Padre Pio sculptor’s work to be blessed on saint’s feast day: ‘I have to honor him’

Katie Yoder   By Katie Yoder for CNA

 

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz touches the hands of Padre Pio in one of his sculptures. / Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz. See CNA article for full slideshow. 

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 23, 2022 / 07:15 am (CNA).

Catholic artist Timothy P. Schmalz calls Padre Pio his favorite saint. And so, when he learned that four of his sculptures would honor the Italian mystic on his feast day — Sept. 23 — he was overjoyed.

“I thought a couple years ago about that moment in my life where Padre Pio gave me that peace and comfort and I thought, ‘I have to honor him,’” the 53-year-old sculptor told CNA over the phone, his hands full of clay. “I really do. And the best way I can honor a saint is by sculpting them.”

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, more commonly known as Padre Pio, is one of the most popular saints of the 20th century. The Capuchin friar is famous for his stigmata (Christ’s wounds, present in his own flesh), his spiritual wisdom and guidance, his ministry in the confessional, his reported ability to miraculously bilocate, and his being physically attacked by the devil.

On Friday, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston will bless Schmalz’s bronze sculptures that will be installed that same day. Three of them will be placed in the plaza of San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy, where an average of seven million pilgrims visit annually to pray at Padre Pio’s tomb. The fourth will stand at another popular, nearby pilgrimage site: St. Michael’s Cave.

A video on Schmalz’s YouTube channel shows the artist working on his Padre Pio sculptures in his studio located in St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada. At one point, he holds a rosary.

“I usually consider my sculpture [to be a] prayer, and my hands are always not busy with beads, but busy with clay,” he told CNA. “I do believe that these sculptures — all of them — are prayers, visual prayers and cast in bronze.”

Schmalz is not new to sculpting. The experienced artist’s work can be found worldwide, from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to Washington, D.C. He is perhaps best known for his “Homeless Jesus” sculpture and the “Angels Unaware” statue. Right now, he is also creating a life-size Stations of the Cross to be placed by Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

It took him roughly a year, he said, to form his Padre Pio sculptures. Each one is different.

A struggle with evil

His first sculpture depicts the saint wrestling in combat with a demon.

“I really do believe that it is something that, if you did not know who Padre Pio was, seeing this sculpture, you would want to know about him,” he explained of the sculpture that he hopes introduces more people to the saint.

In particular, he hopes that his work attracts the younger generation.

“Art can be a wonderful entrance, a wonderful doorway, but it has to be exciting,” he articulated.

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz's sculpture illustrates Padre Pio strangling a demon and pushing him into nothingness, with one fist posed to strike. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s sculpture illustrates Padre Pio strangling a demon and pushing him into nothingness, with one fist posed to strike. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

This sculpture illustrates Padre Pio strangling a demon and pushing him into nothingness, with one fist posed to strike.

“I think so many people today have struggles with evil and they have these battles going on,” Schmalz said of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. “I thought that to have this saint in combat with evil and winning is a wonderful representation — and a very much authentic representation — of St. Padre Pio.”

A pietà offering peace

The second shows Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Padre Pio encircled in a sculpted ribbon.

“It’s the ribbon for breast cancer, and many people around the world have that ribbon as a symbol of all cancer,” Schmalz said, adding that people frequently pray to Padre Pio when they have a family member suffering from cancer.

But the ribbon doubles as something else: a fish — an ancient symbol of Christianity — facing upward toward the sky.

Inside the outline of the ribbon (or fish), Mary looks down on Padre Pio in a way that Schmalz likens to a pietà. Padre Pio’s gloved hands reach out, inviting passersby to touch them.

Schmalz hopes that, when they do, they encounter peace.

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz touches the hands of Padre Pio in his sculpture that includes the Blessed Virgin Mary. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz touches the hands of Padre Pio in his sculpture that includes the Blessed Virgin Mary. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

“If you consider all the miracles of St. Padre Pio, I think one of the greatest miracles is that he brings people peace,” he said. “What I like to think about St. Padre Pio is [that] the comfort and peace he gave people, including myself, was the miracle.”

‘Be Welcoming’

His third piece embodies a pilgrim who turns into an angel. It is, Schmalz said, a visual translation of Hebrews 13:2: “Be welcoming to strangers; many have entertained angels unaware.”

“You have the pilgrim that has a staff, who has a conch — which is the symbol of pilgrims — and then before your eyes, artistically, that stranger turns into this mysterial-looking angel,” he described.

Sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz's work embodies a pilgrim who turns into an angel in a visual translation of Hebrews 13:2: “Be welcoming to strangers, many have entertained angels unaware.” Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s work embodies a pilgrim who turns into an angel in a visual translation of Hebrews 13:2: “Be welcoming to strangers, many have entertained angels unaware.” Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

Schmalz said he is particularly excited that the “Be Welcoming” sculpture will be located at San Giovanni Rotondo because “it’s the place where pilgrims go.”

St. Michael the protector

The sculpture that will be placed in St. Michael’s Cave depicts the archangel protecting Padre Pio, as he kneels in prayer, from a demon.

“It makes me so happy that [on] this feast day of St. Padre Pio, this sculpture will be permanently installed and blessed in St. Michael’s Cave,” he said. “It’s just beyond my wildest dreams of happiness that these celebrations are happening right now.”

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz's sculpture depicts St. Michael the Archangel protecting Padre Pio, as he kneels in prayer, from a demon. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s sculpture depicts St. Michael the Archangel protecting Padre Pio, as he kneels in prayer, from a demon. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

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2 Comments

  1. Might I suggest that the artist put the 1890 version of ‘The Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel’ on the wall behind his, St. Michael the protector, sculpture? This would remind people of the tremendous need for us to pray that Archangel Michael protect our present day papacy from Satan.

    The reason Jesus calls our first Pope, St. Peter, ‘Satan’, is because Peter is talking and thinking like the secular world talks and thinks. Matthew 16:23, He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” We do not want our Catholic papacy to fall into the thoughts and actions of the secular world, who is ‘Satan’.

    We have to all Pray the 1890 version of the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. It gives a clearer picture of what was on Pope Leo XIII’s mind when he desperately wrote the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. After a millennium and a half of relative safety, Pope Leo XIII saw the Spiritual authority of the papacy in grave danger. Papal States had fallen in 1870, which destroyed the papacy’s temporal authority. In writing the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, Pope Leo XIII is sending out a, calling all angels, SOS, to protect Spiritual authority ‘The Holy Place’ of the papacy from falling under the control of, the secular world ‘Satan’, as well.

    A portion of the 1890 version of, Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
    These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions.
    In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most blessed Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.
    Arise then, O invincible prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and bring them the victory.
    Quoted from:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_to_Saint_Michael…

    Jesus’ sign for His Second Coming is, Matthew 24:15 The Great Tribulation “When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place”.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Padre Pio sculptor’s work to be blessed on saint’s feast day: ‘I have to honor him’ | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. Padre Pio sculptor’s work to be blessed on saint’s feast day: ‘I have to honor him’ | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya

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