The churches in Europe are so filled with art, not just visual (sculpture, painting, mosaic, architecture) but aural (chanting, liturgical settings, organ) as well as the art of worship itself – the design of the Mass, the shape of the liturgy, as Dom Gregory Dix titled his great work on the Eucharist. After three weeks, I am filled, full, fulfilled, satisfied, after visiting cathedrals and parish chapels in Venice, Florence, and Paris. Along the way I was able to leave a few copies of my novels as gifts to those who inspired me in their creation, also a kind of art in the form of thanksgivings – Offerings in France and Pilgrimage in Italy – and thankful too for my newly released novel, Inheritance, completing the Trilogy of Western Europe.
Now, our first Sunday home and we are celebrating St. Luke, the artistic evangelist. His Gospel provides the more poetic scenes and stories, visually rich (the nativity narrative is his). He is also thought to have painted a number of images of Mary. Bologna claims one which is housed in a shrine on a hillside out of town and each May on the Feast of the Ascension the people process into town carrying the icon to St. Peter’s Cathedral, where healings have occurred before the image. Mary Maggiore in Rome claims one as well; the Madonna and Child is a haunting, rustic image high over the altar in the north transept. The Black Madonna of Czestochowa in Poland is also thought to have been painted by Luke, on ebony, darkening it. The first two images I have included in my novel Pilgrimage; the third I would like to learn more about one day.
In St. Peter’s, Oakland our good priest, Father Pomroy, spoke about Luke, his life as traveling companion to St. Paul, his erudition, his being a doctor of both body and soul, as physicians were in those days. His Gospel, indeed, portrays Christ as a doctor of body and soul, emphasizing the healing miracles. Today, the detail that particularly touched me was the fact that it is likely Luke was the only one left with Paul as he awaited martyrdom in Rome. The others had left for various reasons, but Luke stayed.
We too must stay the course, our good Father Pomroy said. We must speak the truth about our world, about the nature of man, about the love of God, about redemption.
I thought about Luke and his many talents offered to God. That’s really all we need to do. Just offer ourselves and let God do the rest. Such a pilgrimage, such offerings, such an inheritance. Such joy!
St. Peter’s Church, 6113 Lawton, Oakland, CA; Sunday Mass, 10 a.m.;http://www.saintpetersoakland.com