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    White blossoms covered Mary – Star of Bethlehem

    Mary's Flowers in Contemporary Art

    March 25 – June 9, 2017

    The 24 oil paintings in this exhibit, by Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker, are an attempt to bring together, in a harmonious way, three facets of Marian art: nature, history, and spirituality. The exhibit is an inviation to visio divina, a meditation about Our Lady, and her meaning for us, as tradition and new insights suggest.

    Holly Schapker on the Art of Mary in Creation, History and Spirituality:

    In her faith, Miriam of Nazareth was a grace-filled woman to whom God has done great things. She received an extraordinary message early in her years, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” That favor meant a complete change. The Jewish girl of Nazareth experienced an extraordinary life, and was eventually gifted with God-given power as our intescessor and mediatrix on earth and in heaven. When we honor Mary, we are celebrating the mystery of the living God and the perfect disciple. It also reminds us that God wants a similar graced relationship with us.

    When Jesus on the cross entrusted his mother to the care of John, the “disciple whom he loved,” and him to her, she became the spiritual mother to us all. This fact has allowed all of us, including artists throughout art history, to claim her as our own with the freedom to express our devotion to her in our various interpretations and greatest accomplishments. Christianity is challenged by the fact that we are all so familiar with the Bible stories, and we forget the life they bring to our daily lives. Art helps us to see these stories in a new and fresh way which opens our hearts to receive God’s loving Word.

    Many of my works pay homage to the masterpieces of great painters of their time. It is my desire to honor these artists for their work, and to continue their efforts of celebrating creation with my own contributions. I like to think that I am contributing to the ongoing conversation among artists across time and space with my imperfect and yet God given talents. My paintings in this collection portray Mary in a multitude of times, cultures, styles, and ethnic characters to show her ‘omnipresence’ through the Holy Spirit.

    My approach has been to trust the creative process and allow the brush to guide my hand. The time in front of the canvas usually follows a period of Centering Prayer or Lectio Divina. I often listen to the rosary and contemplate the mysteries in the studio. At times, I feel more like a grateful witness to the creation of my work rather than the creator.

    Flowers are a beautiful symbol of the ‘divine feminine,’ and there are numerous kinds that have generated delightful legends throughout the centuries regarding Mary’s life story and mysteries. Each of my paintings pertain to one or more flowers which give reference to a particular moment in Mary’s life. They all provide an opportunity for us to use our own imagination, and to contemplate Mary’s experience here on earth. Research for this body of work included reading and studying the book, Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends and Meditations by Vincenzina Krymow.

    In the end, my study of Mary has further reshaped my image of our Creator from one of dominance to a God of overflowing goodness, loving kindness, and unending mercy. I hope each viewer experiences this same devotional joy in recognizing the good news.


    The Annunciation to Mary – Lily and Violet

    The archangel Gabriel held a lily in his hand in recognition of Mary’s purity when he appeared to the young virgin to tell her that she had “found favor with God” and would conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Tradition tells that after Mary touched the flower, which had been scentless, an exquisite fragrance arose from it.

    The violet blossomed outside the Virgin Mary’s window when she spoke the words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” to the angel Gabriel and accepted God’s plan for her.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Christian spirituality invites us to imagine what it would be like to know Mary – or even to be her. It is important to remember that when Mary was speaking to Gabriel, she spoke for all of humanity.

    This painting pays homage to an Annunciation painting (1445-1450) by High Renaissance Italian painter Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469). The palette of this painting shows a wide variety of colors that represent the many emotions Mary must have felt in this moment.

    They speak of the splendor of your majestic glory, tell of your wonderful deeds. (Ps. 145)


    The Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth – Columbine

    The tiny flower is said to have sprung up wherever Mary’s foot touched the earth when she was on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: How wonderful it must have felt for Mary to meet another woman who truly understood the extraordinary circumstance of her life, pregnant with God’s child! Elizabeth’s greeting confirmed Mary’s whole existence as the humble believer. Mary’s commitment to be in a “Theo drama” rather than an “ego drama” is manifested in the joyful song of the Magnificat.

    This painting is inspired by an early French Renaissance painter, Jacques Daret (c. 1404–c. 1470), who created an altarpiece of the Virgin in Arras which includes the Visitation. The columbine flowers expand beyond the borders as they remind us that God has no boundaries.

    Praise the Lord, my soul; I shall praise the Lord all my life. (Ps. 146)


    The Poverty of Christ’s Birth – Our Lady’s Bedstraw and Carnation

    When Mary and Joseph arrived at the inn in Bethlehem, they learned there was no room for them except in the stable with the cattle. There, Joseph spread the dried straw and grasses the innkeeper offered them, preparing a couch for Mary. Tradition let us know that after Jesus’ birth, the dried grasses burst into flowers. Mary’s bed was a “verdant mass of green, interspersed with tiny sweet-smelling flowers, most noticeably the blossoms of yellow bedstraw.”

    A German legend says the carnation bloomed on the night of Jesus’ birth.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: One of my favorite contemplative meditations invited me to experience the first Chrismas in my imagination as an active participant. In it, Mary handed me Baby Jesus to hold. When I felt like I should probably hand Him back to her, she shook her head, smiled, and said, “No. He is yours to keep.”

    This painting has a touch of the botanical style with the pattern of the individual bedstraw flowers around the border and the carnations on the right side of the composition. It is derivative of an illuminated manuscript by an unknown artist found in the British Library. I appreciate both the simplicity of the figures and the complexity of the composition—just like the story of the Nativity.

    For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the Lord. (Ps. 8)


    Madelon’s Gift to the Christchild – Christmas Rose

    A young shepherd girl named Madelon followed the shepherds to Bethlehem to see the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. Her heart was moved, and she wept because she had nothing to offer Jesus. The archangel Gabriel took Madelon by the hand and led her out into the night. Gabriel touched the frozen earth with his staff. Immediately, creamy white blossoms flushed with pink sprang up everywhere. The maiden filled up her arms with the flowers and ran to decorate Jesus’ bed.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: It seems we all delight in finding our inner child at Christmastime with an openness of heart and a sense of awe. Madelon reminds us that we are encouraged to “become like little children” (Mt. 18:3). This is why I decided to portray this scene in the style of a children’s illustration. This painting is derivative of a painting of Our Lady of Altagracia, patron and protector of the people of the Dominican Republic. The portrait is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia in the city of Salvaleón de Higüey. Its creator is unknown, but the painting was brought from Spain by two brothers, Alfonso and Antonio Tejo, early settlers of the island. The style has surreal tendencies showing fantasy and bright colors such as in the works of Jewish Russian painter Marc Chagall (1887–1975).

    I wait for you, O Lord; I lift up my soul to my God. (Ps. 25)


    The Star that Became a Flower – Oxeye Daisy

    When the Wise Men, following the star, reached the village of Bethlehem, they looked for a further sign. It was dark, and they did not know which house to enter. The legend has it that King Melchior saw a strange white and gold flower that looked like the star that had led them to Bethlehem. As he bent to pick it, the door of a stable opened, and he saw the Holy Family.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Jesus came to save us, and yet I believe he also came to play with us. I like to think that God celebrates Christmas with us.

    As I kept working on this painting, I noticed the Infant Jesus pointing up toward a faint floral detail moving in the atmosphere. Did Christ have paranormal experiences? Did he see what is not seen by us? It’s interesting to contemplate. Surrealists taught us that the unexpected and unbelievable can happen in art. Here we have a further connection with Christ.

    This painting pays homage to the painting of the Holy Family by the Venetian painter Giorgione (1477-1510). It reminds us of Jesus’ promise, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt. 7:7).

    Show us, Lord, your love; grant us your salvation. (Ps. 85)


    White Blossoms Covered Mary – Star of Bethlehem

    The flower is said to resemble the star of the east that pointed to the birthplace of Jesus. The star shone brightly in the night and guided the shepherds to the place where the Newborn Jesus lay, then broke into little pieces, scattering white blossoms everywhere.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: I was once asked what is my North Star. What is it that guides me to Christ? As Pedro Arrupe said about falling in love, “It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

    I painted this piece in a contemporary style because we look up to the heavens for inspiration and continue to receive an awesome abundance of guidance from above. Scripture is my North Star giving me divine direction. The light in the painting is directed from above, and I used my brushwork to show movement as we are always in a constant state of flux. Although Mary’s face is realistically detailed, the piece is influenced by post-impressionist French painter Edouard Vuillard (1868–1940), stressing flat lines and low-toned patterns because repetition is key on our spiritual path.

    Praise him, sun and moon; give praise, all shining stars. (Ps. 148)


    Mary Took Jesus to the Temple – Snowdrop

    The snowdrop is said to have bloomed on February 2, when Mary took Jesus to the Temple to present him to God.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: The flowers surrounding the composition celebrate Jesus’ true origin with the Father. The painting pays homage to the Presentation at the Temple by Italian painter Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506).

    Keeping the Word of God perfectly, Mary shows us the meaning of holiness. Jesus honors her when a woman from the crowd calls out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it” (Lk. 27:28).

    We are gifted with the Canticle of Simeon (Lk. 2:29-32), available to us every night to practice seeing Christ in the people of our daily life: “Lord, now You let your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people; A light to reveal You to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel. Amen.”

    I can enter your house because of your great love. (Ps. 5)


    The Holy Family on the Road to Jerusalem – Jerusalem Cowslip and Thistle

    It was a long journey from Nazareth, and Mary sat down at the edge of the road. The spotted cowslip was growing at her feet, and its blooms turned blue as they reflected in the blue of the Blessed Mother’s eyes.

    The white veins traced on the leaves of the thistle are said to be from the drops of Mary’s milk falling on them when the Blessed Mother moved her baby from her breast after feeding him.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: The Holy Family juxtaposed with nature reassures my efforts to find God also in nature. When I see the little spring flowers on my hikes in the park near my home, I think of their remarkable journey from darkness in the dirt to standing in glorious sunshine. Mary taught Christ to find life and fulfillment in this natural world, not only to follow the will of his Father.

    Our Blessed Mother’s feet were not lifted above ground when she walked. Her submission to God was not free of pain or struggles. Her life was a pilgrimage of faith as she didn’t know the end of the story or get to see the big picture during her life.

    This painting pays homage to The Rest on the Flight Into Egypt by early Netherlandish painter Gerard David (1460–1523).

    How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one. (Ps. 133)


    Wild Clematis Sheltered Mary and Jesus on Their Flight

    According to a German legend, wild clematis sheltered Mary and Jesus on their flight into Egypt.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: The single clematis flower portrayed in the pattern of the border is delicate in its beauty but not very strong. However, its growth in union with other flowers can accomplish great feats. I chose to create this image in an impressionistic style with the short brush strokes of thick paint like French painter Claude Monet (1840–1926). He is known as a painter of light and reflection. When contemplating Mary and her journey with Christ, we are encouraged by the example of Mary, who, like the moon, reflects the light of her Son who is the sun giving light to the world.

    May there be no breach in the walls, no exile, no outcry in our streets. (Ps. 144)


    Blossoms Marked the Road They Trod – Rosemary and Germander Speedwell

    The rosemary bush gave shelter to the Holy Family during their flight into Egypt.

    In Europe germander speedwell was known as Our Lady’s resting place after a legend that its blossoms marked each spot where the Blessed Mother rested during the flight to Egypt.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: The germander speedwell flowers sing with delight around the border of the scene. The scriptural passage references Hosea 11:1–4: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” In this scene, the Holy Family is crossing a bridge toward safety and paradise. The rosemary was painted with impasto to catch light and give it added dimension. This texture of the rosemary bush is symbolic of the various textures of life as we find ourselves on the bridge between our sacred humanity and Divinity. The painting has an innocent or naive folk art style like that of American painter Grandma Moses (1860–1961). It is derivative of a Coptic painting of an unknown artist. I believe we too have that same innocence in God’s eyes.

    The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin. (Ps. 1)


    Jesus’ Gift to His Mother – Juniper and Cuckoo Flower

    In Sicily, it is told that the juniper tree saved the life of Mary and the Infant Jesus during their flight into Egypt. The Madonna’s juniper bush, as it is known in Sicily, opened up its thick branches to enclose the Holy Family, hiding them until Herod’s men had passed by.

    Jesus gave the cuckoo flower to his mother in honor of the seamless robe of Calvary. She used her weaving skills to help support her family.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This painting’s contemporary style conveys that Mary’s story is alive and with us today. Every day, I walk past a juniper bush outside the entrance to my studio. It has a whole new perspective since I learned of its important role of protecting Mary and the Christchild. Reading scripture, I get to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

    St. Louis de Montfort described our path with Mary as a secure path, meaning that as we walk with with her, we are protected from evil. “This good Mother would rather dispatch battalions of angels to assist one of her servants than it should ever be said that a faithful servant of Mary, who trusted in her, had had to succumb to malice, the number, and the vehemence of his enemies.” Mary and Jesus are looking up into the heavens, and yet they are rooted on earth, the most telling example of receiving and giving between heaven and earth.

    May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 115)


    Cruel Foreboding on the Rest of the Flight – Rose of Jericho

    It is told that the rose of Jericho sprang up to mark the spot at each place where the Holy Family rested during their flight into Egypt.

    On the rest of the flight, the Infant Christ had a vision of his future Passion and death. His shoe came off because of his fear—which also shows his humanity.

    A robin saw Jesus on the way to Calvary. Jesus’ crown of thorns pierced His head, making it bleed. The small, brown bird flew down. To ease the pain, it plucked out a thorn from Jesus’ head. On the thorn was a drop of blood, which fell onto the breast of the small bird. That red stain is there to this day as a thank you.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Elements of abstract expressionism in this painting provide an emotional response. The painting also includes the Audubon style of painting with emphasis on studying birds. Jesus instructs us to observe birds. “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Mt. 6:26). Birds console us not to fall into worrying and to rest in God’s love. Two more legends are included in the painting. They involve the red-chested robin and the loss of a shoe related to fear.

    My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path. (Ps. 142)


    A Cushion for the Baby and a Lavender Bush for the Mother – Sea Pink and Lavender

    The blossoms of sea pink, shaped like miniature cushions, formed a place for Mary and Jesus to sit during the flight into Egypt.

    After Mary had washed Jesus’ clothes and was looking for a place to hang them to dry, she saw a gray bush of lavender, and on its branches, she spread the snow-white baby clothes.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: What a tender moment to imagine the flowers cushioning Mary and her child! Mary personifies God’s tenderness and mercy. As Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff explains, “She was a daughter of earth, albeit blessed by heaven.” Mary pondered in her heart the good things that God was doing in her life. With her example, we can develop the same attitude of gratitude.

    This painting is completed in the impressionistic style like that of American painter Mary Cassatt (1845–1926), who often portrays mother and child in an ordinary setting. Mary is looking to Jesus. The brushwork signifies constant motion. Going to Mary is not an end in itself, for she is the trusted way toward her Son. She tells us, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:1-11). When I see Mary looking at her child, it reminds me that we can borrow her perfect love to look toward others in the same way.

    Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me. Israel, hope in the Lord, now and forever. (Ps. 131)


    Our Lady’s Pure Eyes – Forget-me-not

    Then Jesus touched her eyelids and passed his hands over the ground as though sowing seeds. Immediately, forget-me-nots sprung up—hundreds of tiny blue eyes with golden centers—as a reminder for people of future generations of Our Lady’s pure eyes.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This piece pays homage to the work of Venetian painter Antonio Vivarini (1440-1484) which combines both Gothic and Renaissance elements. This image of Mary reflects, like nature, God’s indescribable beauty. In Mary’s eyes, the viewer can see a forgiving vigilance. The symmetrical composition conveys the feeling of stability and order. The Holy Spirit made her his temple. She gives birth to Christ in our hearts. She walks with us in faith as our companion. The rich color key for this painting symbolizes the joy as we appreciate the full humanity of women created in the image of God.

    Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teachings. (Ps. 119)


    A Son’s Love for His Mother – Yellow Lady Slipper

    As a little boy, Jesus thrusts his mother’s foot into the tiny opening of the flower. Playfully, he shows his love for his mother, a love he shows her beyond his death and Resurrection.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This painting poses a question rather than making a statement. While Christ endured the agonies of the Passion on the last day of his life, did he mentally relive the sweet memories as a human living on this earth, such as the one he shared with his mother playfully putting the yellow lady slipper on her foot? The painting has marks of a palette knife like the works of French painter Gustav Courbet (1819–1877) to create texture and passionate emotion.

    Mary lived and suffered simply, like us, in the dark night of faith, and yet this painting shows her life as a passionate love song. She is the loving example of fulfilling God’s will, which she obediently accepted.

    Many say, may we see better times! Lord, show us the light of your face. (Ps. 4)


    He Hung Flower Jewels of Ruby and Amethyst on His Mother’s Ears – Fuchsia

    The gently drooping flowers with white outer leaves and cerise, purple, or pink petals resemble eardrops or pendant earrings, and it is said that Jesus may have playfully hung flower jewels of ruby and amethyst colors on his mother’s ears.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Jesus gave himself to Mary from the moment of the Incarnation. She did not seek glory but only to please God. She could have done many wonderful things with her talents, yet she stayed focused on the task at hand, which was to support Jesus’ mission. It was her words that started his ministry when she pointed out, “They have no wine,” at the wedding in Cana. She had the foolish idea that only faith can make reality.

    The color of the fuchsia flower happens to be a very popular color of decorative design in contemporary Asian weddings. This portrait is conceived in a style almost confrontational to that of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1910–1954). It also has design elements of the Italian monk Fra Angelico or Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (1395–1455) who used real metals, such as gold or silver, for the halos. Theotokos, which means Mother of God, is written in her halo.

    As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful. (Ps. 103)


    Mary went Berry Hunting with the Children – Strawberry

    A German legend says that Our Lady would go berry hunting with the children on June 24, St. John the Baptist Day.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This painting is inspired by The Virgin and Child with Saint John by Italian painter Bernardino Luini (1480–1532). Mary’s face has some expression of fatigue, and yet she is teaching us about trusting amid the darkness of not seeing the goal. The strawberries, a symbol of the “fruit of her womb,” invite us to taste and see the goodness of God in Jesus Christ (Ps. 34).

    God wishes to give each one of us his favor. We take as our model the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask for her kind faith. The painting’s choreography shows that the Immaculate Conception does not extract Mary from the challenges that come with daily life, but when we are aligned with God, we are in a powerful forcefield.

    The Lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever. (Ps. 121)


    The Tiny Thimbles of the Harbell to Honor Our Lady’s Working Hands

    The bell-shaped harbell flowers, resembling tiny thimbles, were named after Our Lady to honor her working hands as she made Jesus’ clothes, including the seamless robe he was wearing before he was crucified.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Mary humbled herself and submitted to God and so raised up the family of man which is the total opposite of original sin and the reason she is crowned the New Eve. She gives constant motherly attention to human needs.

    This painting pays homage to an original painting by the Spanish Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682). The image itself describes the Holy Family’s home life. It also makes reference to the work of American painter Norman Rockwell (1895–1978), who portrayed intimate family gatherings. I appreciate the warm interaction and love that the three share in this scene—with the harbell flower as a witness. It reminds me of the excellent advice given by St Teresa of Calcutta: “Do little things with great love.”

    You have done great things; o God, who is your equal? (Ps. 71)


    All He Could Remember of the Lady with the Golden Flowers was "Ave Maria" – Marigold and Fleur-de-Lis

    Tradition says that Our Lady used the golden marigold blossoms as coins and that her garments were adorned with flowers.

    In France, there was a wealthy knight, Salaun, who had renounced the world and entered the Cistercian order. He could never remember more than the first two words of the Ave Maria. He prayed to Mary day and night, using only those two words. As proof that Mary heard his short but earnest prayer, a fleur-de-lis plant sprung up on his grave, and on every flower, the words “Ave Maria” appeared in gold letters.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This painting is derivative of a Roman Coptic portrait that mutated into a French-looking Mary to follow the context of the legend. Our cells are in constant flux, and we are continually changing as we place our gaze on God. The fleur-de-lis flowers in the border contain botanical elements, and yet the Ave Maria is written on their petals. The style of the painting is similar to a Japanese woodblock greeting card by Hokusai (1760–1849) or a poster by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), inviting the viewer to “come and see” the message of Mary’s Christ. The marigold coins represent the abundance of love the Lord pours on Mary, our Mediatrix, who is “full of grace.” Through her Son and her life, she reflects the presence of God’s glory in the world.

    The Lord’s love is strong; the Lord is faithful forever. (Ps. 117)


    Her Tears Fell to the Ground and Turned into Lilies of the Valley

    It was said that when Mary wept at the foot of the Cross, her tears fell to the ground and turned into the tiny, fragrant blossoms of this early spring plant.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Here we have Mary’s greatest suffering which is seeing her Son endure gruesome torture and a shameful death. Mary is united with Christ in his self-emptying at Calvary. We are invited to suffer with them, and this teaches us how to be more compassionate, loving, and sensitive to others. Tears are the language of the heart. There is no hesitation or doubt when Mary says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me as you say.” She relinquished herself and, as a result, became the Mother of the Church.

    I show in the painting that there are many paths to the church. Derivative of a Pietà by Italian painter Giovanni Bellini (1430–1516), this painting is a weeping work of the Passion. The flowers show humility, bowing before the Pietà as they see in Christ the greatest holy act, to die to self.

    I shall not die but live, and declare the deeds of the Lord. (Ps. 118)


    As Mary Rose to Heaven She Was Surrounded by Roses and Lilies

    Then Jesus came to her and said, “Come, my chosen one, and I shall place thee upon my throne, for I have desired thy beauty!” Mary answered, “My heart is ready, O Lord, my heart is ready!” And her soul went forth out of her body and flew upward in the arms of her Son. As Mary flew upward she was surrounded with red roses and white lilies.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: When she received the message, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” that favor meant a complete change. The young Jewish girl of Nazareth was eventually gifted with the fullness of knowledge and love of heaven and earth. The Assumption, by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), enlivened and embellished by roses and lilies, shows this radical change and accomplishment of her life. Tasked with giving spiritual birth to Christians, Mary helps us grow to full stature with Christ. It is interesting to notice that the flowers are placed among the angels, for we are supported and guided by all creatures in Christendom. Perhaps they are metaphors of us and our own “flowering of the soul” (J. Stokes). May we be able to say, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

    I praise your name for your fidelity and love, for you have exalted over all your name and your promise. (Ps. 138)


    Our Lady’s Rose Shone so Bright

    A lordsman went on a journey with much of his lord’s treasured goods. He had to pass through woods where thieves would be waiting for him. As he entered the woods, he remembered that he had not yet said, “Our Lady’s saulter.” The Virgin Mary came and placed a garland on his head, and as he said each Ave, she placed a rose in the garland that was so bright that all the wood shone thereof. He proceeded through the woods, unaware of the glorious crown on his head. When the thieves saw the roses they stood aside, allowing him to pass unharmed.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Maximilian Kolbe said that the greatest way we can give glory to God is to unite oneself to the creature who glorifies God most perfectly. The lordsman’s faith and prayer shows creative ways in which we can magnify the Lord.

    The flowers’ fluid brushwork have the markings of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), yet the overall composition is similar to that of British painter William Blake (1757–1827). The intervention of Mary displays the merciful path of having a Spirit-filled relationship with God. Saint Therese of Lisieux reassures us that “God is so good he will know how to come and get you.”

    Darkness is not dark for you, Lord, and night shines as the day. (Ps. 139)


    Mary Is Called a Rose without Thorns – Scotch Rose

    For the Fathers of the Church, the rose is the most perfect of flowers. It had been without thorns when it grew in Paradise and only developed its sharp spikes after the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Mary was called “a rose without thorns” because she was the only human person born free of original sin.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: Conceived without sin, never sinning, and always doing God’s will perfectly, allowed her to be perfectly united with the Holy Spirit. When we honor Mary, we are ultimately saying something about ourselves, namely that God has addressed us, too, with a word of grace and called us to discipleship.

    The absence of thorns on the rose reminds us that a part of us is untouched by evil, as Merton describes the center of our being. The girl representing Mary is from Nigeria to show solidarity in our differences. It also shows that grace does not know borders.

    I praise you, so wonderfully you made me, wonderful are your works. (Ps. 139)


    And the Violet Dropped Its Head

    The violet was said to have dropped its head when the shadow of the cross fell on it on the day of the Crucifixion.

    ARTIST STATEMENT: This is a contemporary painting of a Christian Egyptian woman. Her face gives witness of her experience carrying the weight of this world. Drooping violets can be found on the left side of her body. The painting is unfinished as Mary’s story is unfinished. The style is similar to that of American painter Frank Duveneck (1848–1919). The loose abstract marks contrast with and provide more clarity to the detailed face, similar to how heavy darkness or pain shows the luminosity of joys.

    Mary is the one who brings us to the love that is more powerful than evil, just as nature dies only to be reborn. Love carries us until we are renewed. Being dislodged from our comfort zones as we feel and act with eyes of compassion, we become a part of the healing power that flows from Christ’s Resurrection.

    Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord. (Ps. 150)