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 many forms of art that depict rich history and profound meaning.
Likewise, local Indianapolis artist, Ryan Feeney tells a story without using any words. Through the generosity of Saint Louis de Montfort parishioners, Bob and Joan Smith, a new processional cross was made possible. Feeney was the commissioned artist chosen to design a bronze sculpture of Christ. The processional cross is the last of nine liturgical pieces integrated 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 salvific suffering in 1984. 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).
We have all been there! Suffering is inescapable. Be it physical, mental or emotional, it can be a dark place. We might ask God, why me? And, then hopefully we realize that 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).
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 the lives of 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 around Indianapolis 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 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 first saw the bronze memorial shoes of the late, Jen Maginot at Cathedral High School. Her bronze shoes led to 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. In 2010, the church renovation and expansion that includes the altar, presiders chair, ambo (pulpit), ambry (holder for sacred vessels), glass blown vessels used to hike the sacred 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 art process that began in 2015. God called Adam Smith to pray about what the design for a new processional cross would look like. Adam collaborated with Fr. Pat while visiting many churches in Italy, in 2016.
In 1700, several months after the ordination of Saint Louis de Montfort, Montfort himself designed a cross to carry with him that was otherwise kept in the corner of his meeting room. On it he inscribed, in simple and forceful evangelical terms: CARRY YOUR CROSS, DESIRE CROSSES. The glory of suffering with Christ, the crucified Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. Montfort’s cross became known as the Wisdom Cross, or the Cross of Poitiers. The Mariology of described in Saint Louis de Montfort books covers the meaning, the symbols and the love of the cross as a follower praying to Jesus through Mary.
Feeney and Smith recalled anatomy class and discussed the reason why every part of the body of Jesus is stretched the way it is. The triceps, ligaments and torso tell a 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, symbolic icons on stones and the French translation of a prayer written by the church patron Saint Louis de Montfort.
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.
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 just the cross alone that tells a story. It’s Jesus’ dying and rising on the cross that sets our faith apart! 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