"God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world." - Galatians 6:14
These words of St. Paul are the words we heard in the Introit of the Mass on September 14 for the Exultation of the Holy Cross, and also today for the Commemoration of the Imprinting of the Holy Stigmata on the Body of St. Francis.
In the celebration of these feasts, the Christian is reminded of the life they are called to live. But even more so for the religious, this Introit serves as a reminder of their consecrated life.
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
- Galatians 2:19 -20
This scripture passage, along, with Introit, are two of the most common scripture passages quoted in writings on the religious life because of the ideal and truth they contain. The saints, too, quote these famous words of St. Paul countless times because they exemplify the goal of the Christian, and in particular the core of religious life: to be Christ Crucified to the world.
"I will arise and put on Jesus Christ Crucified, whom my soul loves and in whom my heart rejoices." This is the prayer upon the Sister's lips the moment she rises, instantly reminding her of why she gets up every morning. As she kisses the crucifix of her rosary and fastens it to her habit, the Sister prays the scripture of today's Introit - a reminder that her life is given in complete conformity to Christ Crucified, her Spouse, where His Cross becomes hers, and she becomes crucified to all that is crucified with Him.
The personal call of Christ, to be united to Him in His Passion, and the response of each individual sister to His call, is evident at each stage of our religious life.
On Entrance Day, the first thing the Aspirant does is enter the chapel and reverence the wounds of Christ. She kisses our Lord's sacred wounds, showing that she gives her heart to this new way of life - the beginning of learning how to live life in perfect conformity to Him.
During the ceremony of Final Profession, the Sister receives a crown of thorns as she takes the final step in the religious life. She vows herself forever to Christ Crucified, to be one with Him for the rest of her life, to proclaim Him to the world, and to unite to His cross all that He gives her. "To Jesus, my heart, my all, forever" reads the engraving on the inside of her gold ring. The two are now one - one heart, one flesh, one cross. Vowed forever, it is now Christ who will live His life in her.
To be one with the crucified Spouse is not just the desire of the Sister - it is Christ who has personally asked each of His Brides to do this. He invites us to enter into the mystery of redemption through the identity of being "crucified." The Bride must resemble the Bridegroom.
Not all are called to physically bear the wounds of Christ as St. Francis of Assisi or St. Padre Pio, nor are all called to bear the sacred wounds invisibly such as St. Catherine of Siena, St. Gemma Galgani, or St. Rose of Lima. For most of us, instead, God calls us to bear the sacred wounds of His Son in our souls - to bear them spiritually, through diligent study of our Lord's Passion and sharing the fruits of this contemplation with the world by our thoughts, words, and actions.
May St. Francis of Assisi and all the holy patrons of the sacred wounds of our Blessed Lord pray that we may more closely imitate the Divine Spouse Who triumphantly bears the wounds of our salvation.
"I to my beloved, and my beloved unto me."