Hugh Witzmann OSB

Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Sacred Art

Contents: Mary, Madonna of the Gospels, Benedict * Antony * Augustine
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[Mary and the Gospels]Madonna of the Gospels

The bronze sculpture, Mary, the Madonna of the Gospels, is housed in Alcuin Library on the campus of Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota. A photograph of the Madonna of the Gospels was used as the cover of Environment & Art Letter (April 2001) published by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The symbols on the cover of the book resting in Mary's lap represent the four evangelists:Matthew - a winged man; Mark - a winged lion; Luke - a winged ox; and John - an eagle.


Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-543)Benedict

Award-Winning Sculpture    

Father Hugh Witzmann OSB, won a coveted "Bene" Visual Arts Award in the Permanent Category, 2003-2004, for the statue of Saint Benedict pictured on the right. The bronze statue, 4.5' tall, is installed at Holy Name Parish, Wayzata, Minnesota, in the gathering space, "encouraging the tradition of hospitality and welcome that characterizes those who follow the Rule of St. Benedict" (Ministry and Liturgy 20:7 2003, 7).

Saint Benedict, abbot and confessor, the Patriarch of Western Monasticism, was born at Nursia (Norcia) in Umbria (central Italy) at a time when confusion, corruption, despair, and death reigned everywhere and social dismemberment seemed complete. He spent his boyhood at Rome. At the age of seventeen he fled from the city to the solitude of a cave in the wild mountain rift of Subiaco, where, clothed with the religious habit by Saint Romanus, he led the life of a hermit. In time Benedict founded twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed twelve monks. Clergy and laity, Romans, barbarians, victors and vanquished flocked to him, attracted by the fame of his virtues and miracles.

In 529, he left Subiaco and settled at Monte Cassino. There he built cells for himself and his monks, an event which formed a landmark in the history of religious life and the regeneration of Europe. He drew to himself many disciples by his mild, paternal Rule, by the wisdom and discretion of his doctrine, by the sanctity of his life, and his gift of working miracles. The saint's death is put at 21 March 543. He died, standing in front of the altar, immediately after the reception of Holy Communion.

Benedict's Life was written by Saint Gregory the Great from oral contemporary testimony. Feast day, 21 March in the Latin Church, 14 March in the Greek and daughter churches. He is also principal patron of Norcia. The Cassinese called the feast of 11 July "Commemoration of S. Benedict," which term, in 1915, was adopted by the entire Benedictine Order. He is the patron against poison and gravel.

-- Holweck, F.G. A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints.
Saint Louis: Herder, 1924.


Saint Antony of the Desert (251-356)  Antony of the Desert 

Antony the Great, abbot, founder of Christian monasticism, was born at Coman, near Heracleopolis, in Upper Egypt, about 251. He was baptized when twenty years old. After the death of his parents, having heard in Church Matthew 19:21 and 6:34, he gave his rich inheritance to the poor, sent his younger sister to a home for Christian virgins, and retired into a sepulchral monument, where he was sorely molested by demons. Later on he became celebrated for his miracles and collected around himself a number of disciples.

The awful persecution of Christianity, by driving countless men and women as fugitives into the wilds surrounding the valley of the Nile, no doubt quickened the impulse felt by many in all ages to separate themselves permanently from the world. He was a personal friend of Saint Athanasius; he corresponded with Emperor Constantine and his sons. He died in 356, 105 years old.

He is called by the Copts "the Star of the Desert, the Father of Monks." He substituted for the individual ascetical life in the world, or in solitude, a community of hermits, which Saint Pachomius changed into a community of monks.

His principal feast day is celebrated 17 January in the universal Church. His name is commemorated in the Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenia, and Greek Mass.

-- Holweck, F.G. A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

AugustineAurelius Augustine, confessor, Bishop of Hippo Regius, the greatest Father and Doctor of the Latin Church. He was born 13 November 354 at Tagaste in Numidia. His father, Patricius, remained a pagan till shortly before his death; his mother, Saint Monica, was a zealous Christian, but Augustine was not baptized in his childhood. He studied at Tagaste, Madaura and Carthage; in the two latter cities he taught rhetoric. Following his impulsive nature he plunged headlong into vice, to the deep sorrow of his pious mother. Also in religion he went astray. For nine years (374-383) he was Hearer (lowest degree) in the Manichaean sect.

In 383 he went to Rome, and from there was called to Milan. The study of Neo-Platonic writings, the sermons of Saint Ambrose, and the reading of the Epistles of Saint Paul brought him nearer to the Church. He graphically related his own conversion in his Confessions. In 386, he resigned his position and retired with his mother to Cassiciacum, near Milan, to prepare for baptism, which, with his illegitimate son Adeodatus and his friend Alypius, he received at Easter, 387, at the hands of Saint Ambrose.

He returned to Africa where in 388 he was ordained priest and appointed preacher at the Church of Hippo Regius. In 395 he was elected bishop; he died at Hippo, 28 August 430.

Augustine, a fiery soul of mighty will power, is one of the greatest thinkers in history. His works comprise philosophy, general apologetics (City of God), controversies with heretics, Scriptural exegesis, dogmatic and moral theology, pastoral theology, and homiletics (Catholic Encyclopedia, II, 1907-, 89-).

He is patron of theologians, printers and brewers, is invoked also against sore eyes. This feast is celebrated 28 August. The Greek Church does not honor him; the Russian and Syrian Churches do. His "Rule" guided canons regular for many centuries.

-- Holweck, F.G. A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints.
See also Provost James O'Donnell, "Augustine on the Internet."


[Job, bronze casting, by Hugh Witzmann]






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