Some pious Orthodox folk raise an eyebrow (or worse!) at an icon of Saint Francis of Assisi. As someone who lived after the church’s division, he’s understood to be outside our tradition. So, when I was asked to create an icon of him, I had to consider what to do.
There’s a story about Saint Francis that finally helped me make up my mind. Back in the 1950s, a woman was searching fervently to find God and his church. She had read many books on the subject, and had been especially taken with the life of Saint Francis. But, she still couldn’t find peace in her heart about where to attend.
One day, as she was sitting outside, she began to doze and had a vision. She saw Saint Francis and a white-haired man she didn’t recognize, approach. Upon kissing Saint Francis’ hand, she heard the saint tell her that the fullness of God existed in this man’s church. After that, she awoke. It was months later, while visiting a Russian Orthodox parish, that she found the identity of this stranger. There, on the wall of the priest’s office, she saw an icon of the white-haired man that visited her. It was Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Realizing this, she also knew that she had found the church she was searching for!
There’s something beautiful in the broad vision of the Kingdom of Heaven that this story presents. It demonstrates that we should not confuse the fullness of Orthodoxy with an exclusivity of where people find God. Orthodoxy gives life more abundantly, but not solely.
To that end, I invite you to ponder and pray with Saint Francis of Assisi. He is one of the most significant saints of the western church, and a man who’s life is a beautiful reflection of Christ.
This icon of Saint Francis of Assisi is in the Conestoga style and created primarily out of that region’s local colours and materials. The original icon was commissioned by an anonymous patron in Alberta, Canada.