New Processional Cross Blessing to take place in 2018 at Saint Louis de Montfort Church in Fishers, Indiana.
Sacred artists communicate Christ’s message which is why artists are so important in the Catholic Church. Maybe the names Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Botticell, Berini or Rembrandt strike a chord, maybe not. Over time, I developed a deep appreciation for the many forms of art that depict the rich history and profound meaning of something much greater than what meets the eye.
Likewise, local Indianapolis artist, Ryan Feeney tells a story without any words. Through the generosity of Saint Louis de Montfort parishioners, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a new processional cross was made possible. Feeney is the commissioned artist chosen to design a bronze sculpture of Christ. The processional cross is the final piece of nine sacred art pieces that integrate into the 2011 renovation and enhancement at Saint Louis de Montfort Church in Fishers, Indiana.
Feeney’s task was to tell the story of pain and suffering that Jesus endured. Suffering is one of the greatest mysteries of the human experience. Pope John Paul II wrote a letter on the Christian meaning of human suffering:
We have all been there. Suffering is inescapable. Physical, mental or emotional, it is a dark place and there isn’t a soul on earth that can’t relate. We wonder why me? And, then hopefully we realize God is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him. Scripture tells us “For Christ died for sins once and for all, a good man on behalf of sinners, in order to lead you to God. He was put to death physically, but made alive spiritually” (1 Peter 3:18).
Saint Pope John Paul II said, “And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious!” (SD).
Feeney, a full time firefighter for the Indianapolis Fire Department works daily in life threating situations. You may have heard his name being tossed around like a football as the Colt’s unveiled Feeney’s most notable half-ton bronze sculpture of Peyton Manning in October 2017. By sharing his God given talents, Feeney’s work continues to impact countless others for generations to come. Feeney said, “getting the job for the Colt’s was a bit of a Hail Mary”.
Feeney is a native of Indiana and has a growing list of accomplishments that include the Peace Dove sculpture at the Indianapolis Library; the Fallen Deputy memorial at the entrance of the Marion County Jail; the life size corpus of Jesus above the altar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Indianapolis; a fireman at the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union which represents duty, honor and sacrifice; a bust of Father Thomas Scecina who was killed in WWII is prominently displayed at Scecina Memorial High School; and a bronze eagle rests at the Indianapolis 9/11 Memorial.
In searching for a bronze sculptor, the art team at Saint Louis de Montfort landed at Sincerus Bronze Art Center, a full-service foundry in Indianapolis where Feeney was finalizing the life size Peyton Manning bronze sculpture. Walking through the foundry step by step, seeing concept drawings turn into modern day clay molds is awe inspiring.
Saint Louis de Montfort Church is not new to the idea of commissioning artists in Indiana. In 2010, the church completed a renovation and expansion of the sacred space that included a new altar, presiders chair, ambo (pulpit), ambry (holder for sacred vessels), the blown glass for sacred Chrism oils, processional candles, altar candles and the sanctuary lamp. It was an important aspect to find local artists to enhance the liturgical space because the Catholic Church prefers the integrity and energy of a piece of art produced individually by the labor of an artist above objects that are mass produced (BLS 147).
The bronze corpus bears the weight of mystery, awe, reverence and wonder. Parishioner, Adam Smith was an integral part of the process that began in 2015. God called Adam Smith to pray about the design for a new processional cross staff.
Several months after his ordination in 1700, Saint Louis de Montfort designed a cross that stood in a prominent place in the corner of his meeting room. On it he inscribed, in simple and forceful evangelical terms, the glory of suffering with Christ, the crucified Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. The cross has become known as the Wisdom Cross, or the Cross of Poitiers. The Mariology of Saint Louis de Montfort describes the meaning, the symbols, the love of the cross as a follower of Christ and the desire for crosses as a yearning to be totally conformed to Christ Jesus in His dying so that the world may rise.
Feeney and Smith talked about anatomy class and why every part of the body of Jesus is stretched the way it is. The triceps, ligaments and torso tell the story of suffering. The bronze corpus (Latin for body) compliments the fabricated cross created by Adam Smith. Smith incorporated a replica of the church stained-glass windows and symbolic stones on the back of the cross, notably centered on Christ’s resurrection. The cross is meant to draw the People of God into a deeper awareness of their lives and into their role and responsibility in the wider world. A carved logo of (John 13:14-15) is a reminder to serve others like Christ did in the washing of the feet discourse.
The central image of Christianity is a crucifix, calling to mind the passion, resurrection and Christ’s final coming in glory. Every work of Christian art shares in the image of suffering, death and resurrection, recognition that by his wounds we are healed (BLS 144). So, the next time you wear a cross around your neck or kneel before the cross, remember that it isn’t the cross that tells the story of Catholicism. It’s Jesus on the cross that sets our faith apart from others! The crucifix is the most prominent symbol of Christianity.
(BLS) Built on Living Stones. Art, Architecture and Worship. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(SD) SALVIFICI DOLORIS Apostolic Letter. Saint Pope John Paul II. 1984.
By: Kerin Buntin, M.A. Pastoral Theology