The central desire of the heart of Saint Francis of Assisi was to be joined to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas we too often think mainly of Saint Francis as little more than a lover of animals, Saint Bonaventure called his spiritual father "the preacher of Christ's Cross" (Major Legend, 4.9).
We perhaps see this most clearly the night before Saint Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, on Mount La Verna. He spent the day in prayer asking for two particular favors from the Lord:
My Lord Jesus Christ, I pray you to grant me two graces before I die: the first is that during my life I may feel in my soul and in my body, as much as possible, that pain which You, dear Jesus, sustained in the hour of Your most bitter passion. The second is that I may feel in my heart, as much as possible, that excessive love with which You, O Son of God, were inflamed in willingly enduring such suffering for us sinners (The Little Flowers of St. Francis, 190-191).If we wish to follow after Saint Francis, we should strive to make these two requests of the Lord ourselves. May he teach us, above all else, to be preachers of Christ's Cross!