GRANTS PASS — Seeking to persuade young people that the Catholic faith is full of joy, leaders at St. Anne Parish here commissioned a vibrant mural for a new youth room.
Depicting the Visitation, the ten-foot-tall mural shows Elizabeth touching Mary's belly, feeling a kick from the unborn child. The two pregnant women are lost in delight. The image is accompanied by John 1:14: “And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us."
Natalie Scott, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry at St. Anne, has been working for several years to improve the parish's youth room, previously drab. An anonymous donor funded a sound system, lighting and the mural.
"Usually, youths get other people's leftovers," Scott says. "That's not right. We should be trying to inspire these teens."
Scott has been studying church liturgical documents, which say that art can evoke and glorify “the transcendent mystery of God."
"Beautiful, inspiring art is a God-given blessed gift that can only deepen and heighten the faith of a community," Scott says. She wanted a mural that would appeal to teens, teach them deep theological truths, and "lift their hearts in awe towards our Lord."
After study and consulting teens, parishioners and clergy, a committee decided on the topics: Eucharist, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the communion of saints and the pro-life cause. "The moment is one of pure joy, as these beautiful women reach out to embrace each other, sharing their uncontainable love for their yet unborn children," Scott explains. Mary is portrayed in the garments of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a reference to the deep devotion at St. Anne's.
Six winged seraphim, modeled on the seraphim that adorn the parish adoration tabernacle, surround Mary. The two women are framed against a large backdrop of the Eucharist, encased in a golden monstrance.
"By presenting Mary and Elizabeth within the Eucharist, our desire was to invite meditation upon the communion of saints that is found even within the heart of the Eucharist," Scott says.
The artist, 29-year-old Katie Rohan, is a Catholic youth minister in Birmingham, Ala. A friend of Scott's, Rohan flew in and worked a week of 12-hour days.
Rohan explains that one of the primary images, evoked by the seraphim, is Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, the vehicle through which God made himself more present to us.
At the same time, Mary is shown as young and human, not distant and queen-like, That was intentional.
"What I want people to feel when they see this is joy," Rohan says. "Pope Francis has said that a grumpy Christian is not a Christian."
Rohan says that she appreciates the theology that backs the mural. She perceives a richness in catechesis now that she lacked when she was a child; she was glad to learn scripture and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, but missed out on a lot of church teaching.
"We want these young people to know as much as possible," Rohan says.
To see more photos of the mural, go to www.facebook.com/stanne.youthministry and scroll to the "KYC Mural Project."