Friday, April 9, 2021

Air Brushing Jesus? Really?

Written by  Rosa Caswell

As you can tell by my sarcasm, I am annoyed.  You see, for as long as I can remember I have felt that I just do not measure up to society’s standards of beauty. And, believe it or not, being raised in a culture where the “fixed” pictures of saints were more common than the actual ones made me feel like I didn’t add up to God’s standard of beauty either. For example:

This is a picture of St. Faustina.


This is a image of what we ajusted her to look like. Far more “demure”. That Slovac / Polish cheek bone filled right down. The nose narrowd, lips reduced as well. Eyes made less alive and more subdued. This is exactly what every modeling agency does to each photo of their models. Get rid of the unique and “alive” qualities untill what you have is some plastic looking replica of a doll that never exsited, and what’s more – was never created by God.  At least we don’t descriminate between the sinners and the saints… I guess.      

And hey! Would you look at that, we did the same thing to God too!  So here He is, painted by an artist who was instructed by St. Faustina. He tried over and over but could never quite get the glory of Jesus to match St. Faustina’s experience of him.

But I am not sure that her frustration was with his uneven skin tone and lack a beard trimmer as the picture below would suggest:

And while this picture does a great job of cleaning Jesus up a bit, it reminds me an aweful lot like the “vivid warm” iphone filter we are all so fond of. Maybe millenials were not the first ones to start editting every image with smoother tones.

I can, to this day, recall the deep pain of “not good enough”, the feeling of being rejected from the “chosen” just as these original pictures have been countlessly rejected by those who wish to have a more “perfect” image to reflect the God they love. And ya know what? There are “perfect” people. People who have a very balanced and smooth and clean and slender beauty. Praise God. No Joke. Seriously. Amen! He is the Creator and praise him for ALL His works always, including those who are drop dead gorgeous by the regular standards of the current culture.  I truly believe that.

My pet peeve, however, is more with how we seem to have very little respect for the Creativity of God. We narrow our concept of Goodness, Beauty, and Truth so often that we cannot even except that a holy nun has high protruding cheek bones. But she did, and her Father loved those high cheek bones, he loved the genealogy that those cheek bones were inherited from and he didn’t want her to have a narrow face, he wanted to see that beautiful smile, which was so alive and genuine, on a big broad face!

And this is my vent about Divine Mercy…. Can we stop trying to “fix” what God made? Instead of narrowing what God creates, lets broaden our understanding of His Creative Beauty. It may seem shallow and unimportant compared to the great Mercy God offers sinners today, but so much of our attention is wasted on worries such as these. Worries rooted in lies and trickery that trap so many beautiful hearts in cycles of insecurity and vanity, endlessly pursuing phantoms of acceptance. And the glorious purpose of these beautiful souls is also lost. I wish I could defeat this demon of vanity and take back the hours upon hours of time waisted in needless doubt of our own intrinsic worth. I join St. Paul in his wish for the Ephesians, he said it so beautifully: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

*So, I must admit, I have also been using the “fixed” pictures of Jesus and St. Faustina. It was not until this year that I noticed the difference between the originals and the later versions. So, while I feel very strongly about this issue, I do not judge or condemn people who use the later images or even the people who made them. We all perceive instinctually in a way that the society we are in instructs us to. And I am sure the artists were simply making the most beautiful image they could imagine. So here is to a mentally healthier outlook for us all, and here is to St. Catherina of Recci, because she was awesome and apparently knew an artist who was not afraid to show it!  

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