“Beauty will save the world” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
On Wednesday, May 17, Theological College dedicated the new National Life Monument, titled Advent, created by acclaimed Canadian artist Tim Schmalz. The magnificent statue is situated in the Bleichner Sculpture Garden on TC grounds at the intersection of 4th St. and Michigan Ave. The garden was a gift from the Sulpician Fathers — dedicated to recently deceased former TC rector (1991-2002), Rev. Howard Bleichner, P.S.S. — in honor of their confrères, colleagues, and alumni. The monument itself was a gift from patrons Michael and Carole Ritchie, in thanksgiving for mothers and the gift of life. According to the sculptor, the statue is meant to celebrate beauty and new life, erected to be a bold pro-life assertion in the nation’s capital. As a Catholic, he believes that the work of Catholic artists is about creating “visible ambassadors” of the faith to witness “in a culture that’s trying to remove Christianity.”
Father Daniel Moore, provincial superior of the U.S. Society of St. Sulpice, who hosted the dedication ceremony, explained that he hopes Schmalz’s statue will help people realize the sacredness of life and the obligation to help pregnant women, mothers, and those in need. “Advent conveys an immediate understanding of joy, hope, expectancy, and promise, liturgically, theologically, and humanly,” he said. “It moves us beyond the immediate — the present — to the past and our future, grace-filled realities and possibilities.”
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington presided over the blessing of the statue. In his address, he said, “Advent, as a pregnant Madonna, transcends bronze, revealing a deeper significance, deeper truths of God and of us, and his love for each of us, graced as we are in his image and likeness.” Also present were Cardinal Marc Ouelet of Canada; Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which the statue intentionally faces, Rev. Dominic Ciriaco, P.S.S., current rector of Theological College; and Rev. Bud Stevens, P.S.S., incoming rector.
Advent is 10 feet high and 8 feet wide, weighing around 3,700 lbs. It is solid bronze on a stainless-steel base, with a reflective stainless-steel womb that forms a halo around the unborn child, about which the mother’s gown swirls, emphasizing the focal point of her embrace. It mirrors the street in front of it, bustling with daily life; Mary’s Shrine across Michigan Ave.; and the faces of people who draw near to admire the work. The statue is one of three local works that inspire support for the needy and voiceless, with the other two depicting immigrants (Angels Unawares on the Catholic University campus) and homeless persons (Homecoming at the National Shrine). A fourth large-scale statue to be installed in the near future on campus (next to the Shrine), Let the Oppressed Go Free, depicts St. Josephine Bakhita liberating victims of human exploitation.
Schmalz commented that the installation of his piece on Theological College grounds is important because it is the busiest intersection in this area, placed prominently to harken to the hundreds of cars and pedestrians passing by. He asserts, “In a time during which the family is increasingly unsupported, this statue says, ‘We have to celebrate human life!’” It also makes a powerful statement about what is being taught inside the seminary and in the classrooms of The Catholic University of America. Facing the Basilica is important too, as it bridges Michigan Ave., sharing the message and mission of Mary’s Shrine in the nation’s capital and carrying it out to the whole world.
Timothy P. Schmalz has completed hundreds of large installations over the course of 30 years, the most well-known of which is his Homeless Jesus, which can be found in over 150 cities across the globe. The original Monument to Life is permanently installed at the Church of San Marcello al Corso, in the center of Rome. Tim lives in Ontario with his wife and two children.