In the Catholic Church it is customary to print small prayer cards to commemorate ordinations and other milestones. I asked my friend from theology studies, Fr. Manu Franco Gómez, O.Carm. if he could design and print my card based on one his illustrations of Jesus calming the storm at sea.
On March 27, 2020 Pope Francis offered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing and prayer service for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which he reflected on a passage from Mark’s Gospel where Jesus calms the storm at sea. Fr. Manu illustrated this image inspired by the pope’s reflection in the early days of the global pandemic. Below is the text printed on the back of the card, and more of Fr. Manu’s artwork can be found here.
Here is some background on the holy card written for my ordination worship aid:
Fr. Paolo has been fascinated by water since his childhood days on summer swim team and through his brief career working on offshore deepwater projects. He has since come to appreciate the theological significance of water in his seminary studies.
Images of ships on water are prominent in Catholic theological reflection. Since Peter was a fisherman, early Christians viewed the Church as a metaphorical boat guided by Peter as their bishop and captain. They found protection from the wind and waves of worldly turmoil when united together as a community of believers. Ships also provided the fastest means of long-distance travel. St. Paul traveled by ship to spread the Good News, and tradition holds that even his shipwreck as a prisoner en route to Rome led to the fortuitous spread of Christianity on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1-10).
In the summer of 2013 as Fr. Paolo was preparing to leave Houston to join the Paulists, he was struck by the following lines that Pope Francis delivered during World Youth Day.
The Church’s nets are weak, perhaps patched; the Church’s barque is not as powerful as the great transatlantic liners which cross the ocean. And yet God wants to be seen precisely through our resources, scanty resources, because he is always the one who acts.– Pope Francis to the Bishops of Brazil, July 27, 2013.
Seven years later in the midst of a global pandemic, Fr. Paolo shares this image of Jesus calming the seas as a reminder of Christ’s presence amid the storms in our own lives. It often feels as though we Christians lack the resources to face the enormity of the social, economic, and spiritual challenges facing our world, especially as we continue to atone for the past failings of Catholic institutions. Yet united together as fellow Christians, we remember that Jesus continues to invite us to take courage (cf. Mark 6:50) despite our weakness and trust that He is ultimately guiding us home together to our Father.
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