Life Lessons From The Last Supper

The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Last Supper, by Leonardo Da Vinci, Santa Maria delle GrazieMilan, Italy

Isn’t it is beautiful how, when you least expect it, an image can set off a train of thought you never anticipated? Not long ago, while in adoration in my parish church, St. Mary of the Assumption, an altar carving I have looked at many times caught my attention – my undivided, focused attention. It is a carving fashioned after Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. I began to notice the faces and gestures of the apostles and realized something significant was happening in that frozen moment of artistic time.

The Original Painting

Immediately captivated, I (guiltily) Googled and searched until I ran across an article from the Milan Museum and discovered the original Last Supper is actually a large fresco, 4.60 meters high and 8.80 meters (15 ft x 28.8 ft) wide, and is located in its original place, on the wall of the dining room of the former Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in the heart of Milan, Italy. Just imagine yourself as a 16th century nun eating your humble meal of soup and bread while gazing upon that magnificent scene!

Altarpiece, Last Supper, St. Mary of the Assumption, Springboro, Ohio

The most significant information from that article, however, was that Da Vinci was immortalizing the moment when Jesus is declaring that one of His beloved apostles, one of His personally chosen 12, would betray him.

The expressions portrayed in my parish altarpiece, although not equal to Da Vinci’s masterful artistry, adequately convey their surprise, consternation, horror, and disbelief. I could see on their faces the question of which one would do this to Him. “Surely it is not I, Lord?” they declare.

This discovery set me off on a thoughtful path. Working for Couple to Couple League, a ministry where we live, breathe, and share the beauty of the gift of our God-given fertility, my mind naturally asked the question, “As people who value our innate fertility, what life lessons can the Last Supper teach us?”

Pray Together for Strength

Jesus knew what was coming, but we don’t have that luxury most of the time. He wanted to model a “best practice” for us – namely, praying together. For a family, prayer is the foremost unifying force there can be when weathering the daily struggles and the occasional battles. Christ also knew that coming together for a meal is the ideal time to take a breath, join hands and ask for the blessings and graces we so need.

Altarpiece, Last Supper, St. Mary of the Assumption, Springboro, Ohio
Altarpiece, Last Supper, St. Mary of the Assumption, Springboro, Ohio

Couples practicing and living in harmony with their fertility will need strength when facing the inevitable effects of that lifestyle. An evening rosary, a 9-day novena or a trip together to your church for adoration during phase 2 is a positive way to build the needed virtues of fortitude and perseverance. Placing your fertility goals and the welfare of your family in God’s hands, the hands of the third, and most invested, person in your marriage, is a life-long habit to cultivate.

Be Honest and Open

At least one person was harboring a secret at that final meal. Holding onto grievances, unresolved conflict or not being fully truthful only defers the possibility of a positive resolution. Honest and open communication is essential to a healthy marriage and the successful practice of natural family planning. CatholicCounselors.com, founded by Dr. Gregory Popcak, has a page chock-full of quizzes couples can take to gauge the health of their marriage, like Caretaking in Conflict and Mutual Respect, Accountability and Boundaries. Quiz results are immediately available and can be a great source for further discussion with your spouse.

Serve the Other, Not the Self

Our Lord showed compassion and mercy for His disciples by washing their feet, doing for them what the lowliest servant should have done. He was again modeling how they were to serve others when He was no longer there.

Altarpiece, Last Supper, St. Mary of the Assumption, Springboro, Ohio
Altarpiece, Last Supper, St. Mary of the Assumption, Springboro, Ohio

Families, whether just two of you, or the whole gang, can foster a spirit of service and charity by engaging in regular community service and seeking to serve others above themselves. Helping at a soup kitchen, participating in a charity run, donating to a cause that is meaningful to your family, or volunteering with your parish outreach program instills compassion, empathy, and selflessness.

Make a Habit of Sacrifice

Christ spent his last moments teaching, modeling, and exhorting his chosen few to sacrifice their pride for the virtue of humility. Parents, when open to life, are continually making sacrifices: waiting until phase 3 when seriously necessary, delaying sleep to feed the baby, postponing that date night to watch the Pee-Wee Soccer tournament, buying the mini-van instead of the sporty 2-door car. Cultivating a family habit of sacrifice has life long benefits of building virtue. The act of sacrificing has paybacks that are larger than the direct impact of the initial act. Showing how to sacrifice makes it more likely for family members to reciprocate good behaviors, leads to happier relationships, and fosters a more peaceful home atmosphere.

Contemplating life’s lessons from the Last Supper can be an inspiring and useful guide for a peaceful family life. Prayer, honesty, service, and sacrifice are life skills worth practicing and passing along to others. As believers in and practitioners of natural fertility awareness, there is plenty of wisdom to learn from the actions of one divine Man having a meal with His friends two millennia in the past.


Written by Martha Haenni, CCL Staff