Celebrating in the Year of Consecrated Life
February 2nd marks the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph brought the Infant Jesus to the Temple according to Mosaic Law (Luke 2:22-38; Cf. Exodus, 13:02). The liturgy of the day also includes the lighting of candles to symbolize the coming of the Light, Jesus Himself, into the Temple as Simeon described Him: “light to the nations” (lumen gentium).
The consecrated person is also given to the Lord to be exclusively His and to make known His salvation to the world. For centuries the Presentation in the Temple (or the “Purification of Mary” or “Candlemass”) has been very significant for those of us in consecrated life.
In 1997 following the document Vita Consecrata (“On Consecrated Life”), St. John Paul II declared February 2 to be World Day for Consecrated Life.
While our Religious Family in Italy participated in Pope Francis’ Mass for Consecrated Life at the Vatican, members of our Religious Family in Washington gathered at the seminary for Holy Mass together and a reception to follow.
After the brunch with the novices and postulants, the Juniorate sisters from the House of Studies headed to downtown Washington, DC to visit the “Picturing Mary” Exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Picturing Mary and a Season of Marian Events
The fact that the Virgin Mary is the most prominent woman in all of Western art has always been known by art historians and Catholics. However, it came as a delightful surprise to have the National Museum of Women in the Arts mount one of their largest exhibits along these lines!
The subject of Mary was so great as to shape an exhibit which not only included women artists (the main mission of the museum) but rather placed Our Lady as woman as the guiding criteria. To this end, the museum has brought rare Italian Renaissance pieces to the United States, many for the first time ever outside of Italy including works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Fra Lippo Lippi, Durer, and Tiepolo among others.
Msgr. Timothy Verdon, a prominent art historian and an American priest in the Diocese of Florence, served as curator for the exhibit whose full title is “Picturing Mary: Women, Mother, Idea”. The museum galleries of the second floor have been beautifully prepared for the pieces, each thematic section having a particular color paint with important prayers to Mary on the corresponding walls.
Paintings by women artists take up a special place in the exhibit, especially those of Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596–1676), a nun whose father had taught her his trade as a painter.
The on-line support for the exhibit allows anyone too far away to visit in person a very good sense of the beauty of these pieces. The museum has prepared an on-line exhibit of short videos by museum curators and high-definition images of international pieces: A Global Icon: Mary in Context.
The Catholic University of America has also partnered with the museum to offer special lectures and to host a graduate student conference in March on the theme of Mary and the arts. They have created the Honoring Mary: Scholarship, Art and Faith website to list all the upcoming events.
May all of these be occasions for us to recognize the power of Mary as inspiration of beauty in the service of our charism, the evangelization of culture which seeks to “prolong the incarnation in all men, in all of man, and in all the manifestations of man.”
Laus Deo Matrique!
(“Praise to God and His Mother!”)