From: Franciscan Meditations, by Bernardin Goebel
(The meditations of this novena were written by Father Hugolinus Storff, O.F.M.)
I. POINT: Jesus Christ, the Image of God
Saint Paul calls Christ the image of the invisible God, that is, the most perfect resemblance of God the Father. This likeness and equality of Christ with God is so perfect that Christ could say: “I and the Father are one.” Now, Jesus Christ came down from Heaven not only to redeem us from sin and to show us the way to salvation, but also to become our model of perfection and holiness. As Christ is like the Father, thus we shall endeavor to become like him and the Father. “Be you perfect,” says Christ, “as also your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ, however, was like the Father not only in nature, but also in his actions, for he says: “What things soever the Father does, these the Son also does in like manner.” If, then, we wish to be true disciples of Christ, we must study his life, enter into his sentiments, and imitate his holy example. Christ said to his apostles: “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so do you also.” Saint Peter writes: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps.” Thus true holiness and perfection consist of close imitation of Jesus Christ, and the more a person resembles Christ, the greater is his holiness.
II. POINT: Saint Francis, the Image of Jesus Christ
Few of the saints bear so striking a resemblance to Christ as Saint Francis. It seems God wished Saint Francis to be a perfect image of Christ even in the circumstances of his life. Some say Saint Francis was born in a stable like Christ. But this is sure, after his conversion Saint Francis made it the purpose of his life to become like Christ both in heart and in his exterior life. He founded his order that his brethren should present to the world the real life of Christ. He says at the beginning of the holy rule which he gave to his brethren: “The life of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He used to say: “We ought to do all according to the model which is offered us in the person of Jesus Christ.” Although Saint Francis personally preferred a solitary life entirely given to prayer and penance, yet, to imitate Christ in his public life, he went about preaching the Gospel. He said to his brethren: “Since we are obliged to imitate in all things our divine Model, it appears to me that I should sacrifice the repose of prayer to labor for the good of souls.” But the best proof of his likeness to Christ was given when God impressed the five holy wounds upon the body of Saint Francis, making him a perfect image of Christ crucified for all times.
III. POINT: Are We Like Christ and Saint Francis?
Saint Francis admonishes us in the words of Saint Paul: “Therefore I beseech you as my dearest children, be followers of me, as I am of Christ.” Imitating Saint Francis in his life and actions, adopting his principles and following his admonitions, we shall also become Christ-like and not only secure our salvation, but reach the degree of holiness destined for us by God. Are you a true and faithful Christian, or do your works and your life belie your Christian name? As one writer put it, “A Christian is another Christ.” Since Saint Francis was so perfect an imitator of Jesus Christ, let it be our constant endeavor to resemble him as much as possible, that as true children of Saint Francis and faithful disciples of Christ we may be numbered among the elect. Saint Paul says: “Whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be made conformable to the image of his Son.” God had created man according to his image and likeness, but sin had disfigured this likeness. Christ restored it again in his person. Now by following Christ and Saint Francis we shall put off the old man of sin and put on the new man created according to God in justice and holiness of truth. Thus we shall again present in our soul the real image and likeness of God.
O Holy Father Saint Francis, we wish to venerate in a special manner your five holy wounds, which our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ, in the form of a Seraph, imprinted on your holy body, thus making you a living image of our crucified Redeemer. Fill our hearts and souls with great love and compassion, for the sufferings and wounds of our crucified Savior. Permit us to kiss in spirit the wound of your left hand so wonderfully marked by the hand of the living God. We offer up the sufferings of your left hand and the blood that flowed from the left hand of our Savior in atonement for all the sins we have committed against the virtues of justice and purity.