Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friar Jack's E-spirations: Catechism Quiz: The Mosaic of Our Lives

Friar Jack's E-spirations: Catechism Quiz: The Mosaic of Our Lives
May 14, 2008


The mosaic of St. Francis
Each piece is a moment in our lives
The whole mosaic is an image of our lives

Friar Jack’s Inbox:

Readers reflect on Friar Jack’s musings

Catechism Quiz —
The Mosaic of Our Lives

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.

My theological training in preparation for my ordination to the priesthood in 1961 took place at St. Leonard College just south of Dayton, Ohio. The building was brand new when we moved there, built because of the growing number of friar students. At the same time, the chapel was the last part of the seminary to be completed, and so we had a chance to watch workers lay the marble altars, do the terrazzo and put in the stained-glass windows.

The mosaic of St. Francis

One of the treats was to watch the workers who came from Italy install a gigantic mosaic on the outside wall of the chapel, greeting the people as they came in the main entrance for Mass and services. It was a massive piece of artwork depicting the hymn of St. Francis, the “Canticle of the Creatures” in which Francis praised God for all of creation, including Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and so much more.

The mosaic was composed of more than 250,000 small pieces of mosaic tile, with no single piece being identical in color, shape or size to any other piece. The artwork measured about 15 feet wide and 35 feet high. It was a wonderful gift of the many Secular Franciscan (Third Order) fraternities of our province.

Many times I gazed at that piece of artwork both as a student and, later on, when I was stationed at St. Leonard Center from 1991 to 2002 as chaplain and pastoral care director. As I looked at this colorful and detailed mosaic, it occurred to me that, in many ways, a mosaic like this was a very good image of what our lives look like as we journey on earth.

Each piece is a moment in our lives

If you think about it, for all the years we are on earth, our lives are still made up of moments and small actions. Each one of them contribute in some way to the whole picture or mosaic of our lives, as through the years we place piece after piece of colored stone next to one another. Every piece is a little different in color, shape or size. No one piece is the whole mosaic. It takes hundreds of thousands of moments to describe our whole lives. Yet, each small distinct piece does play a role in what our whole lives ultimately look like.

Looking up at the figure of St. Francis in that mosaic, there are pieces that are golden, some that are black, blue, brown, silver and so many more colors and various shades of color. It seemed to me that we know ourselves well enough—our weaknesses, frailties and, yes, our sins—that if pure gold is the color of perfection, no human mosaic will be pure gold. Truth be told, our lives are more like all the colors of the spectrum. Yes, there are those moments of great, wonderful acts of faith, charity, love and care for others. There are the colors that are drab and dark and pieces that are roughly shaped and discolored. And yet, there are two things that always struck me as truly wonderful. It is the mixture of color and hues, shapes and sizes that actually make our personal mosaics interesting beyond words. It is the dark mosaic pieces that cause the bright ones to be highlighted. The dark ones stand out next to bright ones.

The whole mosaic is an image of our lives

But isn’t that really what our lives are like? God made us in his own image and likeness—talk about beautiful pieces of mosaic! However, we are wounded, hence the dark and drab pieces. But when combined with all the various colors and shapes and sizes, the final picture is truly one of beauty. You ask, how can our sins contribute to the beauty of this mosaic of our lives? Simply because they are what remind us of the love and mercy of God that we have all experienced in our lives. The beautiful reds and blues and golds are those moments of God’s love, moments when we prayed, loved others and served them, sacrificed for family and loved ones, forgave those who may have injured us, chose God and sought his will. Each became another piece of mosaic placed in our life’s journey.

There is something else we can hardly see, but it is essential. When the workers were installing the mosaic of St. Francis on the front outside wall, it would not hang by itself. It was placed against a bed of powerful mortar, which held it all together against rains, snow and sleet. What’s the mortar? What else but the unseen grace of God that holds us together and supports us through our lives.

Perhaps we could title our own mosaic the “Canticle of Our Journey in Christ.” One last point: It is only when we see God face-to-face as we enter eternity that we will see our whole life as one piece. It will indeed be a “thing of beauty” far beyond our wildest imagination

Friar Jack’s Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack’s musings on “ Philippine Diary: The Old Franciscan Church in Santa Ana.”

Dear Friar Jack: Thanks so much for all your e-mails. I’m especially writing about Our Lady of the Abandoned. It is a beautiful article and prayer. I will keep the prayer to say for all the abandoned and especially for the mentally ill. Mental illness is a widespread and serious family problem. I will offer this prayer as often as I can. Many thanks and God bless. Nella

Dear Nella: I thank you for your note and for the others who responded this month. You are all in my prayers. Friar Jack

Send your feedback to

Friar Jack's E-spirations
Catholic Greetings Premiere
Saint of the Day
Catholic Sampler
Your E-mail Address:

A Message From Friar Jack
Welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy all of the news about what’s happening at, as well as my “musings.” By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar, as is my coworker, Friar Jim. You can find out more about us here.

Prayers From Franciscan Hearts
Contemporary Reflections From Women and Men
Book by Paula Pearce, S.F.O.
Foreword by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.

As Franciscans celebrate the 800th anniversary of their founding, this collection of prayers and reflections from Franciscans in several countries will be a valued addition to your trove of prayer resources. Learn more here.

Faith Formation Update

A free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders. The focus is parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms.

Click here to find May’s issue.

Song of the Sparrow
New Poems and Meditations
Book by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.

Father Murray highlights the spiritual path for those new to it and those who, like him, are always rediscovering it. His musings, meditations and messages are a font of inspiration for those seeking new ways to pray. Learn more here.

Catholic Greetings

Beautiful, free Catholic e-greetings for graduations, summer vacations and many other occasions.
Click here for details.

101 Inspirational Stories of the Priesthood
Book by Sister Patricia Proctor, O.S.C.

Each story in this collection offers a window into the special relationship that each person has with the ordained priesthood, the ministry that makes present Jesus himself through the sacraments. Learn more here.

Free Samples—ONLINE!

Sample book chapters, audio clips and video clips before purchasing items from St. Anthony Messenger Press. Click here to find the latest from your favorite authors.

Deeper Conversion
Extraordinary Grace for Ordinary Times
Book by Sister Ann Shields, S.G.L.

This book will help readers examine their lives in the light of the Bible so they can harvest the Word and apply it to daily circumstances. A Servant Book. Learn more here.


If you want to know more, try our St. Anthony search engines.

St. Anthony, Help Me Find...


Check out the entire St. Anthony Messenger Press
family of e-newsletters:



No comments: