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 have 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 using any words. Through the generosity of a parishioner, Feeney was
commissioned to design a bronze sculpture of Christ to be used on a new processional cross at Saint Louis de Montfort Church (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, Saint Louis de Montfort started 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 and 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. Back in 2010, the church completed a renovation and expansion of sacred space that included a new altar, presiders chair, ambo (pulpit), ambry (holder for sacred vessels) and the blown glass for sacred Chrism oils. 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. Smith and Feeney 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 on the cross meant to draw the People of God into a deeper awareness of their lives and into their role and responsibility in the wider world. The back of the cross is notably centered on Christ’s resurrection. Liturgically colored gems and 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. It’s Jesus on the cross that tells the story! 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