Jeanette Lewis B.Des. Hons
My childhood was artistically privileged - thanks to the splendour of our Catholic Churches!
As a child I would look up during Mass into the high ceiling vault of our parish Church and daydream about painting heaven up there; so that people might imagine the joy of being with God.
When I was "all grown up", I obtained a degree in Sculpture and design, and acquired a husband and family. On graduation, there had been scant support for a Catholic artist creating religious works in England.
During this time it seemed that the new "dark ages" had arrived... Not for me; but for Church interiors as I had once known them. They were pared down to accommodate a wave of modernist ideas.
| I can only generalise on an era which Church history is yet to define; imagery became bland and industrial, with emphasis on utility rather than the kind of beauty which serves to uplift one's spirit. The connection of beauty being an element of worship is mentioned often in scripture. One instance being EXODUS 28: 2 "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty..."
On reading John Paul 2nd's letter to artists, I decided to take him by his word and "Put out into the deep". It was just one of several prompts which helped me to discern that I was to use my artistic skills in the service of the Church.
My artistic contribution is a small furrow perhaps, for those who will plant the seeds of a future "springtime" of the Church.
Like many artists, I choose Saint Joseph for my patron, who served God by trusting in Him, and providing for his family by the work of his hands; I also have recourse to the Blessed Fra Giovanni the beauty of whose works inspired his religious brothers to name him "Fra Angelico."
My husband David is a skilled craftsman in his own right; he is a time served upholsterer, specialising inTraditional upholstery and
Before tutoring students in apprenticeships, he worked for an interior design company and a large contract upholstery concern.
(see our Church Furnishings Refurbished and Upholstery page)
Saint Teresa of Avila, In her book "Life" writes that in her search for greater perfection, she was once considering to deprive the Carmelite monastery of its religious images.
She thought thereby to promote in her sisters greater detachment from "things."Jesus then instructed her that she should not be like those faiths who abhor images.
He told her that holy images are an important means of stimulating the love of God, and she should therefore let the works remain...
(One of my paintings of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.)
The image from my childhood which has most endured for me; is that of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.
It depicts the child Jesus clinging tightly to his mother as he sees his future passion. From it we (that is my siblings and I) learned to do as Jesus did in this life - to always stay close to her...especially through times of difficulty.
The *Novena devotion associated with the Icon was introduced to my family by my grandmother. It was continued as a church service by my father when he became a Deacon.
This Lady chapel which held the Icon was a space in which my parents, grandparents and siblings spent many an evening in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament; such a sacred space was the "best" place for people to gather and "meet".
Sadly, "improvements" were made, and the beautiful Marble altar and Shrine with its Triptych flanked by angels, became hidden by a large curtain to provide a "meeting room" space of a different kind.
As the years have passed, this image of Mary and her small son (as they contemplate the forthcoming passion), has helped each of us to appreciate the God, whose humility allows us to share in His great work of redemption. He has given each of us something to contribute.
*(A Novena is nine days of Prayer.)
For me; religious art is a labour of love; because it serves to raise the heart and mind to God in anticipation of our true home;
viewing it brings to mind 1 Corinthians 13; "For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face...."
(This site is dedicated to the memory of my dear late Father; Rev. Deacon Gerard Buckley R.I.P.)