Wednesday, March 18, 2015


About a year ago I received a call from a family of St. Sebastianites, expressing their desire to commission a painting as a gift to the parish and to support Catholic art and artists.  They gave a generous donation toward the project and we contacted Mr. Eric Armusik, the young artist from Hamburg, PA who also executed our beautiful St. Sebastian paintings.  After a period of prayer and discussion, it was decided that the painting would be of the crucifixion and that it would be approximately four by five feet.
Mr. Armusik was quite enthused about the project and the scope of the endeavor grew – literally.  The donors kindly enlarged their gift with the artist’s prompting and along with that, the painting grew to nine and a half by five feet!  The plan was to have the painting finished and temporarily installed in our sanctuary for the season of Lent to assist the parish in our Lenten prayers.  But the size of the task, other commissions being handled by the artist, and shipping difficulties delayed its arrival in Akron by several weeks.  But now it is here and installed in time for this last half of this holy season.
We are so fortunate to have this new work of art.  There is, in the end, these things: the one, the true, the good, and the beautiful.  And as Fr. Benedict Groeschel was fond of saying, “It is ultimately the beautiful that will save us.” 
It is not only beautiful, but utterly unique.  It was not picked out of a catalogue and no one will visit us and say, “We have that one at our parish too!”  There are no mugs, calendars, or prayer cards (yet) with this image on it anywhere in the world.  Like a song of worship, you must be here, at St. Sebastian, to experience its beauty and power to inspire.  May it inspire more Catholics to support Catholic art and artists so that the Church may return to its role of Patroness of the Arts and through it, train artists in the sacred and gain influence once again in the cultural scene.


Poor Stephen said...

Wednesday 18 Mar 2015

Dear Father Valencheck,

Thank you for bringing more beauty into the world.
Coming to see the new painting is reason number 11,438 to visit St. Sebastian's. See you soon.

Anonymous said...

It must be nice to pastor a parish so affluent that money will be donated to a project like this, as opposed to social concerns or feeding the hungry. It also is good that you have a spare 45 square feet of wall space.

Pat said...

Every poor person in the neighborhood, who could never go to the Cleveland Museum of Art, can come in for free and look and meditate and pray.

We house a Good Samaritan Hunger Center in Byrider Hall. They pay no rent for our facilities. I heard a talk from a person in charge of that Center a few years ago. She said that the people they feed are not "starving" in the way that people in the Third World are starving. The food they receive helps them to stretch their food budget or gives them something nice, a little extra, that they can serve their friends. Their human dignity is thereby uplifted, even though they are sufficiently taken care of that they are not starving.

Similarly, the human dignity of those people is also uplifted by the beauty of that painting of Our Lord.

Anonymous said...

OK, Pat, let's talk.

I agree that we are not talking about Thitd world hunger here, but it's still relative in our culture. You admit that there are poor in your neighborhood. There are, and a ten minute walk would take you to them. I also doubt if you want them coming to look at your art unsupervised.

I'll accept your argument if you can tell me that in a parish the size of this there isno parishioner who has a problem that this kind of money could solve.

The diocese is rightly proud of its work in El Salvador. What would make bigger impact there: the painting or the money it cost.

I don't begrudge all the art and beauty you have. But, I live in your parish too, and there are things that are needed right here. It's a question of priorities. Ans, yes, I am a practicing Catholic but not a member of St. Sebastian.

Pat said...

Is St. Sebastian an affluent parish? I don't know what money anyone at St. Sebastian has.

You also “doubt if you want them coming to look at your art unsupervised.” Wow. St. Sebastian is one of the few parishes in the area that is unlocked from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm. No guards are posted. People come and go freely.

The funds for the painting were donated. I am not in a position to judge the heart, the motives or the actions of the donors. I assume the funds were freely given out of the goodness of their hearts, for purposes known only to themselves and God.

And then we have that mysterious passage in scripture where it was asked: "Why was this perfume [poured out over the Lord's feet before his crucifixion] not sold and the money given to the poor?" Jesus defended that extravagant act of love. And in addition to feeding the poor, He “preached the good news” to them. Mysterious indeed.

Anonymous said...

I see no good achieved by having this web site for the expression of a multitude of opinions about anything and everything. Transparency is for the birds.


Anonymous said...

And, RMK, you are right. It an not be saved. I give up.

Redearth said...

Bottom line anonymous is that you have no right to judge where the money would be best used because it's not yours and the family wanted to spend it how they wished and wanted to bless their church. It's not your jurisdiction to make a judgement call on a gift, it wasn't even the disciples, Judas was rebuked for that attitude.

Anonymous said...

Works for me. Just think about it a little.

MaryofSharon said...

This seems to be a good time to recall a talk given at our parish by Fr. Mark Haydu, the director of the Vatican Museum's patrons of the arts. (I know Fr. Haydu visited St. Sebastian at a later date, but I don't know if he told the same story there.)

He told us of a personal conversation with Pope Francis over lunch, in which he said to the Holy Father something like this: "People know how much you care for the poor and are wondering if you might want to sell all of the Vatican art and give the money to the poor."

Pope Francis replied along these lines, "Oh, no! No one needs beauty more than the poor!"

I consider this in the context of how our Holy Father, himself, has been inspired by sacred art in churches. When he was in Rome in earlier days, he frequently visited the church which housed Caravaggio's "The Calling of St. Matthew", a Gospel story that serves as the inspiration for the motto on his coat of arms.

MaryofSharon said...

Fr. V, it is downright cruel to write about this painting but then not to show a photo! Those of us who don't live in the neighborhood of St. Sebastian are given no choice but to drive over there ASAP!

lgreen515 said...

Anonymous--are you in some kind of trouble? Call the St. Vincent de Paul helpline: 800-871-9012, ext. 993026, and we will do our best to help you get what you need. St. Sebastian parishioners have been very generous to us, and our mission is to those within our parish boundaries.

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how much the image of the cross and Christ crucified help me battle my life-threatening illness. There are many kinds of poverty. Due to my illness, I also have financial poverty and am completely dependent on the generosity of others and yet I would have dispaired a long time ago if not for the moments of beauty especially found in the cross, in the face of Jesus every day. How many souls might be saved by seeing the depth of God's love for many might not go through with suicide after seeing? Many people come to church when at their most desperate. Also, the Bible says the labouer is worthy of his wages. How many backbreaking hours even months have been spent on the painting, and the use of expensive materials? And in turn, I' m sure he will donate some. How wonderful God cares for all our poverty even of spirit!

Anonymous said...

God is evident in beautiful art (and music too, by the way), which is why we need -- yes, NEED -- it in our lives. He is also evident in the talents of those who create beautiful art (and music), which is why those people must create. To deliberately sell, for it's momentary temporal value, holy art that can inspire people through the ages, or avoid creating beautiful art because it's value is "too" great, is to create another kind of poverty. "Helping the poor" and "promoting beautiful art" should not be seen as having to be all one or all the other. Both are necessary endeavors in building the kingdom of God. -- Patty

Elena LaVictoire said...

Rose of Sharon, here is a link to the picture I got with my phone the other day. It doesn't do it justice, but perhaps it will inspire you to stop by and get a look if you have the time.

Elena LaVictoire said...

As far as I can tell, purchasing that art supported the artist, as well as the folks that provide the art supplies, and it also supported the shipper and the packing supply folks. All of them were paid for their work and that's a good thing too. One of my children is an aspiring artist and it's nice to think she might actually be able to make a living with her talent one day.

MaryofSharon said...

Thanks, Elena. I've got to get over to St. Sebastian and see if for myself!

I take advantage of opportunities to stop by a variety of parishes for Eucharistic Adoration, and as much as I appreciate St. Sebastian, I've always found the small size of that gold crucifix to be a liability, scarcely visible if one is halfway back in the church.

This painting changes everything.

When I pray before Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament, I have a decided preference to be able to, at the same time, see a depiction of his ultimate self-sacrifice on the Cross which makes His Eucharistic presence possible and serves as a reminder of His love and of the self-immolation to which we are drawn in response.

Also when worshippers at St. Sebastian participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because of that painting, the sacrifice which the Mass re-presents will be very, very accessible to their imaginations.

All good, as far as I'm concerned!