Principal's Blog - 18 June 2020

17 Jun 2020

Dear members of the Marcellin Family,

The power of art is that it can affect us very deeply. We can tap into our feelings when we look at or listen to a great piece of art and sometimes, we can even identify with the image, the theme or the message. It can speak to us in a way that sometimes words cannot, and it can evoke a response from the heart and stir our soul. This is why the Arts are so integral to our human story and the formation of our culture more broadly.

Take our current context for example. If you reflect on your life over the past three months, have you felt times of isolation? Have you felt anxious or uncomfortable? Have you even felt like a stranger in your own neighbourhood occasionally? I know myself that the area where I live, normally a busy, diverse and wonderfully vibrant place, became like a ghost town almost overnight. As I was contemplating this one morning in the early stages of the pandemic someone alerted me to a new song that had just been released by The Rolling Stones – their first original music in eight years. The song title; Living in a Ghost Town! Over the next few days I found myself humming the tune as I went for my afternoon walk through the deserted streets; “feel like a ghost, living in a ghost town.” It was a slightly disconcerting experience. You can watch and listen to the song here.

These feelings that many of us have experienced can perhaps make us a bit more empathetic to others who are left alienated, or who feel ‘invisible.’ When you gaze upon the images below, how do you feel? What is your response?

Photo Credit: Eurpoean Pressphoto Agency

“Angels Unawares” is a life-size sculpture in bronze and clay, that depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds, from diverse historic periods in time. The figures stand together, shoulder to shoulder, huddled on a raft. Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings emerge from the centre, suggesting the presence of something sacred among them. In fact, the sculptural work interprets the belief that the sacred is to be found in the stranger, in this case, in refugees and migrants.

Photo Credit: Daniel Ibanez / Channel News Asia

The inspiration behind the work is from a biblical passage taken from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”. (Hebrews 13:2)

The work, unveiled in St Peter’s Square by Pope Francis in September last year, is by the Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz and depicts 140 migrants and refugees from various historical periods traveling on a boat, and includes indigenous people, the Virgin Mary and Joseph, Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and those from war-torn countries.

Photo Credit: Reuters

In unveiling the sculpture, the Pope commented that “individualism and a utilitarian mentality have produced a globalization of indifference in which migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion.”

This week is Refugee Week. As we ponder the plight of refugees and others on the margins through art, through word and through prayer, there is a challenge to us all. Are we part of a ‘globalisation of indifference’ or are we, having experienced a sense of isolation ourselves, more empathetic as we identify more readily with the displaced and the lonely?

With blessings for the week ahead.

John Hickey