Edmonia Lewis went to Rome, back in 1865. And she made a copy of Michelangelo’s Moses (among other things, not to mention her original works). I think Edmonia Lewis might very well win my prize for most-interesting 19th-century American woman of African descent.
Anyway, her Moses can be found in a charming warren of display cases on the third floor of the American Art Museum in the old Patent Office building in Washington.
I must fault the Smithsonian on this score: They have Michelangelo’s original located in “St. Peter’s” in Rome. While this is, strictly speaking, correct, it misleads. The statue sits in the church of St. Peter in Chains, not in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Which Cardinal of the Roman Church holds the title of San Pietro in Vinculi? Yes. His Eminence Donald Card. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. Thus, he presides over the original and the copy.
Plus, we present a Winslow Homer Civil-War painting, “Prisoners from the Front.”
Jonah went to the enormous city of Nineveh and informed the people that the Lord intended to destroy the place in forty days. In other words, the prophet presented himself as a sign to the Ninevites, a sign of the transcendent justice of Almighty God.
The king of Nineveh saw the sign and believed. Speaking on behalf of the whole city, the king repented of his injustice and declared that all the Ninevites would lay aside the violence that each had in hand.
The king took for granted that he and all his people had violence in hand. This was a fair assumption. One does not like to generalize, but we can safely say of ourselves that we sinners generally have some kind of violence in hand. Maybe not shedding blood. But violence to someone’s good name, or violence to someone’s vulnerable feelings, or violence to good order and someone’s rightful place. Our egos are voracious; they make us do violence, often under-cover.
So, talk about a good thing to do for Lent: to recognize the violence I have in hand for what it is, and lay it aside. Because look at what happened next in the Book of Jonah: When the Ninevites laid aside the violence they had in hand, the Lord laid aside the violence He had in hand.
We know the Lord is meek and gentle. But we also know that He is unfailingly righteous. He is perfect peace in Himself. But His omnipotent truth and justice destroys evil and deceit. Do we think the tsunami in Japan was a formidable force? The truth of God will roll like a tsunami over all lies, and it will make the north of Japan look like a kiddie pool. God does not will violence, but His willing of peace does violence to disorder, selfishness, and pride.
So, dear brothers and sisters, let us lay aside the violence we have in hand—the jealousy, grudges, turf wars, one-upmanship, gossip, selfishness, pettiness, meanness—let’s lay it all aside and beg God with desperate hearts:
Lord, we know that in justice we deserve condemnation, but have mercy on us anyway, forgive us, and help us!
…In the first game of the NCAA tournament, four players fouled out. Sportscaster lingo: “DQ” for disqualified. Five fouls? Dairy Queen.
By the by, the Dairy Queen density of southwest Virginny crushes the DQ density of metro Washington. Not even close. At this moment, there are 16 DQs within twenty miles. (Total number of Dairy Queen in the Archdiocese of Washington? Five.) Cannot wait for Lent to be over.
Today was a gift which the good Lord, St. Peter, the saints of Rome throughout the ages, and Michelangelo gave to us.
So that the loving fantasy
which made of art an idol and a king for me,
I now will know with how much sin was laden,
with that which all men desire against their will
Nor painting, nor sculpture, now can calm
The soul that turns to that divine love
That in the cross opens its arms to receive us.
On our busride from Orvieto to Rome, we were treated to a brief talk by an expert on Michelangelo. The expert is Dr. Ann White, my mom. She quoted these lines from a sonnet which the great artist of Renaissance Rome wrote near the end of his life.
Michelangelo is: the sculptor of the Pieta, the painter of the Sistine Chapel, and the architect of the St. Peter’s Basilica, among other things.
We were walking across St. Peter’s Square as the sun was rising. Our Mass was in the crypt of the Basilica, just a few yards from the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.
There is nothing like being in St. Peter’s Basilica between 7:00 and 9:00 in the morning, when the only thing going on is quiet prayer at all the altars. (There are dozens of altars in the largest church in the world.)
We had reached the final goal of our pilgrimage. Deacon Walker preached about St. Peter, about his remarkable transformation from humble fisherman to shepherd of souls.
The tomb of our dearly beloved late Pope John Paul II was just a few feet from our chapel. We were surrounded by saints and popes.
After Mass, we made our way to the Vatican Museums, the Papal Palace of former days. It is the most extensive art collection on earth. We saw sculptures, wall paintings, tapestries–not to mention the splendid architecture of the buildings themselves.
The tour of the Museums concludes with a visit to the Sistine Chapel, site of the Papal Conclaves.
Then we toured the Basilica, stopping to visit Bl. Pope John XXIII, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Pius X, and the Chair of St. Peter. We saw countless magnificent works of art, including the Pieta, Bernini’s bronze altar canopy, and his famous sculpture on Pope Urban VIII’s tomb.
Some of us braved the climb to the lantern at the top of the Basilica’s dome. From there we could see the entire city of Rome, bathed in mid-day sunlight.
After lunch, a group of us took a tour of the Vatican “Scavi,” the excavations of the cemetery in which St. Peter was buried. Scientific archaeology has determined that there is no reason to doubt that the altar on which the Pope says Mass is directly above the tomb of the Holy Apostle. We were able to lay our eyes on the original grave of St. Peter, and to see his bones, which are now kept in a plexiglass box. We recited the Creed and the Our Father.
The sun was setting when we emerged from the Basilica. We had spent the entire day in the world’s smallest sovereign state, governed by the Successor of the fisherman we had come to visit.
St. Peter saw to it that many, many graces were poured out on us humble pilgrims. Surely there are some graces in it for you, too.
Hopefully one of them will be a renewed sense of communion with the universal Church of Christ, founded two millenia ago. The Roman Catholic Church confesses the faith of the Apostles. She is given life by the power of the Holy Spirit. She embraces the entire earth.
In other words, She is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. She is shepherded by the Pope.