I LOVE FRANCIS of ASSISI, one of my favorite saints whose Feast Day the Church celebrates today. I also love Baroque art, a very sensual, vivid, exuberant and gothic form of art that captures the spirituality of the mystics through its beauty. Here are three of my favorite paintings of Francis of Assisi, all done by the Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán, one of the great baroque artists in history — the “Spanish Carravagio,” as he was known.
Notice some of the great themes of Zurbarán’s paintings of St. Francis: the stark coloring, the exuberant accentuation of the Franciscan habit, the deep prayer and contemplation in front of a skull, filled with light yet gothic, showing us that Francis — like all great mystics — lived closer to death. Eternity and the otherworldy encounter were always in front of him. A wise Franciscan priest once told me: “Do everything in relation to eternity,” epitomizing the spirituality of his great Forefather.
Francis lived his life, radically devout, internally free, touched by the hand of God — to the point of sharing the Cross of Christ in his stigmata wounds — in a special and deeply mystical way.
The supernatural world was always in front of him after his great conversion at age 25. Everything was given over to the Kingdom of Christ, to promulgating the work of the Lord. The iconic words of Teresa of Avila, another great mystic, sum up the mentality and path that Francis took very well, depicting the interior freedom that a spirituality of complete abandonment to God brings:
Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.
I started writing this blog exactly one year ago, when I first wrote a meditation on this great figure, Francis of Assisi. To revisit it (or to see it for the first time), the first entry to Our Catholic World, please click here. It has been a fruitful and joyous journey since, of humbly spreading some of the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith through the gift of writing (or “blogging”). I thank St. Francis for inspiring me to begin.