Andean School, The Flight into Egypt, 18th century oil on canvas
Saint Joseph’s University Collection
The exhibition, “A Visit with Pope Francis and the Holy Family,” commemorates Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States and
his historic visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (26-27 September 2015). Picking up on the latter theme, the exhibit features paintings from Spanish Colonial America of Gospel events in the life of the Holy Family. These paintings are selected from the Saint Joseph’s University Collection and are juxtaposed with texts drawn from the homilies, talks, and addresses of Pope Francis
reflecting on the subjects depicted in these art works.
This mode of presentation offers the opportunity to “enter into” what St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in the Spiritual Exercises calls the “mysteries” of the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, accompanied and guided by Pope Francis himself. It also bears comparison with Ignatius of Loyola’s “method and order of meditating and contemplating,” as Pope Francis “narrate[s] […] the facts of the contemplation or meditation” so as to help the viewer garner “spiritual relish and fruit” (Spiritual Exercises, no. 2).
In the course of Pope Francis’s guided meditations on the
Holy Family, many of his signature themes are salient. These themes are of a piece with his project of “waking up” the Church and the world—laity, ordained and consecrated persons, all people of good will. And so for Pope Francis, Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem,
for example, manifests “the humility of God taken to the extreme,”
as He assumes “our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations.” Concurrently, the divine humility
poses a challenge. In Pope Francis’s words, “Do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps
effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel?” This and other Gospel events or mysteries are considered by Pope Francis in a way that unlocks their contemporary meaning and challenge in order to “wake up” the Church and society and to encourage Catholics,
Christians, and all people of good will to take a prophetic stance
on key issues such as economic mechanism promoting
unbridled consumerism combined with inequality, the new
idolatry of money, and the environment.
The exhibit, “A Visit with Pope Francis and the Holy Family,” will be on view on the 3rd floor of the John and Maryanne Hennings Post Learning Commons, in the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.,
Special Collections Rooms and Durant Special Collections Lounge,
beginning in early September and running until mid-October.