At the time of our November 9th 150th Anniversary Celebration, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity were presented by Holy Family Memorial Inc. with a commissioned painting, “Metamorphosis of the Franciscan Way.” Laura Shank, the artist, wrote up a description of the symbolism in the painting. The original painting will be hung in St. Francis Convent, Manitowoc. The copy of the original is hung in the Motherhouse First Floor.
Metamorphosis of the Franciscan Way
The painting began conceptually in August 2019 when I was asked to paint a gift for the 150th anniversary celebration of The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. After much discernment, sketching, prayer, blessings, and painting, it was completed and delivered in October 2019, to be gifted to the Sisters on November 8, 2019.
The concept and painting really began years ago. There was never a doubt as to its contents. The traditional birds, wild animals and such were never to be a part of this painting, as these stories have been told and retold over the centuries. The Saint Francis that I have come to know and love needed to have a more expansive, contemplative story beyond the traditional, bringing his personality and mission into this century, which most certainly includes Sister Alexia. The experience of this painting has deeply enriched my spiritual life and, hopefully, my creative abilities.
The overall color was inspired by stained glass windows reflecting on the walls of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Sheboygan. A sunset provided inspiration for the sky above the Blessed Mother. These rays are the graces that extend from Her hands and are waiting for us. I found inspiration from mass, scripture, churches, cemeteries, old master art, prayer cards, statuary, conversation and nature.
My general style is contemplative/illustrative/inspirational and sometimes impressionistic. That said, you may find inspirations I had not specifically planned. They are there for you to explore and contemplate.
The medium is opaque watercolor gouache—pan style. Watercolor because water is used in baptism, and that is what flowed from His side to renew the face of the earth. Step back to view the colors. My intent was for them to blend/melt together.
The young Blessed Mother envelops all the concepts within Her mantel, as St. Francis made her an essential part of his life. Her golden hair blends with the straw that entices the sheep. Her Son gently holds a lock, His attention on Her reminds us to love and trust Her.
The happening of the stigmata is embraced with the miraculous event of Crucified Jesus. Baby Jesus appears in the arms of St. Anthony as well as with the Blessed Mother. He brings us to her full circle and St. Francis is her butterfly.
The butterflies are from caterpillar to chrysalis to mature butterfly. What a short life journey. How do we grow? Do we appreciate all life stages? St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Anthony all had great conversions or metamorphosis of their lives. Both the mature butterflies on the fragrant milkweed bloom are at the height of their maturity in life; this is where St. Francis receives the stigmata. Within two years his journey on this earth is fulfilled. He has inspired two great saints and they, in turn, inspired many others, including Sister Alexia. Who else has been inspired?
This painting was blessed early in the process by my spiritual director, Father Matthew Widder of Sheboygan.
Congratulations on 150 years of beautiful Franciscan Ways!