A new sculpture of a Madonna and her unborn child reflects the value of every life, literally, and reminds us that we are all God’s children, siblings called to love one another as God loves each of us. Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, known for thought-provoking sculptures that capture the essence of the Gospel, created this pregnant Madonna — titled “Life Monument” — with a silver-plated steel circle depicting Jesus in her womb, which serves as a mirror for viewers. “The viewers literally see themselves in the center of the work, symbolizing their connection to this creative source,” Schmalz says. “I want to use art to persuade people and remind everyone that life is beautiful” (La Machi Comunicación para Buena Causas).
Archbishop Vincenzo Pagliani, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, blessed the sculpture May 29 in the Roman church of San Marcello al Corso. A sister sculpture of Life Monument, after short stays in different U.S. cities, will be permanently installed in Washington, D.C. This sculpture will be blessed on June 5. The sculptor hopes viewers also see the sculpture as any ordinary girl who is pregnant (see the pro-life statue at https://tinyurl.com/2j96rspf).
Other sculptures by Schmalz include “Homeless Jesus” (replicas appear in various cities) and “Angels Unaware” in St. Peter’s Square (with replicas elsewhere), which depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds and from different times in history. All share humanity, and the vulnerability that comes with being human.
Can we see our shared humanity and vulnerability when we gaze into the mirror? Would such a view cause us to reflect more deeply on our own needs and how those needs mirror the needs of others, including persons whose presence or opinions anger or frighten us? Pope Francis reminds us, “Whoever welcomes a person in need performs not only an act of charity, but also of faith, because he or she recognizes Jesus in the brother or sister” (Fratelli Tutti).
The world in which we live is reeling from a pandemic, an unprovoked war against Ukraine, the massacre of children and adults in a grocery store and an elementary school, and media outlets that incite our animosity. Our alienation heals no wounds, solves no problems and fails to advance the City of God, the New Jerusalem.
Where do we begin? How can we mend the tears in the fabric of our common humanity? How can we see the face of Christ not just in ourselves but also in others? Here are some ideas:
• Look around. What’s already happening in our parishes and towns to promote peace and mercy? Are there places where those hard conversations — for example, around gun violence — are taking place, where we can meet and really listen to one another? Who is working to fix broken relationships and communities? (See U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (https://tinyurl.com/4atbsz3n). If nothing is happening, perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to do?”
• Contact U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (grassley.senate.gov) and Joni Ernst (ernst.senate.gov) and ask them to vote to pass the Background Check Expansion Act, which has already passed the U.S. House this Congress.
• Sign up for the Iowa Catholic Conference newsletter for regular updates on issues and legislation that inform the faithful and provide opportunities to help shape Iowa legislators’ decisions (iowacatholicconference.org/
• Visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website home page to keep abreast of national issues (usccb.org).
• Volunteer at your local pro-life center, food pantry or meal site. Write or email an offender in one of the Iowa Department of Corrections facilities (doc.iowa.gov/faq/how-can-i-write-offender). Assist your parish on one of its commissions. Send greeting cards to uplift the spirits of someone who would benefit from encouragement.
Ask God, as Pope Francis advises, “to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences … let us ask him for the grace to send us forth, in humility and meekness, along the demanding but enriching path of seeking peace.” Something to reflect on.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor