Caravaggio, Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, 1594
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace..."
Caravaggio is without a doubt one of my favorite painters of all time. I admire the peaceful expressions on the faces of both Francis and the angel, and of course the dark-light contrast so common in Caravaggio's works. I had the blessing of visiting Assisi this past spring and fell in love with the beauty of the city, the Italian countryside, and with the Franciscan spirit. I realized how similar Dominican and Franciscan spirituality is, and how right Francis was when he told St. Dominic that the two orders needed to work together for the salvation of souls, each in their unique path to holiness. I was also awakened to the profoundness of the famous Prayer for St. Francis. This, for me, is one of those prayers that you hear so many times that it can feel redundant - when actually there is so much depth and beauty and sacrifice in those words. When you really think about what you are saying, not only is there a lot that you are praying for, but what you are praying for, "Let me not so much seek to be consoled as to console ... [Let me not so much seek] to be loved as to love ..." Those are some hard words and some tough love right there! Make no mistake: as much as St. Francis is portrayed with the animals and as this peace loving man, he was no sissy. But this is the path to sanctity. Death to self for love of God and neighbor.