"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Art: Our Lady of Fatima, the Thomas McGlynn Statue, Part 1

In my last post I mentioned the Catholic Thought book club at Goodreads was reading Vision of Fatima by Thomas McGlynn O.P. which detailed his trip to Portugal to discuss with Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos, otherwise known as Irmã Dores and the last living child that had witnessed the Fatima apparitions, the creation of a statue of Our lady of Fatima based on Lucia's vision.  As it turns out one of the one of the first marble productions of Mcglynn's Our Lady of Fatima statue that came out of his consultation with Lucia is at St. Vincent Ferrer church in uptown Manhattan.  A shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II at the church has been united with the McGlynn statue since the Holy Father credit Our Lady of Fatima in saving his life when he was shot on her feast day.  You can read about the shrine at Catholic New York, my diocese newspaper. From the article:

On the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition at Fatima, a shrine was dedicated in Manhattan May 13 to the memory of St. John Paul II, who credited Mary with saving his life after an assassination attempt in Rome on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981.


Father McGlynn was commissioned by a distributor of religious goods to make the statue shortly after the Second World War, when devotion to Our Lady of Fatima began to spread beyond Portugal. Although he was confident his representation of Mary was accurate, based on his research, he determined to show a small model of it to Sister Lucia, the only surviving seer, for confirmation.

Carrying a letter of introduction from Cardinal Francis Spellman to the bishop of Lisbon, Portugal, he got permission to visit Sister Lucia at her convent. When he finally met Sister Lucia, Father McGlynn was surprised and disappointed when she politely told him his statue was inaccurate.

He remained at the convent and under Sister Lucia’s direction, produced an entirely new statue. In his memoir, Father McGlynn said Sister Lucia corrected his ideas of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima and also explained to him the spiritual vision of Fatima and encouraged him to make it better known.

The sculptor came home for the dedication at St. Vincent Ferrer of the redesigned statue on Mother’s Day, 1947. By cruel coincidence, his mother, who planned to attend the event, died while he was en route home, and lay in a funeral parlor across from the church as he preached at the dedication. Father Devaney said from that day, Father McGlynn looked at Mary as his mother, in much the way St. John Paul did.

So this version by Fr. McGlynn was based on Sister Lucia’s vision of Our Lady and was created in close collaboration with the future saint.

So I decided Saturday to trek up to St. Vincent Ferrer's church to examine the statue, and this post and the following is an examination of the statue and the creative process in developing the statue as written in the book.  

First, St. Vincent Ferrer was a lovely church.  There was a plaque that said it was in the English Gothic style.  It is run by the Dominican Friars, St. Vincent Ferrer being a Dominican, one of the many Dominican saints.  Here’s a picture inside the church looking toward the apse.

And here toward the rear, a beautiful rose window.

I loved this little chapel with a painting of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Our Lady.  Those are little statues of Dominican saints around the painting.  You may have to click the picture to bring it into a large image.

Here is the façade of the church and a close up.

It really is a beautiful church.

The McGlynn statue with the St. John Paul shrine was located along the left wall in what might have been a transept, but if it was a transept it wasn’t very pronounced.  It was not in a chapel but a niche that was formed from the side wall jutting out as you walked toward the alter.  Here is the entire shrine in one view.

Fr. McGlynn Our Lady of Fatima Statue at St. Vincent Ferrer Church

And here are the shrine with the focus to the right.

Our Lady of Fatima Statue at St. Pope John Paul Shrine

And with a focus to the left.

Our Lady of Fatima, Fr. McGlynn Statue

I asked one of the priests in the church, an older Dominican Friar, if this was an original and he said yes but wasn't sure if it was the first. Later someone that worked at the church said this was the first of the statues Fr. McGlynn made from the plaster prototype he brought back from Portugal. So this was certainly a thrill. Here is a close up.

Our Lady of Fatima Statue, St. Vincent Ferrer Church

And from the waist up.

Fr. McGlynn, Our Lady of Fatima

Personally I think this statue is breath taking and far superior to the traditional Our Lady of Fatima that you commonly see.  I don’t have the time to go into detail in this post.  I will continue with zoomed in pictures in my next post and excerpts from the book on how the various parts of the statue came to be.   

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lines I Wished I’d Written: The Trip to the Chapel of the Apparitions, from Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P.

I’ve mentioned I participate at the Catholic Thought book club on Goodreads.  For those that don’t know, Goodreads is a “social catalogue” website for books. It’s a place to catalogue the books you’ve read, provide a rating or review for others to read, and discuss books.  I didn’t know it was owned by Amazon until now, but that makes sense.  In addition people can gather themselves into book clubs of whatever shared interest you may have.  There are all sorts of classics book clubs, history book clubs, romance novel book clubs, and whatever book genre you can imagine, and some you’ve never imagined.  There are several Catholic oriented book clubs and for the last few years I’ve belonged to Catholic Thought.  It’s really the only book club I participate in, and now I’ve become one of the moderators. 

Goodreads is free to participate in, and I’m always looking for new members for the Catholic Thought club.  Some of the books we have recently read (and I have not participated in all the reads) are “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis, Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales, The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John Allen, Silence by Shūsaku Endō, and Learning the Virtues: That Lead You to God by Romano Guardini.  If you want to build an intellectual basis for your faith, then come join us.  Here’s our book club mission statement:

This group is dedicated to the great enjoyment derived from Catholic theological and spiritual reading when combined with the outlooks and opinions of many friends. We are not an apologetics group. Our goal is to find comfort in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Currently we are reading Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P.   Fr. McGlynn (1906-77) was a Dominican priest, sculptor, professor at Providence College, and writer.  /  He sculpted many saints and Popes, and in 1947 was commissioned to make a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  After building a prototype, he decided he would bring it to the one remaining, living child of the famed Fatima Apparitions of 1917, Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos, at the time a Carmelite nun, to get her approval and possible revisal for the large scale sculpture he intends to create.  This book recounts his journey to Lucy, as he refers to her at the beginning of the book (later he refers to her as Irmã Dores, her name at the convent), Lucy’s rejection of the prototype statue, and the recreation of the new statue based on her vision.  To be clear, this is not the more renown Our Lady of Fatima statue carved by José Thedim that is more familiar.  Sister Lucy did not approve of that statue either; it did not fit the apparition.  Fr. McGlynn intended to make a statue to correspond with Lucy’s perspective, her vision.  And that is what this book is about, as well as filling in the complex messages of the apparition as Fr. McGlynn learns about them.

As it turns out, EWTN’s show Bookmarks with Doug Keck recently broadcast an episode discussing this very book.  Typically Doug on his show discusses the book with the author, but in this case he will not be calling Fr. McGlynn back from the dead. ;) He discusses the book with Fr. Gabriel Gillen O.P.  Fr. Gillen had researched the history of how Fr. McGlynn had sculpted the various statues that he discusses in the book.  You can watch this episode on youtube, here.  

The lines from Vision of Fatima I wish to highlight come from Chapter 4, simply titled, “Fatima.”  Fr. McGlynn and his interpreter and traveling companion in Portugal, Fr. Gardiner, here drive out from Lisbon to the town of Fatima for the first time.  Along the journey they stop at the Dominican Monastery in Batlahla, and then to the shrine at the south rim of the Cova, which is the actual location of the apparitions.  They settle in at a near-by hostel, all the while trying to understand the perplexing details of the Fatima apparitions, and the directives that were given by the Blessed Mother.  Finally they reach their goal, the Chapel of the Apparitions. 

We stopped at a green wooden building near the edge of the village, an inn called Pousada de Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Fátima.  Mr. Petracchi, the proprietor, welcomed us.  I tried speaking to him in Italian, but learned that despite his name and appearance he was English and about as familiar with Italian as I was with Gaelic.  He showed us through the dining room, which occupied the front of the building, to our rooms, off the narrow hall that divided the remainder of the one-story structure.  There was no heating.  The cold, the unpainted woodwork, and the springless beds confirmed the reputation of severe simplicity that visitors remark of Fatima.  There were no luxuries and few comforts at this shrine of penance. 

The few peasants along the road, as others I had seen on the way from Leiria, were short and sturdy of stature, with firm, regular features.  They were poorly and somberly clothed.  Women wore black dresses and veils, and, along with their children, were generally barefoot; the men had well-worn suits, usually brown or grey, collarless shirts, and nearly always the bone, a long, black stocking cap that falls to the shoulder. 

Gathering impressions of the people in the vicinity of Fatima, I found that curiosity was unilateral.  This might have been because they were accustomed to visitors from many lands; but my feeling, bourne out of future contacts, was that, beyond their black eyes, there are self-assured and independent personalities.  They have wrested a living from the stubborn soil of the Serra, and in the process they seemed to have acquired a strange likeness to their surroundings: austere, solid, and uncommunicative.  They were always courteous but never obsequious; friendly, but reserved. 

The panorama of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima fans out to the north at the west end of the village.  It is dominated by the graceful spire of the basilica, which rises more than two hundred feet on the hill, about a quarter of a mile from the road.  The church is made of cream-colored stone, lighter than the other buildings, and stands as on a pedestal on a great stairway that leads down to the saucer-shaped hallow.  Beneath the cross, a dark-green bronze crown tops the mounting movement of the tower.  There is an empty niche over the doorway.  Scaffoldings made of rough logs were leaning against the sides of the huge nave.  The tower was standing against a magnificent billowing cloud that had been turned a red-gold in the light of the setting sun.

We went through the gateway, down a wide gravel walk, toward the fountain, which is the hub of the Cova.  To the right and left of the walk, retaining walls drop down to irregular depressions, which are sprinkled with small trees and rough rock formations.  These quarter segments of the circle are the only unaltered remains of the original Cova. 

The fountain in the center is a gray circular stone structure, surrounded by arches, from whose roof a column rises to sustain a gilded statue of the Sacred Heart.  Between the fountain and the basilica is the expansive semicircle of sandy, graded fill, where the hundred thousands gather on the days of pilgrimage. 

On the right, the shell of a new hospital was rising; the old hospital is on the ridge to the left.  Beyond it, and not seen from the Cova, is the hospice, which is used for retreatants and for the offices of the Sanctuary.

However, I took note of the hospital, at first, only as the yellow background for a deep-red tile roof of a small structure about twenty yards up the slope of the fountain.  The roof, at the far end, covers a tiny white-walled chapel with room enough for only the celebrant and a few worshippers; but most of the roof is over a porch of rough cement.  This is the goal of every pilgrim’s journey—the Chapel of the Apparitions.  Outside and a little to the left of the doorway of the chapel, a stone column, seven feet high, marks the spot where the Blessed Virgin appeared to the children.

As we arrived at the steps in front of the chapel the great bells of the basilica were ringing out the Angelus.

I find that such an engaging passage.  Even though this is from personal experience, and therefore non-fiction, Fr. McGlynn has a keen creative and organizing eye as he brings the reader to the climatic monument—the Chapel of the Apparitions—to the end of chapter.  And then he provides the lovely touch of the ringing bells of the Angelus, the mid-day prayer to the Blessed Virgin.

Here’s how the Chapel looks in more recent times. 

And here is the basilica:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Poem: Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

I’m not the only one that analyzes poems on the internet.  I came across an analysis by Anna O’Neil at the website Aleteia of this nice little Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Nothing Gold Can Stay
 By Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

You could look at this poem from several angles.  Wikipedia mentions the analyses from a sound perspective, especially the alliteration within the poem.  Notice how the second and seventh lines both are loaded with alliterated words, and so have a mirror effect to the poem.  Notice how each of the lines have six syllables except the last, which has five.  Notice how each line, short as they are, is a sentence.  The sixth and seventh lines are separated by a comma, but they are each self-contained clauses. 

You could also look at the poem from its structural design.  The poem seems to divide in two.  The first four lines form an exposition, and the last four a narrative.   

Anna O’Neil focuses on the poem’s meaning, especially as the poem jumps from leaf to Eden to dawn.  She has a really good understanding of the line, “So dawn goes down to day.”  The poem’s meaning rests on it, and I’m not going to steal her brilliance.  You’ll have to go over to read it.  

 In prose writing those unprepared jumps (leaf to Eden to dawn) would be considered “choppy” writing, and therefore bad prose, but in poetry those leaps are called compression, and provide a charge to the poem, and therefore good poetry. 

One thing that isn’t mentioned that I noticed is how much power the word “so” has in the poem.  The entire poem is sixty words and “so” turns up three times, twice at the beginning of a line, lines that are sequential: “So Eden sank to grief,/So dawn goes down to day.”  Those two lines that begin with so, the only two that have a comma between them and so form a compound sentence are the two lines that compress the narrative and enlarge the poem’s meaning.  They are the most important lines of the poem.  But also the two so’s there establishes sequential links.  “So” is an adverb that means “for this or that reason; hence; therefore.”  “Then” in the preceding line acts in the same way.  Causal links are established that form the basis of a mythic concept, and indirectly alluding to the causal links from Edenic fall.

But now look at the other line with “so.”  “But only so an hour.”  At first I thought that was a typo.  The natural way to phrase that line would be, “but only for an hour.”  I searched around and all the postings of the poem have it, and in a recorded version (which I embed below) of Frost reading the poem himself, he does use so.  That is how Frost wrote it.  Why “so” as a word choice there?  Well, it does echo the word that will come in the important sixth and seventh lines.  But “so” here is an adjective, meaning “true as stated or reported; conforming with reality or the fact.”  It emphasizes the transient nature of the situation.  It’s only true for that moment.  It most certainly is the better word choice.

It’s a lovely little poem and like so many of Frost’s poems the simplicity is only on the surface; there is much depth within.  Here is Frost himself reading the poem.