Color my world

Each of the five senses that the Good Lord gave to most of us react to sets of stimuli we encounter daily.

With regards to the sense of sight, for me color is the stimulus that sparks the soul.

I find it very apropos that there are two months that the Church devotes, in one way or another, to our Blessed Mother Mary. May, of course, is the month of Mary, and October is the month of her beloved prayer commemorating the story of her salvific Son, the Rosary.

Both months are noted for the magnificent colors they produce. In May we have the world renewing itself with the return of flowers, grasses, and plants. It’s as if the winter months are a coloring book just waiting for watercolors or crayons to complete the scene.

May is the month the Good Lord picks up the paint brush and crayons and delicately fills in the colors, never going out of the lines, much unlike the masterpieces created by my pups that adorned my refrigerator for years.

October is the month that allows us, like squirrels and other creatures great and small that gather food stuffs for the winter, to absorb the final colors of the year that explode like fireworks all around us. Aside from the evergreens, those are the last colors we’ll see for a good half-year.

Both months associated with our Blessed Mother reflect her joy, her peace, her love, and her motherhood through myriad colors that soothe the senses.

I think sometimes I lose that sense of Mary as our mother through a lack of concentration.

I see statues of Mary all around. Some are completely white, and others have her colorfully adorned. But what I sometimes see is a figure who is simply plaster of Paris.

In other depictions of Mary, particularly the classic paintings, I see Our Lady as a figure that is beyond my reach.

madonna streets.gif

It’s for these reasons that perhaps my favorite rendition of sweet Mother Mary is “The Madonna of the Streets,” by Italian artist Roberto Ferruzzi in 1897.

According to a history of the painting by Barbara E. Stevens in St. Anthony Messenger in 2000, Ferruzzi didn’t intend the painting to represent Mary and the Baby Jesus. He called the piece “Madonnina,” which translates into “Little Mother.”

But those who saw the painting couldn’t help but see the tender young Mary with the Child Jesus peacefully asleep in her embrace.

This is how I envision our Blessed Mother.

The history also relates that the subject of the painting was the mother of Sister Angela Marie Bovo, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who died last June.

Sister Angela’s mother, Angelina, was the young girl and her younger brother, Sister Angela’s uncle, Giovanni, was the infant.

Ferruzzi entered the painting in a prestigious art exhibit in Venice that same year, and the Catholic community embraced the painting as a beautiful new rendition of the young Mary and the tender Infant Jesus.

The story continues that many of the Italian immigrants passing through Ellis Island introduced the painting to Catholics in America. The story says the portrait was “embraced enthusiastically. The image showed the young girl’s vulnerability and sweetness. The timeless nature of her mantle and the cold background suggested” the new title of “Madonna of the Streets.”

I will always envision the Blessed Mother like this. In fact this image is etched on the gravestone of my son DJoe because of the warmth of Our Lady’s embrace that was greatly needed back then — and still is.

I didn’t come from a huggy environment and only learned the true value and warmth of an embrace through the countless retreats I’ve been a part of through the years. Our children were brought up on hugs and it’s still a major part of my life.

This painting also reflects colors that are pleasing and comforting in my eyes, getting back to the origin of this column.

It’s a scene that could easily find a home in May or October.

We all need embraces. And one of the greatest embraces we can receive is one from sweet Mother Mary. It’s there in the Rosary, in Scripture, and in the “Madonna of the Streets.”

Happy Mothers’ Day to all moms and especially to Mother Mary, who so often colors my world.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts