Church offers fresh devotion through art and the Passion


Catholic Register, 12 September 2018

I am looking forward to my next visit to Holy Family Church on King Street West in Toronto. It was my home for two years in the 1990s when I was a student at St. Philip’s Seminary, which is attached to the parish.

The church burned down in June 1997, between my first and second year there. It was rebuilt in 2001, but it was only last month that the apse decoration was completed. There’s a good lesson in that; the proper decoration of a church takes time, and there is nothing wrong with waiting a generation or two until the proper design arrives and resources are sufficient for something magnificent.

The new art meets that standard. The artist, Ken Woo, was profiled earlier this summer in The Register. The new apse paintings depict the crucifixion, with the Blessed Mother and St. John standing at the foot of the Cross on either side.

Below the upper panel depicting Calvary, there are two angels and the various instruments of the Passion. Every pilgrim brings his own piety to the sacred art he encounters, and I was delighted to see that the Woo paintings chose to depict the instruments of the Passion.

In 2000, when Fr. David Roche, then Holy Family’s pastor, was choosing the original decoration for the apse and the tabernacle, he had the idea of capturing somehow the Great Jubilee. I was in Rome at the time for my theology studies, having already completed my philosophy at St. Philip’s.

Fr. David got in touch and had the idea of installing panels for the tabernacle that would evoke the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, the opening of which marks the beginning of the Jubilee Year. My job was to find small replicas of the 16 panels on the Holy Door at the religious goods stores near the Vatican. And so I was pleased to play a little part in the Holy Door coming to Holy Family and serving as a portal to the “holy of holies,” the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

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