Postscript to Recent Post: Sketches of Thomas Marsh’s Rosary Walk

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.

Marsh.5

6 Comments

  1. Along with these wonderful images I would like to share how powerfully moving Bob Hurd’s sung ” A Contemplative Rosary: Praying the Mysteries of the Rosary with Scripture, Song and Icons ” ( OCP Publications) has been for me…a new, opening experience in praying the Rosary by way of musical chant.

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    1. I’m glad you like the images, Melanie and thanks for the comment. I don’t know the chants your describe, but have to admit that in general I am not a great fan of OCP music – I find their Mass setting to sentimental for my taste.

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      1. I understand your reservations regarding OCP music. This, however, has a reverence and simplicity I was not expecting and I find it an especially moving way to pray the rosary during my commutes in the “monastic cell” of my car.

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      2. Hi Melanie, I say if it works use it! I admit I don’t know the piece you are referring to and you never know I might like it. I was thinking about my general impressions of OCP.

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  2. Re: OCP Music –, well, horses for courses. Sometimes sentimental does it. I regard the whole Baroque era as busily sentimental; and Baroque religious art makes me twitch all over, and edge for the door; but it’s still considered good art.

    As a child, I liked Victorian Gothic; as an adult, the disciplined grandeur of Perpendicular; in middle age, the rustic strength of early English Gothic, and in old age the wonders of Romanesque in several eras and countries, and with it, the world of the icon.

    And thanks to this blog, I have gone weak at the knees (with delight) at the prospect reviving an authentic English style icon in the St Alban’s style. I have nominated the St Alban’s style icon for the “official” style of the Anglican Ordinariate. (Spread the word !)

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    1. Hi Adrian, Thank you for commenting. I would say horses for courses as well, but only partially. There is a place for personal response but more importantly there is an objective element as well. The evidence is that OCP Music rarely does sentimental does it (neither do Victorian hymns). That is one reason (not the only reason) why so many are leaving the Church as they grow up, and converts are outnumbered by people leaving the Church by 6:1. They can’t stand the music. Those that are left are the few who do, and the tone deaf. My ideas are in ong article about it on this blog called Why Do So Many Choir Directors Have Van Gogh’s Ear for Music?

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