My family crib set was gifted to me by my Parish priest Msgr. Butchard
(now retired). around ten years ago. It had a few chips and breaks, but he asked if I'd like it anyway for the children. This was some time before I had even considered taking statue restoration as a full time profession.
Now each Christmas I remember Fr. John in my prayers, with gratitude for his priesthood, and how God worked through him.
By receiving this priests thoughtful gift and restoring it, I took another step on the road toward my present work. That little figure of the baby Jesus reminds me that God often speaks to us in little ways.
The Catholic web has been discussing the pros and cons of the current Vatican Nativity. It includes extra figures meant to draw our attention to the corporal works of mercy.
Some have been outraged by the inclusion of a semi-naked male figure sporting a six pack, and others bemoan that they are as expressive as shop mannequins. I think it would be unfair to question the competency of the artists who executed the scene. I do not know what particular constraints they were under to produce the figures, and how much creative input they were allowed. If the tableau is skilfully rendered or not, the main question is whether it works as a piece of religious art.
There is a long tradition in Catholicism that art is a teaching tool, it exists that we should learn some spiritual truth from it.
Sacred art can be a "sermon" in pictures, and Integrity demands that a Nativity scene draw the viewer into the central mystery of Christ Incarnate. It is the contemplation of Christ as a babe, which is key to our treating others with love and respect.
The final battle - Sr. Lucia
Cardinal Caffera of Bologna recorded the prohecy of Sr. Lucia, who wrote that: "The final battle between the Lord and Satan will be about marriage and the family." She said that we mustn't be afraid, because Our Lady had already crushed Satan's head, but the family and the sanctity of Marriage would be the decisive issue. It was due to this that St. Pope John Paul II had urged the Cardinal to establish the Pontifical Institute for marriage and the family.
Eggs over easy
The inclusion of extra figures ministering the corporal works of mercy rather over-eggs the scene. It allows the viewer to take the easy route out; distrcated by the side show. Afer all, contemplating the vulnerability of God made man is immense.
In addition, the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was once upheld as a model for married family life. It is their parental virtues which deserve our attention in these times.
With the family unit as the core building block of society, its disintegration has gone hand in hand with the degeneration of our culture.
Society continues to undermine the vulnerability of children and their need for nurture, and guidance. They are too often regarded as a commodity, or a burden, rather than a gift from God. When we think of the attack upon the family in these times, it is essential to keep our focus on the Holy family of the Nativity. Their example, is one of putting unconditional love into practice.
The following link has some clear photos of the scene.
The Catholic Traveler
Caroline Wilkinson, an anthropologist from Manchester has reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas from images taken of his remains during the 1950's.
Forensic reconstructions do not normally include the artistic nuances which a sculptor might use in making a portrait. Interestingly, the researchers studied painted images of the saint to help with the final appearance.
The reconstruction revealed that he had a severely broken nose. Can't help wondering if this injury was a result of his altercation with Aruis - we can only conject!
Santa makes an appearance
When Fr. D brought his statue of St. Patrick for customisation, changing the face to resemble what forensics revealed would have been a major issue... as in giving him a brand new head!
We decided to change the book and the beard, not to mention dispensing with the shamrock!
He was completed in time for his feast day on 6th December, and now resides in a school of the same name .
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