Monday, February 1, 2010

Heading Home - The Creche in St. Peter's Square - Exhibition on the Holy Patrons of Europe

Today is a travel day (Rome-Ottawa, via Frankfurt). It will be good to get back to the Capital for Winterlude (February 5-21), skating on the Rideau Canal and, most of all, the daily routine.

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Yesterday was a day for sight-seeing (limited because of the rain that fell off and on most of the day) and visiting:

° at noon a trip to St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father's noon-time message, recitation of the Angelus, interaction with youth who encouraged the Pope in his search for Peace in the Middle East and, after greetings in several languages, his Apostolic Blessing;

° then, with Father Owen Keenan (Toronto) acompanying me, a visit for pranzo (midday dinner) at the Canadian College;

° and finally a visit to the Museum of the Palazzo Venezia on the closing day of the exhibition "Il Potere e la Grazia" (Power and Grace) on the Catholic Roots and the Saints of Europe as Depicted in Art (see below), which, as it was the last Sunday of the month meant admission was free and therefore the line-up to get in was more than an hour long! ("Pazienza" as the Romans say quite often: you need patience to live here!)

[There are news reports today that the Holy Father and his close associates attended the exhibition shortly before it closed.]

The Christmas Crib stays up in St. Peter's Square until February 2 (the Lord's Presentation in the Temple forty days after Christmas). Here are some shots of the creche during the day and at night, the tree this year was given by the Wallonia section of Belgium.

As the Romans love to do (in their devotion to the Story of the Nativity), over the forty days, the Christ Child moves from the manger into the arms of the Blessed Mother and grows noticeably

The tableau of Bethlehem includes, on one side, shepherds and their families going about daily life and, on the other side, fishermen drawn to the manger (anticipating the calling of the apostles later on to be fishers of men)

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Holy martyrs and mystics, warriors and hermits, bishops and kings, religious and lay saints all characterize the Christian story as well as the political and cultural roots of Europe.

The exhibit was the brainchild of a priest, Dom Alessio Geretti and was sponsored the Italian Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Commission for Culture. A hundred beautiful works of art show the many saints of Europe, their mysticism and their social service to the needy. Some of the major artists are represented: Caravaggio, Titian, Van Ecyk, Memling, Mantegna, Del Sarto, Veronese, El Greco, Guercino, Murillo, Holbein, Tiepolo, Ingres to mention only a few.

Leonardo da Vinci's St. John the Baptist is one of the major attractions, there is also an extensive video on the study of the painting by technicians

El Greco's representation of Saint Louis with a Page is part of a whole section on royal saints, such as Boris and Gleb, Vladimir, Stanislaus, Elizabeth of Hungary, etc (from both east and west)

The exhibition closes with the six saints named by Paul VI and John Paul II as patrons of Europe: St. Benedict; Sts. Cyril and Methodius; Saints Catherine of Siena, Brigid of Sweden and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

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