We have been blessed this year with the gift of a set of 14 beautiful icons, which are now displayed in the school. The icons were the gift of an anonymous donor.
The icons are displayed in the main hallway of the school, alongside the cross, which itself was a gift from a school family many years ago. The icons depict major feasts in the year, relating to the life of Christ. One icon, for example, represents His nativity, another His baptism, another His entry into Jerusalem, and another His ascension. There are 14 in all.
The word “icon” is used to mean a religious work of art, usually a painting, from the Eastern Orthodox or Catholic churches. Icons are typically representations of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, angels, or saints. They are commonly found in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but are now making a comeback, so to speak, in American Catholicism. Where it’s long been common for Catholics to assign colors to feast days, the Orthodox Church assigns icons to the feasts, marking the year with symbols of important observances.
In addition to being beautiful and inspiring, these particular icons of the feasts were chosen for our school because of their teaching value. Each image is itself filled with numerous images and stories.
As Father Nathan explained, the timing of the gift was particularly nice. The archdiocese has been encouraging schools to strengthen Catholic identity in programs, facilities, and curriculum, something that is important to us as well. There are lots of approaches to this, for example the priests coming into the classroom to teach and students participating in morning Mass. Catholic artwork is another good approach. This year we’re celebrating our school’s 60th anniversary celebration, and it was a perfect opportunity to do something a little special in the school.
Where previously the wooden cross was the major visible symbol in our school, the main hallway is now book-ended with the cross and icons on one end, a reliquary and shrine to our beloved patron saint Mother Cabrini on the other end, and the Blessed Mother in the middle. The shrine to Mother Cabrini was built by our Director of Maintenance, Russ Lee. The reliquary case holds a relic of Mother Cabrini which our parish received at an earlier time, and which we now have an appropriate way to display and honor. It’s flanked by a carved figure of Mother Cabrini on one side, and a large portrait of her on the other. One final touch is yet to be added, a wooden cutout of the school’s heart logo, modeled after the image of the Sacred Heart to which Mother Cabrini was devoted.
The statue of Mary was previously in the library. It has recently been repainted, and is now housed in a maple cabinet built by Russ, in an alcove that previously held a bubbler.
We truly appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the work done by Russ, and the generous donation of the beautiful and meaningful icons. We hope that you will take an opportunity to visit the school, to pray, and to view these wonderful new works of Catholic art.
Father Nathan blesses the icons (and teaches 5th graders about how and why we bless them.)