Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Sept. 17, 2023

Reflection for Sept. 17, 2023

Physical and spiritual wounds

St. Francis' stigmata can teach us how to  live with and raise up our own hurts 

by Sister Elise Cholewinski

As we celebrate the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Franciscans are also celebrating another feast on Sept. 17, the Stigmata of St. Francis. On this day in 1224, in the midst of praying intensely on Mt. La Verna in Italy, Francis of Assisi received in his body the five wounds of the Crucified Christ. He would carry these wounds, usually kept hidden from view, until the time of his death.

Forgiveness is the theme of the liturgy for this Sunday. The Scripture readings challenge us to exercise forgiveness toward those who have hurt us rather than harboring anger and resentment. Jesus’ command to forgive seventy times seven times seems almost impossible to carry out. Often it’s the same person that we have to forgive time and time again.

Sometimes when people recovering from addictions are reluctant to attend their meetings, they are told, “Bring your body along. The rest of you will come later.” When we find it difficult to forgive someone, maybe we can practice the same principle. We can say an affirming word, offer a helping hand when that person is in need, or bring a gift when that person is celebrating a special occasion. Can we trust that with God’s grace our thoughts and feelings will eventually correspond with our actions?

Sometimes wounds inflicted by another person leave scars that are kept hidden deep within ourselves. Our call may be to accept them as a kind of spiritual stigmata so that, like St. Francis, we can rejoice in being identified with Jesus and we can glory in His cross.


09/15/2023 6:45 am

Sitting around Thursday night's campfire at the Silence and Sunset "Brother Fire" event, I was drawn into an experience of interior healing, a certain kind of "knowing" that God's Presence, God's Love is like a holy fire. It is holy and "whole-ing," as it accepts all into itself. Fire is not discriminatory. It consumes all that it encounters.

In that realization seems to be a hidden mystery, or 'secret,' that yes, indeed, all that is can be reduced to ashes.

And in the midst of that 'terrible' or "awe-filled" truth, lies something else - the letting go of, or the giving over of whatever vengeance, resentment, ill will, or bitterness is harbored somewhere in the human spirit.

Sometimes, maybe more often than we know, the ill will is toward ourselves, as we find it most difficult to forgive ourselves. After all, how many times have we been scolded in our lifetime by an authority figure who has concluded their tongue-lashing upon us with a harsh judgment, "You should know better!"


From the midst of Thursday night's glowing, radiant Fire of God's Love, I wanted to start singing, "JESUS, JESUS, let me tell you how I feel. You have given me your forgiveness, I love you so."

And to let this round-of-simple, yet deeply felt song, continue on into the night, with others joining in, "JESUS, JESUS, let me tell you how I feel. You have given me your forgiveness, I love you so."

And another verse, "JESUS, JESUS, let us tell you how we feel. You have given us Holy Spirit, we love you so."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning noted, "Every common bush [is] afire with God!"

And we, "knowing" Holy Spirit who lives within us, are we not also aflame with wonder, awe, and holy gratitude as we come to "see" all Creation, all creatures and all elements -- including ourselves -- as bearing witness to the Living, Loving God?

Luann Rodriguez
09/15/2023 8:31 am

Thank you for your reflection. Forgiveness can be difficult sometimes. It’s a good reminder. I like the idea that our actions can help us lead toward forgiveness. Peace and blessings.

09/15/2023 8:41 am

Great reflection, Sister Elise.

Diann Wimmer
09/15/2023 9:46 am

Thank you, Sr. Elise, for your reflection on forgiveness. As you noted to forgive is a challenge worth the effort and care. It is good for both of us: the forgiver and the forgiven. I appreciate your thought and encouragement.

Debbie Tahany
09/15/2023 11:14 am

Thanks Sr. Elise. I appreciate most the quotation: “Bring your body along. The rest of you will come later.” Easy to say, hard to do.

09/15/2023 11:37 am

I really like your approach to the Feast of the Stigmata! When we find it hard to forgive someone, say an affirming word, offer a helping hand, etc. Very good suggestion!

Cheryl Mueller
09/15/2023 7:09 pm

Elise, so good to hear your reflections on the Stigmata. Have been keeping my Franciscan Sisters in prayer this week especially. As Rose said, doing acts of kindness for the one we believe we need to forgive gets our body involved and changes our spirit.

Add Your Comment

This is not displayed anywhere publicly.

Weekly Reflections Email

Be notified every time a Weekly Reflection is added!

Sign Up Now

Newsletter Signup

Want to receive our Newsletter?

Sign Up Now