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"Our Lady of Refuge" is one of 20 images of the Blessed Virgin Mary painted by Brother Michael McGrath in "Blessed Art Thou: Mother Lady, Mystic, Queen."

Friday, February 4, 2005
'Blessed Art Thou': Mary in art and prayer

Known by many titles, she is celebrated and honored by Catholics all over the world, and has inspired countless works of art. Now, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been depicted in a new, artistic, somewhat playful but clearly reverential (and colorful) book of prayers.

"Blessed Art Thou: Mother Lady, Mystic, Queen" represents the collaboration of Oblates of St. Francis le Sales Brother Michael "Mickey" McGrath and Father Richard Fragomeni, combining 20 original paintings by Brother McGrath with original prayers by Father Fragomeni, a priest of the Albany, New York Diocese and a frequent presenter at the Religious Education Congress.

At Congress 2005, Brother McGrath's original artwork (acrylic paint on watercolor paper) will be on display of the Anaheim Convention :,enter, and he and Father Fragomeni will present a workshop entitled 'Mother Lady, Mystic, Queen: Rediscovering Mary" (Feb. 18, 10 a.m.).

"I have always had a fascination with black pilgrimage Madonnas," notes Brother McGrath, whose award-winning artwork has graced the cover of America Magazine, and who admits to a bit of whimsy in developing his creations. "I love to take the traditional symbol and image, and give it a twist," he says.

His inspirations also include "the spirit of [the late] Thea Bowman," and living in poorer section of Minneapolis, where he saw "the face of God it the faces and stories of the people, especially women I met there."

The titles in "Blessed Art Thou" were inspired by the Litany of Loreto, one of the oldest prayers of the Catholic Church. Ultimately, the artwork offers a culturally diverse and imaginative reflection of Marian images that may startle but ultimately speak with reverence and relevance to Catholics.

Father Fragomeni, whose animated, often humorous and undeniably direct style have appealed to Congress attendees for many years, is an associate professor of liturgy and homiletics, and chair of the Department of Word and Worship, at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. Having written extensively on liturgy, symbolism and the Eucharist, he is spiritual director at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, an Italian-American spiritual center in Chicago.

"Blessed Art Thou: Mother Lady, Mystic, Queen" is published by World Library Publications, the music and liturgy division of J.S. Paluch Company Inc. For information, call (800) 566-6150 or visit www.wlpmusic.com.


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