Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Repair a Saint Statue and Survive a Broken Heart

This past week I had the opportunity to be a part of an incident where someone's heart got broken.  Her heart had been aching for a long time but a low grade chronic kind of ache that she could push below the surface of everyday living and  pretend other things were more important.  It works for many of us but really, we all should be grateful to have an aching heart finally break so we are forced to repair it once and for all.
Broken Infant of Prague Statue

One of the things I do for a living and love doing is repairing saint statues. When someone brings me a broken statue it is a rewarding challenge to glue the pieces back together, adding new clay where parts are too shattered, touching up the paint and polishing the gold leaf that has been taken for granted. I would love to help my friend by repairing her heart, making it as if nothing ever happened but it's not nearly as easy.

She could pray to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes but who wants to believe that a broken heart is a lost cause?  She could ask for the intersession of St. Valentine in hope of recovering the romantic love that was destroyed but it's impossible to rekindle that kind of thing until you know the fracture is not irreparable.  It would be best to call on St. Valentine later.  I suppose she could focus on St. Lucy, the Patron Saint of Vision, and wish for greater insight the whole time her heart just ached but regrets of the past won't heal the present.

Molding a Stronger Foundation during Restoration
One possibility is an 8th century knight from Burgundy she could pray to named St. Gengulphus, who is known to work many miracles and was highly respected in the community, a particular favorite in his region.  He is the Patron Saint of Difficult Relationships, victims of deceit and unfaithfulness. It seems he had some class, leaving his unfaithful wife to become a hermit while still providing for her, wishing her no harm.  I'm not sure if he can heal my friend's broken heart but it might be a place for her to begin.  Me thinks it might be better to focus on the simple things of daily living, the beauty of the sunrise, the smell of autumn, true friends that protect and support you and keeping the bird feeder full like my mom always did.  That's when I invoke St. Therese, who said on her death-bed, "I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretense".

So the other day, when I had the privilege of repairing a broken Infant of Prague statue I remembered St. Therese's  words.  I think about the people who bring me their statues, hoping for a repair that fixes both their beloved statue and their sense of loss.  There is always great emotion attached to wanting a broken saint fixed.  It could be because of who gave you the statue.  Maybe your mother or Grandma wanted to protect you in the only way they knew how or it might be because of how it got broken....a couple of grand-kids who thought the Infant of Prague would like to play dress-up and everyone ended up in tears.  Or maybe a particular saint's story is motivation for you to stay true to your values, who you love and how you love, helping you to remember to make the right choices.

The Infant of Prague after being repaired at Chris Hart Studio
When your favorite statue takes a tumble and you bring it to me, here is what I do.  First, I sort out every single piece, painstakingly assess the damage and brutally get rid of the parts that do no good.  Usually, I create a stronger foundation and piece by piece I patiently glue, sand, mold and paint until the statue is beautiful again, no matter how long it takes.  I don't strive for perfection because the little dings and dents are a reminder that there is a deep story attached to how broken things get repaired and that includes my friend's broken heart.

In 1631 when the Saxons seized Prague,  the Carmelite monastery was destroyed and the Infant statue was discarded.   The statue was rediscovered by a priest in the rubble in 1637 with broken hands.  It is said that the saint sat on a shelf until the priest heard it speak these words.

"Have mercy on me and I will have mercy on you.
Give me hands and I will give you peace.
The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."

Since that time, the Infant of Prague has been credited with many miraculous healings, one of which I pray will include my friend's broken heart.