When a saint is portrayed in artwork, most of them have a trademark pose, object, or setting that signifies a key piece of their story. It is something that reminds you of how God reached into the ordinary and shaped this individual’s life into what is now worth remembering.
St. Paul is painted with a sword, for his mission was spreading the Word, which is the sword of the Spirit (see Ephesians 6:17), and he was martyred by the sword (beheaded). St. Peter is rendered with a set of keys for Jesus entrusted him with the keys of the Kingdom (see Matthew 16:19). St. Lucy has a pair of eyeballs on a small tray in her hand (yes, eyeballs) because one of the miracles of her life was the healing of her vision after being tortured for refusing to renounce her commitment to Christ. St. Francis of Assisi is generally portrayed with animals near him or in his hands for he was known to have a great understanding of the value of creation and all God’s creatures. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess who after her husband’s death dedicated herself to a simple life of prayer and service to the poor and sick, is pictured with a basket of bread.
It all could have been different. St. Paul could have died still preaching against Christ and handing over Christians to the authorities to be punished. St. Peter could have remained a fisherman who never left his hometown. St. Lucy could have forsaken her young faith and married into a comfortable life. St. Francis could have continued as a spoiled, rich young man thinking of himself before anyone else. St. Elizabeth could have remained at court, cared for and wanting for nothing.
Oh, the changes wrought through the generations by every single person willing to lay themselves at the feet of God then stand to take up the plans He places before them.
If my image is ever painted posthumously, I hope there is a pen in my hand.