Thomas Marsh, the sculptor, was kind enough to get in touch with me after the post about his work to tell me a little more about the Rosary Walk referred to in yesterday’s post about his work. He even sent me some sketches he has produced in advance of creating it, along with a description of his intentions for the church, St Isadore the Farmer Catholic Church in Orange, Virginia.
I thought that it was worth a look to see how a sculptor describes his vision in advance, both in words and in preparitory sketches:
When completed, the Rosary Prayer Walk, with an over life-size statue of Mary and the Child Jesus at the high point of the walk, will span just over 75 feet. This sacred and beautiful space will beckon those who for the first time notice the statue as they drive by the front of St. Isidore on Highway 15. It will be a magnet for those who attend Mass at St. Isidore, and for those Catholics in the region who hear about this new sacred space. What will be this beckoning force, this magnetic attraction?
In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of the “exitus-reditus” (movement outward and returning) character of worship. He likened this movement to man’s experience of God, of leaving and returning, and ultimately returning home to God forever. In this prayer walk, the Rosary is laid out before the prayerful person as an elliptical path, to descend down the gentle slope of the hill, and return upward, homeward. In the manner of Christ one climbs the slope of the hill, not only in sight of the Cross (held by the Child Jesus), but toward the sculpture of Mary, Queen of Heaven, and Christ, King of the Universe, a reminder of our heavenly home. As the high point and focal point of the design, the sculpture has a symbolic and representational power to draw us “…to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God…” (CCC 2502).
The Rosary has the potential to be experienced as movement in a large space. Usually the “small scale” practice of praying the Rosary, the traditional beads with the very physical sense of touch, offers an intimate quietness, a quiet closeness. Yet Christ often went to the mountain, to the “high place” to pray. There is an expansiveness of sight and breath, and a special depth when there are great vistas surrounding one’s prayer experience. Our Rosary prayer walk will offer such an expansive experience. The rich and fertile beauty of the rolling rural Orange County vistas, with their seasonal colors and atmospheric variety, invite one to engage such a space in prayer. To wed the Rosary with this spatial beauty has the potential to provide a profound prayerful experience, a special path to God.
On a “practical” level, there are pressing contemporary issues which so often manifest in the assault of secular culture on Christianity. We know that praying the Rosary is one of our great strengths in combatting these assaults in our trying times. What a tremendous force for good would be the praying of the Rosary on this fully human scale: one decade, ten natural steps, repeated, culminating in petitioning the Queen of Heaven as intercessor to the King of the Universe! Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! And what a natural evangelization this would be for those who are not Catholic but notice this sculpture from the highway, and wonder, “What is this about?”
Our Rosary Prayer walk with its sculpture of Mary and the Child Jesus will create a sacred site, filled with beauty, to add to the wonderful landscape adjacent to St. Isidore Catholic Church. Beauty will beckon, and the attraction will pull us closer to God.
In case, you think the sketches look rough, here is a reminder of what the quality of the finished work will be like – relief sculpture of one of the meditations upon the Sorrow of St Joseph. And at the top, a sculpture of Enroljas from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.