“I'm sure you will be flooded by letters from pedants, so let me be the first,” wrote one subscriber upon receiving the September 25 Commonweal. “The St. Francis pictured on the cover is St. Francis Xavier, not St. Francis of Assisi.” We weren't exactly flooded, but we did hear from a few other readers who were sure we'd gotten our Francises mixed up. Not to worry!

It's true that the saint from Assisi is striking an unusually forceful pose in the statue that graced our cover, which shows him preaching, clutching a crucifix in one hand and gesturing above his head with the other. It seemed a good image to illustrate Paul Moses's story of a little-known episode in Francis's life as a preacher of the gospel. It is reminiscent of the typical representation of St. Francis Xavier, one of the original followers of St. Ignatius. As a Jesuit, however, Francis Xavier wears a cassock (sometimes covered by a surplice), while our Francis—a wooden sculpture by Johann Baptist Moroder, which you can see in the Ortisei parish church in Tyrollean Italy—is dressed in the Franciscan habit, a robe with a cincture of knotted rope. A close look at his hands reveals the marks of the stigmata. But the surest giveaway that this is indeed Francis of Assisi is the presence of a rabbit and a bird near his feet (see photo)—a detail that didn't make the magazine cover. It is well known that the Jesuit suffered from a lifelong fear of small animals.

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Published in the 2009-10-23 issue: View Contents
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