Last night the Fraternity celebrated Foundation Day with Mass in St Mary's Church, Drogheda. We had a good crowd, many of whom were members, but non members also attended. During the Mass the new painting of St Genesius was blessed.
The painting, entitled St Genesius the Actor, is the work of Irish artist Richard Moore, whose main speciality is landscapes, though he has done some wonderful portraits. The painting caught the attention of those who were at Mass and afterwards a crowd gathered in front of it to study it and then, wonderfully, they were drawn to pray. Some said to me that now they see Genesius as a real person - while the Icon is beautiful, they said, it was stylised: here in this painting is a man you can speak to, relate to. I was delighted to hear that - we wanted a realist image of the Saint to inspire devotion and it seems this painting did that last night.
A few thoughts on the work: In the painting we see Genesius who looks directly at the viewer seeking to engage them. He holds the cross to his heart and carries the palm of martyrdom. He is dressed in the simple tunic of a Roman slave, with a red cloak which not only symbolises martyrdom, but also, in the iconographical tradition, baptism. His hands seem rough, not refined and delicate, but the hands of man who knows hard work and hard times: actors in Genesius's day were slaves for the most part and did not have an easy life. His face I find intriguing - it is the face of a man with a history, a man who suffered, but also a man who is curious and interested, a man who is calling out for an encounter with you. Many remarked on the face, on his eyes, his, perhaps, enigmatic smile.
Around him the sky is a turbulent blue, full of activity, from which a serene halo and a gold cross emerge (we are sanctified in the midst of the world, not divorced or removed from it). The Saint stands on a cloud, representing heaven, yet he is not disconnected from the earth. It seems as if heaven looks out onto the earth, and certainly in terms of a Saint's intercession this is true. The Saints are not gone to into an oblivion, detached from us, they are still very much involved in our lives - if we let them. Behind Genesius we see the city of Rome, distinguished by its ancient buildings some he would have known. On the right is the Roman forum with the arch of Septimius Severus in the foreground. In the background, above the forum the Colosseum can be seen. On the left we have the Teatro di Marcello, one of Rome's ancient theatres, as it was in St Genesius's time. Behind it the woods (pines) of Rome, with the facade of the Church of Santa Susanna where Genesius is now buried. The symbols of his art are depicted on the right: the mask of tragedy, cut from the other, falls away, the mask of comedy, seeming as if liberated from the earth looks towards the heavens as if it is about to be brought up.
Artist Richard Moore with his painting, St Genesius the Actor
Thanks to Richard for his work and for bringing a wonderful vision of St Genesius to life. We will print copies of the painting as prayer cards.
Another development. As Caroline McCamley notes on her blog, the Council of the Fraternity have decided to proclaim Pope John Paul II secondary patron of the Fraternity following his beatification. We will have to apply to Rome for permission to celebrate his feast since, as a Blessed, his cult will be confined to the diocese of Rome and those dioceses and religious congregations which have received permission to do so. I do not know how our application will go: your prayers will be appreciated. Pope John Paul II was one of the inspirations for our Fraternity.