Saturday, December 24, 2016

Patron Saint of Peace. Our Lady of Fatima

It is Christmas Eve and I am exhausted by the retail frenzy that begins for me at my studio in October.  I have the most gracious, kind and caring customers any business could wish to have.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't give thanks that I can do what I love for a living because of the many who have supported me. I enjoy the people who come in once a year just to appreciate the decor and get caught up on our lives. I enjoy the customers who buy lots of things from me but I, also look forward to the ones who come just to buy a bar of soap and chat. In the 25 years I have had a working studio, my customers and I have shared our lives.... divorces, caring for an elderly parents, loss of loved ones, happiness of finding a new love, children and their successes and failures, tales of travels all over the world, stories of our beloved pets, defeating cancer and other illnesses,  loss of jobs or houses, finding new careers and new homes, fears and uncertainty about our community and country, our dreams, hopes and successes.  Over the years, as we have become friends, we have found support in getting to know each other and sharing our stories. 

Gold Leafing details on Our Lady of Fatima
I recently received an order for a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and as I always do, I read her lengthy story again from beginning to end.  I like to remind myself of the story surrounding the statue so as I paint I can stay present with it's meaning.  In the past I have discovered I telegraph through my hands and paintbrush what ever mood I'm in and that can make for some disgruntled looking saint statues if I'm not careful.  You certainly don't want a saint that looks like she has PMS or is bad-tempered because she skipped a meal.  Our Lady of Fatima needs to have a serene, quietly reflective and deeply spiritual face which helps to impart her message of salvation and peace.

Almost 100 years ago, Our Lady of Fatima appeared six different times to three peasant- children in Fatima, Portugal during 1917.  Her visits were preceded by three apparitions in 1916 by an Angle of Peace who prepared the children for Our Lady's visits to come. The details are lengthy and the debates, discussions and interpretations have occupied many theologians and scholars for years.  I encourage you to read the details of her visits and of the messages she shared.  Generally, most agree the purpose of the apparitions was to help people grow in faith, hope and love.  Since the birth of Christ, we have had the option to choose what is good and to know evil doesn't have the last word.  "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."(John 16:33)  Our Lady of Fatima asks us to trust in this promise.

The base of the statue before gold leaf is added
The gold leaf details added

Our Lady of Fatima statue is usually shown standing on a cloud-like base, wearing a white gown and mantle trimmed in gold with a rosary and often a crown.  The statues can vary depending on the simplicity or embellishment of the clothing.  I use gold leaf on the edge of her gown and on the statue's base and other details.  To keep her story authentic, I then glaze and age the painted surfaces to look like all eternity.

Christmas Eve is a time to remember the events around the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus.  It is also a time to gather with family and friends and a time for gift giving.  It's a time when I reflect on how my life has been filled with so many people who are kind and good and have met the challenges of life steadfastly and honestly regardless of what their faith may be called.  It's a time when the message of Our Lady of Fatima speaks clearly above the din of the busy Holiday retail season to trust that no matter how many challenges, sorrows or burdens we carry, it is our choice to choose good over evil.  Her message of love, hope and peace is seemingly, more profound in 2016 than it was a hundred years ago.         


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