Pope Francis recently stated in an interview that he used to enjoy contemplating this great painting while visiting the Church in Rome where it is found. To quote him:

When I had to come to to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of the] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. . . . This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.

This is one of the most famous and profound paintings dealing with religious experience and conversion. It is all about shadow and light and the simple power of Jesus beckoning a future disciple. There are no angels, no visible, grandiose manifestations of the divine; rather, it is simply, as the Gospel states, Jesus calling Mathew to follow him. For the present Pope, who is clearly a man who believes and follows the Gospel message of simplicity and genuine divine love, I can see how this painting would be a source of spiritual nourishment.

I have always found art to be a great vehicle of spiritual expression; just as with the erotic, art has always been used to express those things that are deepest and most important to our spiritual lives, to explore the parts of our souls and our relationship with God that are impossible to capture in words. It is nice to know that the Pope also enjoys such aspects of good art.