Tag Archives: Catholic

A Portrait of a Saint- St. Clare

This beautiful statue of St. Clare adorns a wonderful courtyard of a Franciscan Adobe Church in New Mexico. The statue is life-size and decorates on corner of the garden courtyard in the front of the church. It is shares this courtyard with several benches and the graves of early founding priests of the church itself.

Obviously the church, being of the Franciscan tradition is catholic in denomination. Therefore it is reasonable to expect historic saints to be well represented. St Clare does not disappoint in this matter. Indeed, she is often seen as the female alternate to St. Francis of Assisi himself. In fact, St. Francis in 1212 converted her into the servitude of her faith.St. Clare

This did not go without the notice and consternation of her father, a count in his own right. He had already had plans for her marriage and her conversion to the service of the church was not well received. After several family arguments it became very clear to the Count that she was not coming home.

Interestingly, it was a short time later that St. Clare’s sister, Agnes, also did not appreciate the Count delving in her affairs and she too ran away and joined the convent created by St. Clare. She would later become known as St. Agnes in her own right.

The main goal of St. Clare was to live a life of absolute evangelical poverty like St. Francis. As a nun, she did not have the same freedom of movement as St. Francis to travel, so she established an enclosed convent that became later known as the order of Franciscan nuns known as the Poor Clares. The object that the statue is holding is a ciborium. It’s a chalice-like vessel containing the Holy Sacrament.

This item is usually shown with depictions of the saint due to the prescribed miracles she has performed. In 1234 a large military force of Frederick II attacked the city and planned to sack the convent.

According to legend, St. Clare, though very ill, met the soldiers at a window where they had hoisted a ladder to gain entry. As the first soldier tried to come through the window, she raised the sacrament above her head and prayed for protection. Mysteriously, the soldiers became frightened and routed without causing any damage.

Later, a second force of the Frederick II ‘s army also attempted to attack the town of Assisi. St. Clare is known to have gathered all of her sisters at the convent and pray for the city’s deliverance. A large storm suddenly appeared and struck the military encampment with such force as to cause the troops immediate withdrawal from the area.

Her popularity for her pious actions and the two miracles associated even caused Pope Innocent IV to travel to visit her on her death-bed.

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References :

“St. Clare of Assisi.” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:. Web. 2 Sept. 2014. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04004a.htm.

“St. Clare.” St. Clare- Saints and Angels- Catholic Online. Copyright 2014 Catholic Online. Web. 2 Sept. 2014. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=215.

The Entrance: A Ghost Story

That wooden door, the great entrance that my heart has clung to for so many years remains shut to me. It stands as a tall solid and immobile barrier to my freedom, and I may never learn of the reasons for it being so.

My entrapment is not a subjective countenance to the strong and unpliable wood. Nor is my spirit captured and enslaved by the sturdy and secure locks that bar the passage of so many a passersby wishing to enter this humble place of worship.

Nay, my present dark circumstances finds my meager soul locked behind this entrance. Looking for a way to escape this church forever. The irony is not lost on me. Even in the days of my life the church always tried every gimmick both fun and fearful in trying to get worshipers though those terrible doors. Little did I understand that once I got here I would never leave!

Truly, as a ghost, I know that there are far worse circumstances a soul could find itself in. Yet, a gilded prison is, at least to the prisoner’s point of view, remains nothing but a prison. Yes, that word best describes it. Prisoner. It conjures the right imagery to the mind. I am the lost and forgotten prisoner doomed to anguish behind these doors for all eternity.  The thought breaks my heart and fills my being with such sadness.

When I was alive, I did not concern myself with the possibilities of souls in torment, or those religious pursuits of binding your soul to glorious heaven or suffering punishments in fiery hells. I had a life to live. The thoughts of dying before I was old and gray simply did not exist in any form for my intellect. People died around me, for sure, but the odds of it happening to me were remote at best. I thought I would always have time later on to worry about my death. These thoughts were best left for the priests and the elder people trying to undo years of unsanctimonious behavior.

Oh, don’t misunderstand my life choices. I did everything  required of me. I attended church, gave alms, and even sang in the choir for a bit of time. Even my dying breath was in service to my fellow-man and the church. Yet, here I am. I’m stuck between worlds and unable to grasp what I need to do to move on.

Why won’t it open?

How did I die? I spent my last mortal moments bringing water to some carpenters and painters working on the ceiling behind the altar. Even though I was 18 years old, I was still a petite sized girl and could only bring the water to the scaffolding, tie a rope around it, and let the workers hoist it into the air on a pulley. Once they finished refreshing themselves, they would lower the bucket and I’d place fruit or nuts for them to snack on and to repeat the process as needed.

It was a hot day and I was quite happy to help these men as they repaired the ceiling to the church. On one such trip with the water pail I must not have tied the rope as securely as I believed. As the fates would have it, the rope became untied awhile it was in the air at the very top of the pulley. I saw a worker grab for it, but the bucket fell straight down like a missile completely crushing my skull with a crimson mist spraying  the work-tarps on the floor.

I awoke standing to one side watching my body lying in a puddle of my blood. My neck bent at an odd angle and my poor head had a ghastly concave wound. The village priest was performing last rites and the workers were either sullen or standing with shocked looks on their faces.

I attempted to get their attention and tell them that I was fine. But, they seemed to be unable to either hear me or see me and provided no interaction. I kept trying to speak, long after my they removed my body and the work was finally completed. I screamed and yelled at my funeral, but again no interactions occurred to bring a sense of peace to myself. Finally, I resigned myself to explore the boundaries of this strange fate.

It was during this period that I attempted to leave the church and found myself unable to do so. I can go to the door, but as I’m ethereal, I cannot seem to be able to grasp it or push it.

Lately, I’ve overheard various people complaining to the priest of cold spots in the sanctuary. There are also several rumors about a sobbing that is sometimes heard. People hear the sound of a young women sob and sometimes can smell the pleasant fragrance of roses, my favorite perfume. But they are unable to determine where it comes from. I must admit, these strange occurrences happen at the same time that the idea of staying here for eternity is more than I can bear and I become despondent and sad. I’m sure I’m the cause of these events. Yet, I really don’t understand how.

Decades have past now, the priest who tended to my body died years ago. No one who remembers my death is still alive. I have watched endless baptisms, weddings, and funerals performed behind that sorrowful entrance.

So, if you’re in the church and you feel a sudden chill, think you hear the mournful sobs of a girl, or smell the sweet aromatics of roses in springtime. It’s me. Waiting… waiting for a chance to leave through that very entrance you walked in through.


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Spiral Handle: An Example in the Art of Eye Entrapment

Spiral Handle is a study in the artistic principle of eye entrapment through the use of form and linear direction. This detailed photograph of a spiral iron handle proclaims several unique artistic features that hold our eyes to the image and prevents our escape.

The door is very old and worn. Rust is prevalent and easily shown by the characteristic heavy black pitting on the metal. But it is the remains of the paint or whitewash chipping away in the lower corner that grabs our attention from the overall picture.

The darkened wood grain gives a sense of movement from the bottom of the photograph to the Spiral Handletop. The eyes love to follow linear lines and the natural grain of the wood provides this for us perfectly.

So, we indulge our natural instinct and follow the lines towards the top of the image. At the top, we discover the spiral end of an iron cast door handle. The handle sits as a rebellious decorative creation in complete contrast to the linear grain of the door.

Since it appears on top of the grains in the wood plank we naturally will follow it’s course across the picture. It is obvious that the handle was not mass-produced and the blacksmith knew his trade, for the handle has a smooth spiral curvature that interrupts the smooth wood lines of the door.

This curve creates an unpredicted result as our eyes move through the piece. Instead of exiting the top of the frame as we might expect, we are suddenly cast off in a sideways motion of following the spiral to its natural conclusion at the beginning of the handle. The artistic workmanship of the carved crisscross pattern further enhances our eyes desire to follow the handle and recognize it’s function.

As we follow this pattern to the copper handle guard, we have lost all sense of straight lines found in the wood and have instead entered a land of circles. The guard itself is not a true circle but rather an scalloped version. Nonetheless, the circular formation draws our eyes to naturally look for the next available shape.

Now we see the true artistic power of this image. The round lock of the circular keyhole inside the circular lock is upside down! On modern doors the lock is usually placed above the handle not under it.

This detail brings us to the next step in our eye following journey. Our eyes move from the paint to the spiral followed by a trip down the handle to the guard, which, due to it’s round shape, led us to the upside down circular keyhole in a circular lock.

It is at this point that we realize that this picture captured us and took us prisoner. For the very next detail that our eyes gravitate towards is the same linear pattern of the wood planks and the bright white of the paint where we began our journey.

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Santa Maria de Guadalupe: A Picture of Grace

Santa Maria de Guadalupe is a portrait of a very popular shrine to the Virgin Mary. Every Catholic Church I have ever visited has a shrine, sometime even a chapel, to Mary. Sometimes the shrine is outside of the churches in a rose garden off to the side.

Thus was the case with this particular church. I’d love Santa Maria de Guadalupeto mention the church, however, I’ve learned that many churches do not wish to have their names published for political or economic reasons.

This statue held a prominent place upon a slightly raised daïs in one corner of the garden. Even though it’s in a corner of the garden, the path leading up to it made it obvious that this was the center and purpose of the gardens existence.

The statue is life-size and strangely made of concrete. I find it fascinating that the craftsmen were able to pour the concrete into molds that allowed the rays of glory coming out of her back to be directly connected with the statue in what appears to be one piece.

What is unclear about it’s construction is whether the actual markings upon the statue occurred in the mold when they poured the concrete, or sculpted into the statue by a craftsman itself at a later time.

I love the peaceful and meditative thought expression on her face. The sunlight drifts down and creates a mystifying shadow that portrays a serious level of calmness and serenity. Her folded hands in the gesture of prayer signify the grace and hope she is obviously praying for.

Another unique aspect of this statue is the devotion shown by her patrons. The rosary she has draped over her hands is not original to the statue and happened at a future time. I’ve seen rosaries in many styles and forms and I confidently claim that particular example cost a significant amount of money.

Speaking of money, the area around this church is poor, yet the coins placed in her arms and the number of dollars at her feet (not in the picture frame) was quite substantial and had been there for some time. Nothing was missing.   Even the poorest people respected Santa Maria de Guadalupe enough to leave the statue in peace. Truly, this is a sign of devotion by the local Hispanic people to an idea of love, grace and hope for all.

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The Artistic Guide to the Campanario

Bells of the Old Mission is a striking black and white photograph depicting a dilapidated yet still working campanario, or bell wall. These bell walls are found in almost every Spanish mission in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Artistically this work is a study in lines, contrast, and eye movement. The bricks in this work relay a linear structure and keep the eye moving in a horizontal pattern on the page. The darkest and most definite line is the one that intersects the photograph directly across the middle.

The bell arches are a classic artistic creation in architecture to force the use of eye movement to organize and control the observer’s attention to detail. Notice how the architects chose to use archways to hold the bells in place. They could have used simple square structures to hold the bells, but the effect would not be the same.

Indeed, this was a conscience artistic decision; because when an observer views an archway the empty middle and the lines surrounding the shape to the keystone at the top naturally guide the eye. This develops movement of the eye from the bottom of the picture to the top.  The eye’s field of view is constantly narrowed from the two bells on the bottom to the one bell at the top and finally forced to rest on the main goal, the viewing of the ornate cross at the very top.

The upper section is a beautiful short brick wall with a large arched opening to support the bell. An item of importance to note is the use of the bricks as the foundation for the arch and keystone. The bricks, in contrast to the large stone, offer a series of lines that promote a quickening and energy to move towards the top.

Meanwhile, the line of the roof between the lower two arches and the upper arch effectively divide the tower in two. The bricks above the center line are in definite contrast to the large slabs of chiseled stone works in the lower sections of the photo even though they appear to have a brick shaped look to the wall face.   Possibly, the builders of the mission faced the necessity to use the larger stones in the lower archways to support the weight of the upper brick archway and it’s heavy bell.Bells of the Old Mission

Notice too that the larger bell in the upper archway is not suspended from a cross beam as those in the lower arches.   This is more than likely a result of the upper bell being the largest of the three. Yet, this bell mounted on a stand and not being suspended creates a large open space in the center of the upper archway. This in turn provides even more reason for the eye to naturally set upon the archway on its inevitable rise to the top.

It is unclear whether the builders had a primary understanding of the artistic nature of what they were building. It is, however, of no doubt the Spanish architects whom designed these magnificent structures understood all to well the power of the line and contrasting stonework to make an artistic statement.

Speaking of statements,   Did you realize how important it is that you make a statement about the arts?

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