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May 20, 2022

How Michelangelo’s David Can Provide Encouragement on Our Spiritual Journey

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

It’s easy to get discouraged in our spiritual walk. 

We feel like we aren’t as holy as we ought to be. We fall into the same temptations over and over again. We’re hit smack in the face with our weaknesses—day after day. 

We have a hard time making time for prayer.

Or being patient with our spouse.

Or refraining from judging others.

Or getting off the couch.  

Or feeling like we’re moving forward at all. 

In these struggles, we get discouraged that we’re not holy enough or good enough. We see sainthood as this impossible ideal for the select few who remember to pray their Rosary every day. 

We look at the saints and see individuals who are larger than life. We are intimidated by them in the same way that we are intimidated by the cool kids at school. 

On top of that, the world we live in makes it really difficult not only to choose virtue but to remember why it’s worth it. Cultivating a heart of peace, joy, love, and selflessness is the most counter-cultural and difficult thing to do. 

In this article, you will discover the role of the saints in your life, not as cookie cutouts of holiness but as friends to help you on the journey. Friends who had their own temptations, weaknesses, and moments of doubt. 


Discover the Amazing Riches of the Catholic Faith

What We Believe presents and explains the essential teachings of the Catholic Faith in a readable, approachable way.

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This hit me in a poignant way during a visit to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, where I saw some rather strange statues by Michelangelo on my way down the corridor to see his spectacular sculpture of David. They were unfinished statues of figures who looked like they were entrapped in the blocks of stone, struggling to emerge. I found them mildly interesting only because I knew who the sculptor was, and I breezed by them quickly. 

But then I got to the end of the hall, where Michelangelo’s David is displayed. I suddenly understood where the artist was going with those hunks of marble I’d just passed so nonchalantly! After admiring the David, I turned back to them and could finally appreciate their noble beauty as works in progress. 

That’s the way it is with us and the saints. We too are works in progress. The saints are the finished masterpieces who show us what we are called to become. In studying and celebrating their lives, we come to understand our own call and dignity.

Two thousand years’ worth of saints are already in heavenly glory, so we who are still struggling in this world are just the tip of the iceberg, the visible but smaller part of God’s “holy nation.” Part of what it means to be Catholic, then, is to get to know these many heroes of the faith who have been made holy, perfect, and spotless. We can read their lives and their writings to help us stay on course as we run the same race they did. We can keep statues and pictures of them around us as other nations do with their heroes. For us, though, such images don’t just encourage us to imitate them. They’re like photos of our family–a reminder that the saints are gloriously alive in Christ and that they pray constantly for us and walk with us as we take our small and imperfect steps to heaven.


Discover the Amazing Riches of the Catholic Faith

What We Believe presents and explains the essential teachings of the Catholic Faith in a readable, approachable way.

See a free preview!


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio (“Dr. Italy”) received his Ph.D. in historical theology from The Catholic University of America under the direction of Avery Cardinal Dulles and has had a prolific career as a Catholic author, internationally-respected speaker, pilgrimage leader, and university professor. He is the Co-founder and Director of The Crossroads Initiative, the author of five books and hundreds of articles, and a regular guest on both secular and Catholic TV and radio programs. In 2004, Dr. D’Ambrosio co-authored the New York Times bestseller A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about The Passion of the Christ with Ascension Founder Matt Pinto. In 2019, Dr. D’Ambrosio published the groundbreaking Bible study on the life of Jesus Christ filmed in the Holy Land, Jesus: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, presenting alongside Jeff Cavins and Dr. Edward Sri. He is also the co-author and presenter of What We Believe: The Beauty of the Catholic Faith.

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  • It’s true that people often get discouraged in their pursuit of God and despair. But they need to realize that God loves all in the same way. Even the most hardened sinner can become a saint. It’s just that they need to respond to his merciful heart bleeding with anguish and indifference so that his silent waiting in the Blessed Sacrament may be comforted. This manifests his love for everyone. His love is unconditional.

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