In the Bull of Pope Honorius III, issued November 29, 1223, the Final Rule of our Order was ratified. The Rule was initially outlined and approved by Pope Innocent III, in 1209, but as the Order grew in those first years, revisions to the initial Rule were needed. After a version prepared in 1221 was seen as too strict, St. Francis of Assisi enlisted the aid of several legal scholars to compose the Final Rule that was approved in 1223. In commemoration of that day, all the saints of the Franciscan (Seraphic) Order are remembered each November 29th.
In September of 1224, two years prior to his death, while praying on Mount La Verna, St. Francis received the marks of our Lord’s Passion in his hands, feet and side; a miracle known as the Stigmata, after composing and praying “The Praises of God” (see below). Written on a parchment which is signed and also contains a blessing from St. Francis to brother Leo, it is conserved as a relic in the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi. In the Life of St. Francis, Saint Bonaventure states, “while Francis was praying on the mountainside, he beheld a Seraph having six wings, flaming and resplendent, coming down from the heights of heaven. When in his flight most swift he had reached the space of air nigh the man of God, there appeared betwixt the wings the Figure of a Man crucified, having his hands and feet stretched forth in the shape of a Cross and fastened unto a Cross. Two wings were raised above His head, twain were spread forth to fly, while twain hid His whole body.” (pg. 139 Vision of the Seraph) Later in the work, St. Bonaventure speaks of the Fulfillment of the Visions (pg. 146-147), “Now finally that vision that was vouchsafed thee toward the end of they life, – to wit the exalted likeness of the Seraph, and the lowly Image of Christ shewn in one, – kindly thee inwardly and marking thee outwardly as another Angel ascending from the sunrising, having the seal of the Living God in thee, – giveth a confirmation of faith unto those visions aforesaid, and likewise receiveth from them a witness unto its own truth.”
According to tradition, St. Francis of Assisi prayed the following prayer:
“O Lord Jesus Christ, two favors I beg of you before I die. The first is that I may, as far as it is possible, feel in my soul and in my body the suffering in which you, O gentle Jesus, sustained in your bitter passion. And the second favor is that I, as far as it is possible, may receive in my heart that excessive charity by which you, the Son of God, were inflamed, and which actuated you willingly to suffer so much for us sinners.”
St. Francis was in intense prayer when the Lord appeared as a Seraph, whose flaming, resplendent wings mimic God’s intense love as it was shared by Christ, as is portrayed in the sanctuary space of our Shrine of St. Anthony (Ellicott City, MD), in the reproduction mural by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Joseph Dorniak, OFM Conv. (see photo), reminiscent of Giotto di Bondone’s St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, a fresco (c. 1300) in the upper church of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.
The Praises of God
You are holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty king. You holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility,
You are patience, You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice,
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender,
You are strength, You are refreshment. You are our hope,
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Savior.
Let us pray:
Prayer after Meditation
Receive, most merciful God,
by the prayers and merits of the blessed Mary ever Virgin,
of our blessed father Francis,
and of all the Saints,
the service of our submission;
and if we have done anything worthy of praise,
graciously look down upon it;
and what has been done negligently, mercifully pardon.
You live and reign in perfect Trinity,
world without end.