Holy Family Parish hosts Pieta replica

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Since the 15th Century, Michelangelo’s Pieta has wowed millions of the faithful and provided an awe-inspiring, timeless glimpse into a defining event in Catholic spirituality — Jesus’ death on the cross and his placement in Mary’s hands.

The original Pieta sits in Vatican City, located a continent away and, once there, more than 30 feet away from public viewing and behind bulletproof glass at St. Peter’s Basilica. For many Chicago area residents, seeing the Pieta in person, celebrating Michelangelo’s inventive craft and skill, stands a distant opportunity.

Until now. A full-sized replica of the famed Michelangelo statue, one licensed by the Vatican Observatory Foundation and one of only a handful of accredited reproductions in the world, now sits in the narthex at Holy Family Church in Inverness.

The original Pieta, which Michelangelo crafted over one year in his late 20s, remains one of the most celebrated masterpieces of sacred art.

Unlike viewing the original in St. Peter’s from a distance, guests to Holy Family can stand next to the replica sculpture to touch Jesus’ feet or Mary’s hand. Cast using a proprietary marble blend by Nevada-based Vescovo Bounarroti Art, the sculpture carries the detail and subtlety of the original, including the folds of Mary’s garments, the limp muscles in Jesus’ body, and Michelangelo’s personal signature.

“It’s a copy that fully communicates the detail and emotion of that moment,” said Father Terry Keehan, Holy Family pastor.

The Pieta reminds us that we are not alone.

“Even in Mary’s most sorrowful moment, she is there, reaching out to us,” Holy Family director of worship Colin Collette said of the sculpture’s power.

On Feb. 23, Cardinal George celebrated Mass at Holy Family and blessed the artwork at the replica sculpture’s official unveiling. The Mass included a testimonial from Holy Family parishioner Wendy Shafer, who lost her 28- year-old son, Jeremy, to cancer last year. Schaefer reflected on the statue and Mary’s presence as an inspiration for her as she confronted the tragic passing of her own son.

“The statue depicts her acceptance, her depth, and her being present during her son’s suffering and so I felt a kinship with Mary, as I often felt she was the only one who could understand a mother’s heart,” Shafer said.

While more than 130 U.S.-based churches requested the opportunity to display the sculpture, Holy Family is only the fourth church in the country to receive the honor.

The sculpture is available for public viewing in Holy Family’s narthex through the end of May. Recommended public viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. As a part of the display, the parish will host art lectures and prayer events with art throughout the Lenten season.

“We feel the statue’s presence serves as an invitation for us to talk more about religious art and to heighten people’s awareness as to how art helps us develop our spirituality,” Keehan said.