The world mourned when Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames. Onlookers lined the streets on that April evening in 2019, murmuring Hail Marys as the blazing roof of their beloved cathedral collapsed before them. Within just a few short years, private donors and businesses helped to raise $997 million for the restoration of this architectural masterpiece.

Why do tourists flock to the great cathedrals and basilicas across the globe, planning elaborate pilgrimages to experience these works of art firsthand? These buildings, filled with sacred art, evoke a sense of awe and wonder, lifting the mind to God. In recent decades, however, houses of worship have become rather commonplace, focusing less on the ornate construction fitting for a King and prioritizing the comfort of the people within. Many churches no longer evoke that sense of wonder as one enters the court of our King. Perhaps this negligence in giving our Lord His due has led to a lukewarmness in our hearts and a lack of devotion in our daily prayer.

Christendom alum and board member Tim Halisky ’01 saw this need for a renaissance of beauty in our culture. He felt a call to contribute to the beautification of Christendom’s new Christ the King Chapel, sponsoring the Pietà statue that was recently installed there. He hopes this work of art will instill a deeper devotion in the hearts of students and the wider community.

This story comes from the latest issue of Instaurare Magazine, the official magazine of Christendom College. Read more from Instaurare here!

“My wife Katie was my inspiration,” notes Halisky. “She has had a devotion to the Pietà after tragically losing her brother early in our marriage. In the aftermath, she experienced great consolation praying in front of the Pietà. When Katie united her own suffering to that of our Mother, she was moved to understand more fully the redemptive nature of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death. As God’s Providence would have it, when I was looking for a special gift for Katie years later, I was led to share her devotion with the Sacred Arts team at the college, which resulted in this magnificent piece of art.”

Sculptor Edwin Gonzalez working on the Pietà in Spain.

Sculptor Edwin Gonzalez working on the Pietà in Spain.

With the Halisky family’s generous contributions, the college commissioned Catholic sculptor Edwin Gonzalez to create a life-sized statue of the Pietà. Gonzalez accepted the challenge with great humility.

“I believe that the Lord has a plan for each one of us,” says Gonzalez, “and mine is one to give a body, a life, to inert materials such as clay or wood. To be able to create and give humanity to our Lord is a privilege. It’s an honor to dedicate myself to sacred art.”

Halisky and his wife, Katie ’01, know the challenges young people are facing in our world today, and they believe that a restoration of sacred art can help lead lost souls back to Christ and His Holy Mother, where true healing can begin.

“Without a doubt, sacred art can restore hope to our broken world,” says Halisky.

“Progressivism has advanced to the point where people have not only forgotten why they were made, but what it means to even be human. Sacred art, much like sacred music, awakens the soul. One cannot experience sacred art without being inspired to contemplate the divine. In the Pietà, we are inspired to contemplate God’s sacrifice of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. Our broken world needs to be exposed to this Truth to understand God’s love for us individually.”

Sculptor Edwin Gonzalez painting the Pietà in the chapel.

Gonzalez painted the Pietà in the chapel.

After many months under construction in Cordoba, Spain, the carved wooden statue was delivered safely to the new Chapel in late April. Gonzalez spent long hours painting and perfecting the statue during his two-week stay on campus. Students, faculty, and staff would stop by after daily Mass to marvel at his handiwork. Gonzalez sees his craft as an important ministry in the Church today where many people are losing their faith.

“The connection that I want my work to transmit,” he says, “is to wake up the spirituality of believers, those of us who believe in the Lord, that the work brings us to prayer.”

The Pietà statue was installed on a large pedestal just outside the confessionals in the north transept of the Chapel. Halisky and his wife hope that this new addition will awaken a desire in the hearts of the faithful to console Christ and His blessed mother.

“You cannot experience this statue in person without being moved to pity our Lady in her sorrow and feel the great weight that our Lord carried to the point of His crucifixion and death on the cross: the weight of our sins,” says Halisky. “It is our hope that all who encounter the Pietà will be moved to real conversion through the sacrament of Confession.”

Tim and Katie Halisky recall their time here on campus, surrounded by many faithful people and a rich spiritual life. They desire to give back to the college, enriching future generations.

The finished Pietà.

The finished Pietà.

“Christendom is unique for the real community that a student joins when setting foot on campus,” notes Halisky. “At the heart of this community is the spiritual life one encounters through daily Mass and the sacraments, which allows students to enter into the life of the Church in a way they have likely never experienced. There is real joy in the communal search for truth and knowledge when it is grounded in the traditions of the Catholic Church. By participating in the Sacred Arts project for the Christendom Chapel, we hope to inspire souls to greater love for Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.”

To learn more about how you can participate in Christendom College’s Sacred Art Project, please visit chapel.christendom.edu.

Written by Julie Wells

Read more from Instaurare Magazine here.

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