For whoever will understand the
words of Christ plainly and in
their full savour must study to
conform all his life to his life.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

The union between Christ and his followers envisioned by the image of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Soul may, somewhat strangely, have reached its paradigmatic expression in St. Francis of Assisi. This monk’s relationship with Jesus was so intimate that the historical and cultural distance between the two lives collapsed and their existences bled into each other. In both his profound suffering and his sublime joy, St. Francis’ life emulated that of Christ. Although it was not his intention, St. Francis increasingly became the champion of all those who felt that the institutional Church had lost sight of the true purpose of a Christian life - to conform all of one’s life to the life of Christ.
For whoever will understand the
words of Christ plainly and in
their full savour must study to
conform all his life to his life.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

The union between Christ and his followers envisioned by the image of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Soul may, somewhat strangely, have reached its paradigmatic expression in St. Francis of Assisi. This monk’s relationship with Jesus was so intimate that the historical and cultural distance between the two lives collapsed and their existences bled into each other. In both his profound suffering and his sublime joy, St. Francis’ life emulated that of Christ. Although it was not his intention, St. Francis increasingly became the champion of all those who felt that the institutional Church had lost sight of the true purpose of a Christian life - to conform all of one’s life to the life of Christ.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata

St. Francis' stigmata were not limited to his hands and feet: it is said that the image of the crucified Christ - an image of both tragedy and triumph - pierced Francis' heart with the stab of a lance.

Artist unknown
c. 1850-1875
Vellum
PMA:J99.1976.
© Collection Simon Dowsey.


From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

Galatians 6:17.

Although virtually the whole of St. Francis’ life conformed to that of Christ, there was no single incident that more dramatically revealed this identification than the miraculous happenings of September 1224. Following in the footsteps of Jesus before his temptation in the desert, St. Francis retired from the community of men and remained in solitude upon Alvernia, a mountain in Tuscany, for forty days. At the end of his mountain retreat, he was overcome by a vision: a seraph with six wings appeared before him and between its wings he beheld the crucified Christ. The effect of St. Francis’ epiphany was deep. Not only did he feel a new eagerness to serve Christ, but Francis’ body was suddenly refigured into a likeness of the crucified Christ - his hands and feet bled as though run through with nails, his side was scarred as though pierced with a lance. The appearance of the marks (stigmata) of Christ testified to the profound affinity - of body, mind, and soul - between Francis and his Saviou Read More
From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

Galatians 6:17.

Although virtually the whole of St. Francis’ life conformed to that of Christ, there was no single incident that more dramatically revealed this identification than the miraculous happenings of September 1224. Following in the footsteps of Jesus before his temptation in the desert, St. Francis retired from the community of men and remained in solitude upon Alvernia, a mountain in Tuscany, for forty days. At the end of his mountain retreat, he was overcome by a vision: a seraph with six wings appeared before him and between its wings he beheld the crucified Christ. The effect of St. Francis’ epiphany was deep. Not only did he feel a new eagerness to serve Christ, but Francis’ body was suddenly refigured into a likeness of the crucified Christ - his hands and feet bled as though run through with nails, his side was scarred as though pierced with a lance. The appearance of the marks (stigmata) of Christ testified to the profound affinity - of body, mind, and soul - between Francis and his Saviour.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata

Overcome by a vision of the crucified Christ, St. Francis finds his body strangely marked with Jesus' wounds.

Giotto (1267-1337).
Musée du Louvre.
c. 1300-1325
Altarpiece
PMA:J99.1806.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


"You are cherished by God, since you have been granted three important trusts: the virginity of Mary, the person of His only son, and the secret to his holy mystery."

Bossuet, Traité de la connaissance de Dieu et de soi-même

On March 19, the Church celebrates Saint Joseph, humble carpenter, husband of the Virgin Mary, foster father of Jesus, and patron of the Church universal. In 1624, the Recollects of New France declared him patron saint of Canada. Among Catholics, the forename of Joseph was given to many boys as a model of love and compassion, as God had chosen Joseph to love and protect Mary and to raise Jesus. In the twentieth century, in Quebec, Brother André Bessette perpetuated the devotion to Saint Joseph by founding the Oratory of Saint-Joseph of Mont-Royal, in Montreal. Today, he is invoked by tradespeople, by those who, like him, seek refuge while travelling or by those who take him as a model husband and father.
"You are cherished by God, since you have been granted three important trusts: the virginity of Mary, the person of His only son, and the secret to his holy mystery."

Bossuet, Traité de la connaissance de Dieu et de soi-même

On March 19, the Church celebrates Saint Joseph, humble carpenter, husband of the Virgin Mary, foster father of Jesus, and patron of the Church universal. In 1624, the Recollects of New France declared him patron saint of Canada. Among Catholics, the forename of Joseph was given to many boys as a model of love and compassion, as God had chosen Joseph to love and protect Mary and to raise Jesus. In the twentieth century, in Quebec, Brother André Bessette perpetuated the devotion to Saint Joseph by founding the Oratory of Saint-Joseph of Mont-Royal, in Montreal. Today, he is invoked by tradespeople, by those who, like him, seek refuge while travelling or by those who take him as a model husband and father.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child

The Christ child's humanity is plainly revealed as he walks alongside his human father, Joseph, and carries a cross, the symbol of his Passion, death, and Resurrection.

Artist unknown

Sculpture
PMA:J99.1511.
© Musée de la civilisation.


… The angel said to her, ’Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High’…

Luke 1: 30-32.

The Virgin Mary was designated Our Lady at the end of the Middle Ages in the era of courtly love. Since then she has become the Patroness the faithful are to serve with devotion. This image of the nurturing and protective mother became firmly entrenched in Quebec culture. In New France, Marian devotion was implanted early by the Jesuits and Recollects. Many cities, towns, and churches were placed under the protection of Our Lady. In the second half of the nineteenth century, devotion to Mary was revived after the visions in France in Rue du Bac (Miraculous Medal) and Lourdes. In Quebec, the Children of Mary Brigade, a girl’s group, promoted the Mother of God as a model and example of good morals. That group’s activities lasted into the second half of the twentieth century.
… The angel said to her, ’Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High’…

Luke 1: 30-32.

The Virgin Mary was designated Our Lady at the end of the Middle Ages in the era of courtly love. Since then she has become the Patroness the faithful are to serve with devotion. This image of the nurturing and protective mother became firmly entrenched in Quebec culture. In New France, Marian devotion was implanted early by the Jesuits and Recollects. Many cities, towns, and churches were placed under the protection of Our Lady. In the second half of the nineteenth century, devotion to Mary was revived after the visions in France in Rue du Bac (Miraculous Medal) and Lourdes. In Quebec, the Children of Mary Brigade, a girl’s group, promoted the Mother of God as a model and example of good morals. That group’s activities lasted into the second half of the twentieth century.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, each bearing a Sacred Heart

The Latin inscription on this painting is: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Artist unknown

Oil on canvas
PMA:J99.1513.
© Musée de la civilisation.


"Today it is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Offer your family to our Lord and ask Him for the blessing so that the families which compose this parish are holy families."

Bishop of Saint-Vallier, Rituel du diocèse de Québec, 1703

By a decree of 1627, Louis XIII, also known as the devout king, ensured that New France would be a Catholic colony. The colonizers of this difficult land put their lives to the service of God. The arduous life of the colony and the religious mission which permeated it encouraged the attachment of these families to the cult of the Holy Family. This devotion originated in France and was popularized in New France by Mrs D'Ailleboust and her Holy Family Congregation. In Ville-Marie this devotion was encouraged by Marguerite Bourgeoys, by urging all the families of her entourage to live according to the principles of the Holy Family. In Quebec in 1703, Bishop Saint-Vallier in his Rituel recaptured the principle of this model.
"Today it is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Offer your family to our Lord and ask Him for the blessing so that the families which compose this parish are holy families."

Bishop of Saint-Vallier, Rituel du diocèse de Québec, 1703

By a decree of 1627, Louis XIII, also known as the devout king, ensured that New France would be a Catholic colony. The colonizers of this difficult land put their lives to the service of God. The arduous life of the colony and the religious mission which permeated it encouraged the attachment of these families to the cult of the Holy Family. This devotion originated in France and was popularized in New France by Mrs D'Ailleboust and her Holy Family Congregation. In Ville-Marie this devotion was encouraged by Marguerite Bourgeoys, by urging all the families of her entourage to live according to the principles of the Holy Family. In Quebec in 1703, Bishop Saint-Vallier in his Rituel recaptured the principle of this model.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

"Baby Jesus of Bethlehem, I adore and love you."

Prayer of Pope Leon XIII to Baby Jesus

"Let the little children come unto me; do not prevent them; for to them belongs the Kingdom of God" (Luke 18:15). God has chosen a Virgin to bear his son, and to have him live as a man. In the thirteenth century, Saint Francis of Assisi had proposed a cult of the Nativity. However, only after the Reformation were many images made to illustrate all the stages of Jesus' life. Then images of the childhood of Jesus were added including the famous Child Jesus carrying the Instruments of the Passion described by Jeanne Perraud in the eighteenth century, and of course the stories taken from the Bible, such as Jesus before the Doctors in the Temple. Thus, the infant Jesus in his swaddling clothes has touched the hearts and united many children, mothers, and fathers in every Catholic nation. These images propose the idea of a God with a human destiny.
"Baby Jesus of Bethlehem, I adore and love you."

Prayer of Pope Leon XIII to Baby Jesus

"Let the little children come unto me; do not prevent them; for to them belongs the Kingdom of God" (Luke 18:15). God has chosen a Virgin to bear his son, and to have him live as a man. In the thirteenth century, Saint Francis of Assisi had proposed a cult of the Nativity. However, only after the Reformation were many images made to illustrate all the stages of Jesus' life. Then images of the childhood of Jesus were added including the famous Child Jesus carrying the Instruments of the Passion described by Jeanne Perraud in the eighteenth century, and of course the stories taken from the Bible, such as Jesus before the Doctors in the Temple. Thus, the infant Jesus in his swaddling clothes has touched the hearts and united many children, mothers, and fathers in every Catholic nation. These images propose the idea of a God with a human destiny.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Infant Jesus

In this pious image, the Christ Child emerges into the foggy human world with a glorious luminescence, his hands outstretched in a gesture of welcome and compassion.

Artist unknown
20th Century
PMA: J99.1509.
© Musée de la civilisation.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Summarize the story of St. Francis and the connection of this historical figure to the story of Christ;
  • Relate the history of religion in New France;
  • Describe some key theological icons in Quebec religion in a historical context including: St. Joseph, Our Lady Mary, the cult of the Holy Family and the cult of the Nativity.

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