Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Abigail Carroll & Caravaggio

Abigail Carroll & Caravaggio

Dear Wounded Saint

by Abigail Carroll

Dear Wounded Saint,

After the nails, the hush
         of a seraph’s wings as you lay
         on the grass in the hold of those luminous

arms—your eyes three-quarters
         closed, your head turned slightly
         back. In the distance, a smooth and lonely moon-

glossed pond. Caravaggio
         made a study of your hands,
         fingers curled in an open clutch around your

unseen wounds: the right
         just below a tear in your frock
         where the sword-tip pierced your side, the left

cupping a prayer, palm up—
         even as it dangles down in pain.
         Some say the love of God can cause a man

to faint, plow him down,
         drive him mad, take him
         wholly to the ground. That force that filled

the void with breath unhinged
         a Hebrew’s hip, struck a Roman blind,
         but you had nothing left to lose that night the sky

called out your name—nothing
         to lose but yourself to the wild of a love
         the stars had never seen, the blazing hills could not

explain. Life held no claim
         on you now, the artist knew, so
         he rendered you half-dead, laid out as Christ

in Mary’s arms, only here
         a seraph holds your wilted frame,
         supports your tilted head above his angled knee.

His wings are close, 
         the feathers soft and real.
         They ruffle in the late-night breeze.

A student of Renaissance art


“Dear Wounded Saint” by Abigail Carroll appears in A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017) and is used by permission of the publisher.

Caravaggio: Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, ca. 1595. Oil on canvas, 92.5 × 127.8 cm. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) was an Italian painter known for combining physical and psychological realism with a dramatic use of light and shadow (a technique known as tenebrism). One of the progenitors of Baroque painting, he executed many large-scale religious works throughout his career, including The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, The Supper at Emmaus, and The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy is one of his earliest paintings; it shows Francis being supported by an angel after just having received an awesome vision of the crucified Christ followed by the stigmata (five wounds) unto his own body.

Abigail Carroll is an American author, poet, and pastor of arts and spiritual formation living in Vermont. She has published two volumes of poetry: Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, 2018) and A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017). In addition, her poems have appeared in Sarah Arthur’s devotional compilation Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Paraclete Press, 2016) and in publications such as the Anglican Theological Review, the Christian Century, Midwest Quarterly, Spiritus, and Sojourners. Visit her at


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