Bishop consecrates ‘Our Lady of Tenderness’ iconadmin
By Dorothy K. LaMantia
Correspondent for the Trenton Monitor
On Sunday, June 10, Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Bishop David O’Connell, C.M., paid a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Andrew, Jobstown, for a rare and special event – the consecration of its new icon, “Our Lady of Tenderness.”
During the 10:30 a.m. Mass, parishioners and parish staff watched as the bishop prayed over and anointed the icon with holy oil. Bishop O’Connell also blessed iconographer Kristina Sadley in front of the tabernacle, saying, “Mary the Theotokos was the God bearer as a tabernacle for the Lord.” These words were particularly significant to the iconographer whose personal prayer has long been, “May I be as a tabernacle for the Lord.”
Following Mass, parishioners honored Bishop O’Connell, Sadley and guests with a reception in the church hall. The icon, glistening with rivulets of chrism, was displayed.
Our Lady of Tenderness is one of the great traditional motifs of the Eastern rite, or Orthodox Christianity, in which Mary caresses the Child Jesus, their cheeks pressed together, emphasizing their deep attachment to each other.
For centuries, Orthodox Christians have used icons to enhance their spiritual imagination and aid them in prayer, which is part of the reason parish administrator, Father Joseph Hlubik, commissioned this icon for his parish. “I wanted an image that would be friendly to children and that showed Mary welcoming them. When they see her, people will know they have a companion who is merciful and understanding,” he said.
“It will be in our hall for the children of our parish to see. The coordinator of the CCD program, Celeste Grant, said that our kids don’t know the images of Mary, Christ, and the saints as [previous generations] had,” Father Hlubik added.
The icon of Mary is the second of two that Fr. Hlubik commissioned from Sadley for the church hall, which is used for Mass on weekends. Two years ago “I wanted people seated in the hall to feel like they’re in church, so I told Kristina I wanted a large image of Christ that could be a focal point. I wanted the image to convey the compassion and mercy of God, not sternness, but a God they can relate to.”
Consecrated by Bishop Smith in 2010, the icon of Jesus as Pantocrator, another traditional motif meaning All-Ruler, “transformed the hall into a more spiritual atmosphere,” he said.
Sadley, who hails from Allentown, has been creating, or as an iconographer would say, writing icons since 1999. A native of Trenton and a cradle Catholic, Sadley studied art history at the University of Maine, where the “door opened” to her love of contemplative icons. For 14 years she trained formally with Vladislav Andreyev, a master iconographer. Last year she was honored to have been the only American iconographer whose work, an icon of the Theophany, or the Baptism of Jesus, was featured at a major exhibit of icons at a gallery in Moscow.
It took her two months to complete the 56 by 42-inch icon of Our Lady, which is composed on wood, painted with egg tempera and 24-karat gold leaf. She grinds her pigments by hand. Her work engages her body, mind, and spirit, is done in silence, and is prepared with prayer and fasting.
“Icons are not craft, not art; it is a liturgical method and a ministry. It is not wall art and is not signed by the icon writer. The catechism states, ‘Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words.’ This is the reason that painting an icon is properly referred to as ‘writing.’ An iconographer is a writer of images. I must meditate on God’s Word and pray to worthily portray the holy word in image.”
Sadley has been doing business as “Prophecy Designs” for more than 30 years. In addition to her icon writing, she conducts workshops and gives presentations to share the richness of her ministry.
To contact Sadley at her studio, call 609-259-5318 or email email@example.com.