COLORADO SPRINGS. Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has transmitted Gospel truths through the paintings, sculpture, mosaics, stained glass windows, and architecture found in the world’s great churches and cathedrals. Recently, the members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs decided to adopt this practice from the past to enhance their own church.
“Beauty draws us in, stirs our curiosity, and cultivates a desire for more,” said St. Francis catechist Lyn Rooney, who conceived the idea for the project while teaching Dante’s poetic masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy. ”Noticing the empty hallway on her way into class, she discussed with her students the opportunity to place sacred art on those walls.
At the end of the year, the students — sharing Rooney’s vision— donated more than $1000 toward the project. With the approval of Father Ken Przybyla, pastor, and additional donations from parishioners and parish organizations, the plan to turn that classroom hallway into an art gallery started to take shape.
Titled “The Art of Salvation, ”the gallery is now filled with beautifully-framed prints especially chosen and paired together to illuminate Scripture in a unique way. In the gallery, Old Covenant pre-figurations (types) on one side of the hallway are paired with their New Covenant fulfillments (anti-types) on the other. Each pair has matching frames to make the connection easier to see. And each masterpiece is accompanied by an explanation of the symbolism, drawing from both the Bible and Sacred Tradition.
“Through the types and antitypes, viewers begin to see that the Old and New Testaments come from one Divine Author who shapes the course of human events and infuses them with prophetic and theological significance,” says Rooney. “They begin to understand what St. Augustine meant when he said ‘The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament, and the Old is unveiled in the New.’”
The Art of Salvation project got a special boost on August20, when the parish’s Knights of Columbus council hosted an elegant fundraising dinner at St. Francis, followed by Rooney’s PowerPoint presentation on typology and on the connections between each pair of the project’s masterpieces.
Rooney says her presentation, and the explanatory booklet given to all attendees, “created a parish full of ‘docents.’ After all, as people become more proficient in understanding the art and the symbolism, they automatically want to help others see it, too."
In short, the Art of Salvation project illuminates Jesus’ words and actions in the redemption of humanity. It also gives average Catholics an easy, non-confrontational way to engage gallery visitors — family members, friends, even strangers — in eye-opening evangelization and catechesis. The booklet explaining the project and each piece of art is available on the St. Francis website at www.stfranciscs.org under ‘Resources’ and then ‘Information Booklets.’
While the north hallway gallery is open to the general public, guided tours for groups can also be arranged by calling Lyn Rooney at 719-648-1194.