Franciscan Sources report that between the 15th of August and the 29th of September, Francis of Assisi went to Monte Alverne with Friar Leão and Friar Rufino in order to carry out a Lent of prayer and fasting in honor of St. Michael. Close to September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Francis has a vision of the Winged and Crucified Seraphim and receives the stigmata.
Lent to São Miguel Archangel is a special time of prayer and penance. It begins with the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady on August 15th and ends on September 28th, the eve of the feast in honor of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
According to the Franciscan Dictionary, the existence of angels is not a problem for Francis, who, rooted in the faith of his time, becomes familiar with the idea of the existence of these beings: they are active brothers in the service of God, companions on the journey, help in difficulties , and is united to them by means of a loving bond.
The spirit of prayer and sacrifice in San Francisco was very great. So much so that he celebrated three Lents a year – all of them in Alverne – in addition to another period of fasting and prayer in honor of the Mother of God for whom he had a sweet and special love, which lasted from the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul to the Feast of the Assumption. . Francisco manifests a predilection for the Porziuncula, “Santa Maria dos Anjos”, knowing, from his own experience, that that place was frequently visited by angels. According to the Seraphic Father, they are examples of purity.
Saint Bonaventure says in his Legenda Maior, chapter 9, paragraph 3 of the Biographical Writings of Saint Francis: “An indissoluble bond of love united him to the angels whose wonderful ardor put him in ecstasy before God and inflamed the souls of the elect”. According to the Dictionary, the dead Francis’ face is compared to the beauty of angelic countenances.
Saint Michael, above all, who had the role of introducing souls to paradise, was the object of a special devotion, due to the desire that the saint had to save all men. Francis was aware of the authority and help that the Archangel Michael has in exercising souls in saving them in the last moment of life and the power to go to purgatory and remove them from there.
This was the main reason why Francis celebrated his Lent and this is reported in the Terusian caption (number 93) of his biography, in which the saint will say in the year 1224, the year in which he received the Stigmata on Mount Alverne: “To honor of God, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Michael, Prince of Angels and of souls, I want to celebrate Lent here”.
The Anonymous Perusino, another biography of San Francisco linked more to his first companions, refers to yet another important event that San Francisco associated with the Feast of San Miguel. He tells how, after the approval of the Rule by the Pope, when he still had a few brothers, Blessed Francis ordered that there be a chapter twice a year, on Pentecost and on the feast of St. Michael, in the month of September.
San Francisco’s devotion to San Miguel Archangel was born in the context of the Middle Ages. The main point of diffusion of this devotion was the Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo de Gargano, sometimes simply called Monte Gargano, in the municipality of Monte Sant’Angelo, in the province of Foggia, in the north of Apulia. There, according to tradition, São Miguel would have appeared in a cave asking that the place be consecrated to Christian worship.
It is believed that Saint Francis visited this sanctuary in 1216, but according to tradition, the Saint of Assisi would not have entered the cave because he did not feel worthy. He would have prayed only at the entrance to the Church, kissed the ground and traced the sign of the cross on a stone in the shape of a “T” (Tau).
Even today, on the left side of the cave entrance, there is an altar erected in honor of San Francisco and in memory of this pilgrimage.
The Franciscanism of the Franciscan Sources moves in this climate of faith professed by the Church regarding the existence and pure spirituality of angels. Unfortunately, according to the Franciscan Dictionary, a critical-positivist conception has spread nowadays that relegates angels to the category of legends and children’s fantasies, ridiculing the beliefs of the past. “But most theologians reinforce the traditional faith about their existence as pure spirits, who relate to men; highlighting above all their relationship with Christ, to whom everything is submitted, in relation to the mystery of salvation, in which they are collaborators. It is in this light that Francis’ devotion to the archangels develops, as companions on the path of salvation”.