Bernard Riley was born into an Irish Catholic family and remained a faithful Catholic throughout his life.
He was fascinated with the lives of the saints, especially that of St. Francis of Assisi. As a result, he painted over 20 small 8x10 inch portraits of saints, and a much large painting of "St. Francis and the Woman Possessed by the Devil."
In his woodcut entitled Saint Francis (see below), he employs his principle of "let go and allow the work to dictate itself." The sideboard of a discarded, beat-up oak chest was a starting point. "The figure of Saint Francis just emerged out of the wood." It is from this belief in the spontaneous and capricious that Riley's figures are endowed with their pulsating vitality. Here the raw excitement of the artist is transferred into the image.