Painting Honors St. Joseph

The Feast Day of St. Joseph is March 19, 2021, and on that weekend Christ the King Church paid special tribute to the saint whom Pope Francis has declared the universal patron of Catholics this year.

Father Ed Smith unveiled and blessed the painting The Holy Family by Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker. The artwork depicts the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary and Joseph hold Jesus, “inviting each one of us into the holy family,” said Schapker. The painting hangs in The Cross and Crown Atrium to celebrate the veneration of Joseph and the sanctity of the family.

Pope Francis said, “Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

The story of how the painting came to be at Christ the King began early one morning after Mass. Schapker, who is a Christ the King parishioner, was leaving the 6:30 a.m. liturgy, when she stopped to examine the St. Joseph statue in the shadows at the back of church. Parishioner Steve Green noticed her gazing at the sculpture and mentioned a book to her, Consecration of St. Joseph by Donald Galloway. Schapker, who always had a strong spiritual devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, now turned her attention to Jesus’s father: Joseph.  As she continued to learn more about this saint, she was approached by another parishioner, Karen Dorger, who knew of Schapker’s work as an artist. Dorger spoke with Father Ed Smith about the parish’s plans to honor St. Joseph and a wonderful possibility emerged. Fr. Ed believed Schapker’s portrait of the holy family, showing a warm and loving depiction of Joseph as the humble protector of Mary and Jesus, would be a perfect addition to the church’s newly constructed Cross and Crown Atrium.

Father Smith said, “This wonderful family portrait inspires us to work every day to live as the family that God has called us to be: in our homes, in our community, in our world, and, in a special way, in our parish dedicated to Christ the King, who was Himself a member of a family on earth, with Mary and Joseph, and who is eternally a member of a family in heaven, with the Father and the Holy Spirit!”

After the painting’s debut on March 20, it was hung on the east wall in the Atrium’s gathering space. On that weekend the congregation also received a prayer card with an image of the painting and a prayer written by Fr. Ed for the occasion. A banner was also installed to highlight the St. Joseph statue at the back of the church.

Schapker said she is honored to have her oil painting displayed at Christ the King. “Joseph does not speak in the bible, rather he shows us the right thing to do through his actions.” She goes on to explain that the veneration of Joseph is really about the veneration of the holy family. “My goal is to show how relatable the holy family is and that they truly understand us with loving care.”

Schapker has been painting representational art of Catholic icons for over ten years. She graduated from Xavier University’s art program in 1992 and subsequently studied under Michael Scott. Her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary began after she had a transformative experience while completing St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises in her thirties. In 2011 she was commissioned by Xavier University to paint a series of paintings of St. Ignatius.  Her painting of Pope Francis’s mother Maria Regina was presented to the Holy Father at the Vatican in 2015.

“Truth, goodness and beauty is the language of God,” said Schapker.  “We cannot underestimate the ability of art to pierce hearts. The intertwining gold halos surrounding Joseph, Mary and Jesus show the glory of God and the unity of the family.”

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