For the past few weeks hundreds, perhaps thousands, have been coming each day to the National Gallery in London to view an exhibition on St. Francis of Assisi. It proves once again the timeless appeal of the Poor Little Man of Assisi, across cultures, across faiths and across the ages.
The exhibition includes the relics of the Saint’s habit and his hand-written blessing addressed to Friar Leo, on loan from the Franciscan Friary of Assisi.
There are images of St. Francis the mystic, the St. Francis the wonder-worker, the preacher, the man of peace. Great artists like El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo, and Caravaggio have painted St. Francis. Their masterpieces hang in the exhibition.
More contemporary artists such as Stanley Spencer and Anthony Gormley have also found St. Francis an inspiration.
Walking through the exhibition there is a sense of the continuing appeal of this great saint to our own times. This is not a great military leader, a great politician, or a famous statesman.
So what is his appeal?
It would be interesting to ask the many who walk through the exhibition each day what is so attractive about the Poverello?
Perhaps St. Francis continues to remind us that the Good News of Jesus really is Good News. That the Gospel message is a message of joy and that, though sublime it is also very simple. Perhaps in our troubled world today there is a sense that we need not more politicians or soldiers, but another St. Francis.
The Franciscan vocation has deep roots in the Umbrian soil of the thirteenth century. But it is a vocation for today. Franciscans are not artifacts! Our vocations, rooted in the life and witness of Francis and the early Franciscans is a call to live the Gospel, here and now.
It is a call to follow Christ poor and obedient. Please pray for more young men and women to follow the Franciscan way of life.
Please pray also for the brothers and sisters who are living the Franciscan way of life today, and for those discerning a call to this way of life.
The St. Francis exhibition continues in London’s National Gallery until July 30th 2023.
Check out site: National Gallery