San Damiano Crucifix
San Damiano Crucifix hanging in The Tisch Family Library
While St. Francis of Assisi was praying before the crucifix in the chapel of San Damiano, he heard the voice of the Lord coming from the image of Christ and asking him to rebuild His house. This encounter profoundly affected Francis, and the effects have rippled down through the centuries to the present in the various orders associated with the Franciscan spirit, among them the Felician Sisters. For all Franciscan religious, the San Damiano crucifix is a reminder of their calling to serve the Lord in humble service to others.
The San Damiano crucifix itself is an icon crucifix that tells the story of Christ’s crucifixion through pictures. The focal point of the icon is Christ himself, who is larger in stature and brighter in color than the other figures. Though his hands and feet are pierced and bleeding, his gaze is peaceful and confident in the face of death. Behind the figure of Christ is a large black expanse that represents both the wood of the cross and emptiness of the tomb on Easter Sunday.
The small rooster to the right of Christ’s knees recalls Peter’s threefold denial of Christ before the cock's crow. To Christ's left, the two large figures are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and St. John the Evangelist, both witnesses of the crucifixion. To Christ's right, the large figures are Mary Magdalene, Mary, wife of Cleopas, and the Roman centurion who speared Christ’s heart. The two smaller figures on either side are two centurions who crucified Christ. Around Christ’s outstretched arms are angels. Above Christ, is a depiction of Him ascending to the Father amidst the praise of the angels. At the very top is the outstretched hand of the Father giving His blessing to the work of the Son. Considered together, these images remind us that Christ suffered for our sins, but also overcame rejection, pain, and death, rose victorious from the tomb; and ascended to the Father where He now intercedes for us.
The San Damiano crucifix hangs in the classrooms and hallways of OLSH. It becomes part of the students' lives, and all OLSH graduates receive a small San Damiano crucifix during the Senior Blessing Service. The crucifix symbolizes what Christ has done for them and is a reminder of the Felician formation in the Franciscan spirit that OLSH provides. Our graduates take a small piece of their Felician heritage with them as they go out to cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world.