certain and undoubted testimony, not only of the miracles wrought by him since his death, but also by his own manifold experience of his holy life when he saw and conversed with him on earth, doubted not that he had been glorified by the Lord in heaven.

To cooperate, therefore, with Christ, whose Vicar he was, he determined with pious counsel and holy consideration to pay to the holy man that veneration and honour of which he knew him to be most worthy.

And in order to add greater certainty to the glorification of this most holy man, he caused all the miracles wrought by him and related by others to be examined by those members of the College of Cardinals who were least favourable to the undertaking.

These having diligently investigated and approved all the matters laid before them, he determined, with the consent of all the cardinals and prelates then present, to proceed to the Canonization;

and coming himself in person to the city of Assisi in the year of our Lord’s Incarnation, 1228, on Sunday the 6th of July, with many ceremonies and great solemnity, which it would be too long here to narrate, he inscribed the blessed Father in the catalogue of the Saints.

In the year of our Lord 1230, all the friars of the Order being assembled in general chapter at Assisi, that body, consecrated to the Lord, was transferred to the church erected to his honour on the 21st of May.

While the sacred treasure, signed with the signet of the Most High King, was being carried from one place to another,

he, whose effigy was impressed upon it, was pleased that, by its health-giving ardour, the affections of many of the faithful should be drawn to follow after Christ;

and most worthy was this of him who while in life was so dear to God, who by the grace of contemplation had been transported like Enoch into Paradise, and by the zeal of his charity had been carried like Elias to Heaven in a chariot of fire.

Even his blessed bones, which, having been transplanted from this barren earth, began to flourish among the heavenly flowers of the celestial garden, gave forth a sweet and marvellous odour of sanctity, from the place where they were found;

and certain it is that as, when he was in life, this blessed man was illustrious and renowned by many marvellous tokens of virtue and sanctity, so, from the day of his death to the present hour, he has been glorified in various parts of the world by manifold prodigies and miracles;

so that, through the Divine power, by his merits help is afforded to the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the lame, the dropsical, the paralytic, the possessed, the lepers, and to those who are tempest-tossed or languish in captivity.

He relieves all infirmities, necessities, and perils.

Nay, by the marvellous resurrection of many from the dead is made known to the faithful the power of his merits, and the glorious might of the Most High, who is marvellous in His saints, to whom be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.