By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
An important feast day for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Jan. 25, 2020 was also the occasion for blessing a unique gift of art at St. Paul Co-Cathedral.
On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, patron saint of the Saskatoon diocese, Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrated noon-hour Mass with the St. Paul parish community, blessing paintings of Sts. Peter and Paul by Count Berthold von Imhoff donated by a now-closed parish in the diocese of Prince Albert.
Fr. Stefano Penna, rector and pastor at St. Paul Co-Cathedral, described how when St. Andrew Parish in Blaine Lake, SK, was closing, a family connection with parishioners there eventually led to the two large paintings by the well-known Saskatchewan religious artist finding a new home at the historic downtown co-cathedral in Saskatoon.
“My dear cousins, Ed and Carol Thorsteinson were members of that parish (at Blaine Lake) and Carol got ahold of me and I got ahold of her, and we talked to the bishop of Prince Albert, and Bishop Albert Thévenot, with the with the support of Bishop Mark, said that he would be happy to have these two pictures brought here,” said Penna.
The paintings were moved, prepared, and installed under the direction of Ray Marchildon, St. Paul Co-Cathedral building manager, and were unveiled on either side of the co-cathedral crucifix on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in June, with several representatives of St. Andrew’s Parish in Blaine Lake in attendance at that special celebration (ARTICLE).
Since Bishop Mark Hagemoen was unable to attend the June celebration, his official blessing of the paintings in their new home was scheduled for the later date of Jan. 25 — the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
In the corners of the paintings are limestone carvings created by Derek Boldt and Brian Cey, which feature the cross of St. Andrew (in honour of the Blaine Lake parish), the sword of St. Paul, and the keys of St. Peter, Penna described.
In addition, a plaque was installed in the cathedral near the entrance closest to the tabernacle, acknowledging the gift of the paintings. The inscription reads: “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, Year of our Lord 2020, to the glory of God and the honour of St. Paul and St. Peter, the paintings of Berthold von Imhoff that graced the church of St. Andrew in Blaine Lake since 1916 were welcomed into the apse by Bishop Mark Hagemoen. May the Lord bless the parishioners of St. Andrew for this gift.”
“These wonderful paintings look like they have been here forever,” observed Bishop Hagemoen, expressing his own words of thanks to all involved in bringing the artwork to the co-cathedral. “They look like they not only belong, but are just so well suited for this holy place.”
In his homily, Hagemoen reflected on the life and conversion of St. Paul. “To celebrate a conversion in the life of the church is extremely significant,” he said, noting that St. Paul is the patron of the diocese of Saskatoon. He reflected on how Saul of Tarsus was a talented and zealous religious leader who was trying to destroy the new Christian movement when he encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, was struck blind, and underwent a profound “metatonia” or “turning around”, before eventually becoming the great evangelizer of the gentiles who preached the gospel far and wide.
Hagemoen quoted the words of a homily by St. John Chrysostom included in the Liturgy of the Hours for the day: “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words ‘I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.’ when he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: ‘Rejoice and be glad with me!’ And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened him, he said: ‘I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution.’ These he called the weapons of righteousness thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.”
St. Paul’s conversion demonstrates truth for all of us, said Hagemoen. “We will not grow in our faith on a regular basis — and we must — without a regular, personal encounter with Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he stressed.
Intimacy with Jesus Christ, nurtured through the sacraments, “is able to nurture you and I, so as we go out of the doors of this sacred temple, so that we can truly be the ‘temple in the world.’ But we can’t be that temple, if we don’t encounter and receive Jesus Christ.”
St. John Chrysostom also said that the most important thing about Paul was “that he knew himself to be loved by Christ,” said Hagemoen.
As for what we learn as we look at the life of St. Paul and his conversion, the bishop said: “Nothing is more important than to fulfill God’s plan for our lives… We must proclaim Jesus Christ. Everyone of us here, and in the diocese of Saskatoon, and beyond must proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. We have one specific vocation, you and I… each of us is called to the ongoing journey of deepening holiness that is a constant and sure vocation. Everyone is called to the specific vocation of a call to holiness, to proclaim the kingdom of God, to proclaim Christ in all things.”
When we look to the life of Paul, we also learn what it means to “name and claim our weaknesses,” Hagemoen added. “It is only when we meet and encounter Christ that we find a way forward from our weaknesses. Otherwise sooner or later our limitations will get the better of us. But with God’s grace and help — if all of our life is turned over, and not just what we are comfortable turning over — God can bless and take over.”