Tucson sabbatical adventure--Art at San Xavier del Bac
After cooking breakfast and doing dishes this morning at Poverello House, I drove with Br. David to the famous mission of San Xavier del Bac just south of Tucson. This is a popular tourist attraction and one of the oldest Spanish missions in America, built in the late 1700's. Br David was in residence here for five years, so I got a special backstage tour. The reason for our trip however was to meet with a group of Secular Franciscans who were dedicating a new icon in the chapel of Juan Diego. Those of you who are familiar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe will remember that Juan Diego was the Indian peasant to whom the BVM appeared just outside of Mexico City in the 16th Century. He was just canonized about twenty years ago, the first indigenous person to gain the status of Saint. The Franciscans dedicated a chapel to him, but realized not long ago that there was no image of Juan Diego there. So they commissioned an icon for the chapel. This was not easily done, they had only a few hundred dollars for the painting, and the artist they commissioned seemed unresponsive. Finally, through a "friend of a friend", Br David made contact with an artist named John Giuliani, a Benedictine who had worked on the Navajo reservation. He agreed to do the painting. What they didn't realize was how famous Giuliani's work is. He is internationally known for his portrayals of Biblical characters as Native Americans. You can find his art in almost any religious bookstore. What they got therefore was an unexpected masterpiece which they could never have afforded. If you are ever in the vicinity of the San Xavier, be sure to stop in and see it--I am still not sure they know what a treasure they have.
So it was a day filled with both the sublime of great religious art and the down to earth work of doing the laundry of men "who have nowhere to lay their heads."