Art for October Prayer Tables

This is my third year of searching for ways to make your classroom prayer tables just a little nicer and this feature is definitely gaining in popularity (at least among the catechists here at the Church of Saint Paul).

The idea started with something I heard from Father Barron:

Postmodern man might scoff at truth and goodness, but he’s still enthralled by beauty, says prominent theologian and evangelist Father Robert Barron.  Beauty, then, is the arrowhead of evangelization, the point with which the evangelist pierces the minds and hearts of those he evangelizes.  “Lead with beauty,” Barron said to an audience of Catholic journalists and communications professionals gathered in Denver for the 2013 Catholic Media Conference.

I quote him here because in many cases the prayer table in a classroom is the point with the greatest potential for beauty.  In the midst of classrooms built for function, whose use for Family Formation is temporary, a prayer table is a creative expression of beauty that can begin as a point of interest and introduction for each month’s topic, and lead to deeper prayer and understanding.

This month’s topic is all about Holy Scripture and I can’t think of a better piece illustrating the inspiration aspect of it all than this one by Guido Reni.

God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”

God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”  (CCC 105-106)

In this piece, we see Matthew writing down his version of the Gospel for the first time while listening attentively to God’s messenger.  Different artists have tackled this same theme, sometimes picturing the messenger guiding Matthew’s hand or whispering in his ear, but I like this one with the child-like messenger holding up his fingers as if to say, “Remember, [this] happened first and then [that] and next it was […]”  And Matthew, very attentive to this inspiration is recording it all in his own words.  This work instructs and inspires, simply and beautifully.  (Exactly what sacred art should do!)

A few practical details:

  • This piece and thousands of others are available free on the ‘net in a very nice resolution here, at the Web Gallery of Art.
  • A word of warning – while many of their pieces are sacred art, some are not.  In fact, you may find some that you deem to be offensive. For this, and other reasons, Family Formation always recommends that children not be allowed to use the internet without parental supervision.
  • When I find a piece I want to print, I simply double click on the thumbnail image to see the larger version.  Then right click on it, copy, and paste it into a MS Publisher (or Word) document to print.  You can adjust the size a bit bigger without losing resolution and you can always go smaller.
  • From there, I just print and if it’s something I want to use on an easel I’ll spray glue it onto a mat or some kind of card stock.
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