In late 2021, a friend who’s a theology lecturer showed me a basic Bible books diagram that he’d put together for his students. Then he asked me, “have you thought about creating a book of the Bible artwork?” My first thought was “not really, I mean, I’m no biblical scholar, how in the heavens would I… ?”
Soon, providence struck, and other people asked me about Bible resources around that time. So, I prayed, and the project stayed in my heart. As time passed, my love of stained-glass windows and traditional etching also stayed in my heart, moving me to think…
Why don’t I create an artwork poster for the Catholic Bible in stained glass and etching?
Little did we dream of what was to spring from so small a beginning. Mary MacKillop 1891
Just as Mary and Julian Tenison Woods had to trust the inner call of God to establish the Sisters of Saint Joseph congregation, I too felt a call, and knew I had to trust a strong inner pull to create this artwork. I had no idea what I was embarking on… comically this led to many *hand to forehead* and *really God!?* moments over the eight months it took to complete the project.
Let God guide you in all your ways. Mary MacKillop 1909
Listening was my guide, Josephite spirituality calls me to “believe in the whisperings of God to your own heart” (Mary MacKillop 1868).
We’re all invited to discern our inner callings, perhaps Saint Jerome knew this when he listened, translating the Old Testament into Latin from the original Hebrew — little knowing what translations would follow. “Literature, art and even popular language have continually been shaped by Jerome’s translation of the Bible, leaving us great treasures of beauty and devotion.” (Scripturae Sacrae Affectus)
With research, I found no other visual translations like this, requiring many many … ‘come holy spirit moments’ (as my Godmother often said). I started hand sketching, piecing together window shapes, and drawing scroll sizes, shapes, and window details. I soon realised numerous changes were required, and considering that I value my remaining sanity, I switched it up, going the digital route (thanks Apple Pencil).
Over many late nights, weekends, discussions, prayer, and much research the artwork came to life. I’m deeply grateful for the support from my congregation, lecturers at the Catholic Theological College (especially Fr Merv Duff SM), National Centre for Religious Studies, Te Kupenga staff, teachers, friends and family (thanks mum) — created by community, for community (AMDG).
The Via Pulchritudinis, Privileged Pathway for Evangelisation and Dialogue Concluding Document of the Plenary Assembly, 2006 is a document highlighting beauty’s role as a powerful tool to open our hearts to divine revelation. Surely religious education through beauty is a tradition we can carry forward?
I hope this poster can be in every school. Get in touch if there’s a school that would genuinely like a print but can’t afford one.
This article was published on the website of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. in December 2022
Sr Jaine Maisey RSJ, Aotearoa New Zealand Region