At St. Adalbert Parish, one of the real treasures is the Pieta that is currently located in a side altar near the front of the church on the right. This statue is a copy of the famous one in Rome, made by Michelangelo and currently on display at St. Peter’s Basilica. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing the original, it’s an unforgettable moment.
In the sculpture, Mary is holding the body of her son after it has been taken down from the cross. There is a tremendous serenity in her expression as well as a deep sadness. I have seen moms contemplating the bodies of their dead children many times over the years and often enough I’ve witnessed this same expression. It’s the recognition in a mother’s eyes, or a father’s eyes, that their beloved child has been taken away. If the mom or dad is a person of faith, it’s something more.
The “something more” is the other, deeper voice of hope. It’s the whisper, “we’ll see each other again.” It’s the certainty that this child was loaned from God for a moment, and really wasn’t an object like a car or a chair or a house or a dog. This was a human being entrusted to a mom’s care, to a father’s embrace, to be loved and watched over for a while.
And sometimes they are taken away out of the natural order of things. No mother should have to bury her child. No father should ever attend the wake of the boy whose diaper he changed. Sadly, these things happen. And they are terribly sad. And people suffer.
From this suffering emerges compassion. Even the word itself speaks of suffering. Com-passion. The passion of Christ. Compassion is suffering with someone. Someone who has experienced a great loss can much more easily embrace the suffering of another human being. That’s why so many people reach out to Mary when they have suffered a loss. That’s why so many people look for someone who has suffered when they are in pain.
It’s the moment to move this great work of art. Many moms over the years have cried in front of this sculpture. Think of the children lost in WW II, or Vietnam, or the Gulf War, or on the streets. Dads, too. This is an image of hope. In its new home, the image will be closer to the people, and you’ll be able to approach and touch the statue and maybe cry if you need to.
May this image of Mary and her son bring peace and healing to us all.