Kathryn Swegart considers the importance of exposing our children to sacred art and allowing their imaginations to be enriched by the faith.
Candlelight flickered on the face of my 5-year-old granddaughter, Anna, her eyes riveted on the small replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà that stand on a table in our prayer corner. Our family gathered to pray the Rosary. Anna appeared to be mesmerized by the statue. I wondered what bright thoughts crackled through her mind.
Millions of pilgrims have shared Anna’s enchantment with Michelangelo’s masterpiece, commissioned by a French cardinal in 1497. Sculpted from a single block of marble, the Italian sculptor said it was the most beautiful piece of marble he had ever seen. As he worked on the sculpture, Michelangelo could “see” the image inside. It was his job to free the image of the sorrowful mother holding the body of her dead son.
Once asked why he created no expression on the Virgin’s face, the artist responded that it was impossible for anyone to recreate the anguish of Mary at that moment. Mary is portrayed as a young woman, too young to be the mother of a grown son. Questioned about her youthful appearance, Michelangelo expressed his belief that since Mary was a chaste and Holy Virgin, she aged slower than other women. Jesus is also proportionately smaller than Mary, giving the appearance that she was holding a child.
Anna continued to stare at the Pietà and finally whispered.
“It looks like she is holding her baby.”
In her innocence, this child sensed the message Michelangelo unlocked in the marble. To be around children is often to be surprised by their insights.
How blessed we are in our Catholic faith to turn our hearts and minds to all that is good, true, and beautiful, especially in the art found in our churches. Take time to have your little ones enter a quiet church, perhaps outside of Mass, and gaze at stained-glass windows that tell the story of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and many saints.
You might be surprised at the little gems that spring from their sweet imaginations.