Kolbe’s was a surprisingly difficult face to paint, with all its subtle slopes and planes, and many many hours went into this painting. But how could I expect any less than the grace to grow in perseverance when I am painting the image of a man who persisted in spreading the gospel in the midst of war, despite persecution and beatings, who willingly gave his life for a stranger, and even at the last, though he was starving, continued to praise God?
Therese is known for her “Little Way”, of perfect obedience in the smallest things. I should have known going into this painting that I would be called to just that! Sure enough, I had barely begin to mix my paints when my daughter became fussier than she’d ever been, demanding my attention every couple minutes. With paint drying on my palette, I comforted her again and again and again (and halfway through writing this sentence she woke up from her nap, calling for my attention yet again). This painting is testament that sometimes the greatest masterpiece is just doing God’s will in the small and unknown things.
I am coming to see that the only way that someone as flawed and weak as I am could possibly get to heaven is if Jesus bends down and picks me up in his arms, and lifts me to the heights of holiness himself. He is the one who will unwrap these ropes of doubt and sin and equip me with the grace to live this ordinary life with extraordinary love.
St. Francis Xavier was a Catholic priest and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He dedicated his life to bringing the gospel to the people of India and Japan.
The person who commissioned this painting requested that Francis be portrayed holding a small child—and I think that captures the spirit of his mission. Forsaking man-made honour and titles, he went straight to the poor, the sick, the outcast. He would walk through the slums of the city ringing a bell to call the children to catechism. He was utterly tireless in his efforts, sharing the good news of God’s kingdom with courage and love. His passionate evangelism brought around 30,000 souls to Christ.