A Catholic church is not simply a place IN which we worship God… but WITH which we worship God. As such, it is often adorned with colorful vibrant imagery to “offer to the Lord a fitting place to worship Him” (cf. Isaiah 66:1).
Imagery is not forbidden by the first commandment, which actually forbids us to worship a false God, or to fashion God in a way we find more pleasing. Shortly after receiving the commandments of God, His people rebelled against Him and Moses (Exodus 32). A consequence of rebellion was the appearance of “saraph serpents which bit the people so that many of them died” (cf. Numbers 21:6-7). God commanded them to “fashion a bronze serpent and place it on a pole… whoever shall look upon it shall be spared” (Numbers 21:9). Obviously, then it is not a dishonoring of God to do so. The honor paid to such images is not idolatry because we do not adore them.
The Son of God would take flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary and “appear among us” (Titus 3:4)… the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus Christ would make use of tangible, visible Creation in His Ministry of healing, teaching… the Cross Itself would become the visible symbol of salvation. The Church, therefore, makes use of visible images in much the same way that we keep images (photos, paintings, keepsakes, etc) of those whom we love on earth.
The Church makes use of imagery because a) human beings really need the visual as a help to belief; and b) we derive great benefit from the veneration of sacred images:
Through them effective, and sometimes supernatural graces are obtained. There are, after all, instances of miraculous pictures and statues, as well as crucifixes.
They help us avoid distractions while praying by fixing our attention.
They serve as something of an encouragement to imitate the virtue made visible.
They are an “excellent means for instructing the faithful in religion.” The greatest artists in the world have been Catholic artists. Their greatest masterpieces treat of religious subjects. Even the most unlettered can understand a picture.
The images you see about you in our Newman Center Chapel here at ASU are of a style of art developed by the monks of the Archabbey of Beuron in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Beuron Art School, with its emphasis on ancient art forms, in particular Byzantine art fused with Roman and Egyptian lines, was influential on religious art of the period. One of the biggest exhibits of this type of art in the United States is at Conception Abbey in Missouri, founded as a daughter house of the Archabbey of Beuron.
Windows into heaven is often how Christian iconography is described. Beuronese iconography, is not as stark and esoteric as is eastern Christian icons… Beuronese style is more accessible to the Roman mind because of its textured dimensions, development of scenes and use of color, often depicting plants, even animals in the landscape. Another signature element of Beuronese Art is to include a brief verse from scripture in the background somewhere.
Fr. Rob Clements commissioned Ruth Ristow-Stricklin in 2011 to prepare and execute the panels we now devotedly display and offer to the community here at ASU. These spectacular icons are actually painted on canvas and then affixed to the wall utilizing a Greek practice. Eventually, all the wall space will be covered in such iconography, making the Life of the Lord Jesus, His Mother, and scenes from the Gospels come alive!
The Betrothal and Pentecost shrines are made possible by the generosity of Dr. & Mrs. Peter Labadie as a memorial to Dr. William L. & E. Ursula Labadie.
Help Us Complete Our Devotional Paintings
Contact our Development Office for more information on helping us complete our panels of devotional paintings! They may be funded as memorial gifts to remember family, friends, special intentions.
Mr. Chris Tawney
Other Planned Images
Questions and Answers
Some questions from some of our Newman Community members, students, visitors.
The “beam” supported by two pillars that marks off the sanctuary is actually a rather common feature to churches in Italy (where it is known as a templon) and in England (where is often referred to as a “Rood Beam.” “Holy Rood” is a peculiar British expression referring to the Cross of Christ. The beam is a decorative element that displays the Crucifix surmounted, but it also “houses” the altar itself, much like a baldacchino (a canopy supported by four pillars)does in a number of churches even here in Arizona. There is a connection to Jewish Temple practice outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible.
And the words on its face are taken from the New Testament… the Book of Revelation: You were slain, Lord, and with Your Blood You have purchased for God people of every tribe, tongue, and nation… and have made them priests to serve our God.
(There’s some Hebrew worked into the Betrothal panel, just look up at the top! It’s the Name of God: I AM WHO AM.) Our thinking was somewhat practical in addition to being devotional. On the main campus at ASU, there are close to 200 languages and dialects spoken by people from every corner of the world. Consequently, we elected to go with the language of the Church – Latin – which is also the very first common language (of the times) into which the scriptures as we know them were translated.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as we know it today… it’s been a staple in Catholic life for the last millennium! A consecrated Host taken from the Tabernacle (gold receptacle behind the main altar) and place in what is called a monstrance… it is then placed on the main altar for the faithful to pray and worship the Lord Who is Present in the Blessed Sacrament.
When our new facilities were being planned and constructed, the desire to have Perpetual Adoration on-site was identified… and the Adoration Chapel was made possible through an exceptional gift of the John Campo III family as a remembrance of Mr. Campo’s mother and father. It is also where the intercession of St. Philomena – the 3rd century virgin and martyr of Italy – is invoked.
In the Chapel, the Blessed Sacrament is placed behind a sheet of bullet-proof glass that covers a niche in the reredos (decorative back wall) that depicts angels adoring the Lord. Words (in Latin) frame the reredos are taken from the Sequence (liturgical poetry) of the Feast of Corpus Christ (Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ):
Behold the Bread of Angels, given to us as food for the journey, the very Bread which is the Son of God and therefore must not be wasted.
In addition, the entry to the Chapel is framed with stained glass from the Adoration Chapel of our much-loved former facility and invites the faithful to enter and find rest. This window was made possible in 1986 by Sister Giovanna Stein, O.P., as a memorial to her parents.
At the back of the Main Chapel, above the loft, is the stained glass depicting the Blessed Mother of God, and utilizes a style reminiscent of 15th century practice. Our beloved “Old Church” was the first Catholic church in the Valley dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it’s intended as something as a connector of “old with new.” This window is the gift of Dr. & Mrs. Peter Labadie as a memorial to Dr. William L. and E. Ursula Labadie.