Even though I had never seen the first painting, I quickly figured out what it depicts, because it includes one of my patron saints (St. Anthony of Padua). Here is a description of what is happening in the painting, as described by Fr. William Saunders:
“Another famous miracle involved the defense of the Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist. (The same story is told with different antagonists — one a Jewish merchant, the other, a heretic named ‘Bonillo'; for this article, the former will be used.) The Jewish merchant challenged St. Anthony to prove the ‘fable’ of the Holy Eucharist and devised a contest. The merchant would starve a donkey for three days, denying it any kind of food. Meanwhile, St. Anthony retreated to the forest where he would fast and pray for three days. At the end of the three days, St. Anthony returned to town, and went to the Church where he obtained the Blessed Sacrament. He then went to the town square where the donkey was. The merchant placed a bale of hay twenty feet from the hungry donkey. The donkey was untied and walked toward the hay. St. Anthony then exposed the Blessed Sacrament and called to the donkey, ‘Mule, in the name of the Lord our God, I command you to come here and adore your Creator!’ The donkey stopped as though someone had pulled him by a bridle, turned, and walked to St. Anthony. The donkey bent his forelegs, bowing to the Blessed Sacrament with his head toward the ground. The Jewish merchant was astonished, asked St. Anthony for forgiveness, and converted. These and other miracles during and after St. Anthony’s death merited him the name, ‘Miracle Worker.'”
[By the way, the above has an error, in that a “mule” is not the same thing as a “donkey.” I believe that a “mule” is a sterile animal that is the product of the mating of a horse and a jackass/donkey.]
Thanks for the beautiful images you post each week.
PS: I found the last painting, through an educated guess (that it was a cardinal with people dying of the plague) and some good Googling. It depicts St. Charles Borromeo distributing Holy Communion to plague victims. The painter is Sigismondo Caula. You can check this here: http://www.postershop.com/Caula-Sigismondo-p.html
I believe that painting number four is that of St. Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663)– a Franciscan priest who was well known for his humility, asceticism and severe acts of penance, which included fasting for forty days and lashing himself bloody. But St. Joseph was best known for his many acts of levitation, which took place whenever he felt the love of God and the Holy Spirit in him. St. Joseph was known as a holy man and had gained many followers. It was his fame that would often land him in trouble; he had been called before the Inquisition, and the Pope had the Franciscan Order seclude him, in order to prevent him from preaching and publicly executing his priestly duties, yet people still came to see him. Eventually, he was released, and when he died, he was mourned by great numbers of his “fans”. On July 16, 1767, Pope Clement XIII canonized Joseph of Copertino. St. Joseph has since become the patron saint of aviators and air travelers.