Saint Charles welcomes the portrait of his patron saint
A 16th century Italian saint may have interceded on behalf of the golden anniversary of the Diocese of Arlington in the 21st century.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge sought the intercession of St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), a cardinal and archbishop of Milan who helped lead the Counter-Reformation and develop the church’s seminary system, during a “Clarity of Faith” event at Arlington Parish named in his honor on April 29.
The evening event, part of a series in the three-year build-up to the Diocesan Golden Jubilee in 2024, included a discussion of the saint’s life, a concert of 16th-century sacred and secular vocal and instrumental music, and a presentation of a new painting of the saint by Madisonian artist Henry Wingate.
Saint Charles Borromeo is the patron of the Church of Arlington and three dozen other American Catholic parishes bearing the same name. A dozen seminaries around the world are named in his honor, including St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where Father Donald J. Planty Jr., pastor, and Bishop Burbidge attended. Bishop Burbidge also served as rector there. “I have a personal devotion to St. Charles,” Bishop Burbidge said.
In Wingate’s oil painting, the saint wears cardinal’s robes of bright cadmium scarlet and alizarin purple. Her hands are clasped in prayer, her eyes look upwards in a profile facing right. Thus, the church will install the painting on the left side of the large crucifix hanging in its sanctuary, a holy reminder to keep our eyes on the passion of the Lord. Installation timing is still being determined.
The profile pose is historically typical of St. Charles images, Father Planty said. It also emphasizes its “prominent schnoz”, the impassive priest to the laughter of the audience.
The portrait was commissioned by Father Planty and sponsored by the Rick and Kate Frantz family, former St. Charles parishioners who have since left Virginia.
For the first year before the jubilee, the theme “Remembering” recalls Christ’s mission to “Do this in memory of me” and invites all members of the diocese to remember his past with gratitude. An art and music sub-theme is part of the diocesan effort to find “creative ways to help people draw closer to the Lord and remember his promise to be with us always,” said Bishop Burbidge.
He hopes to renew and reinvigorate the commitment “to share our faith in the midst of the secular world”.
Year 1 “Remember” activities began in November 2021 and continued until the Feast of Christ the King on November 30. Upcoming cultural events include a festival on May 21 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton, featuring a review of the Torch Drama Club and Spanish and Irish music, and an architecture conference on September 11 on the Saint Mary’s Basilica in Alexandria, followed by a concert of sacred music drawn from the American colonial period.
Sacred art and music are rooted in incarnation, Fr. Planty said in conversation with Wingate on the program. The priest reminded the audience that paintings and statues of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and other holy men and women help focus and inspire Catholics, who revere the truth of people, not the truth of images.
“Material things can mediate the spiritual,” he said. And because most of these objects are blessed, they are also sacramentals.
Father Planty added that vocal music is the highest expression of sacred art, since the words of scripture are incorporated as lyrics.
“He who sings prays twice,” St. Augustine is said to have said, while Ephesians 5:19 reads, “Address one another in psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
Saint Charles, during his years as an adviser to his uncle, Pope Pius IV, organized “Noctes Vaticanae”, or “Vatican Nights”, which featured works of art, music and readings to foster faith, said Father Planty.
Father Joseph Rampino, vicar parochial of Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria and another alumnus of St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, was the evening’s emcee.
Kenny Kohlhaas led the choir of singers: Emily Mason, Maria Brock, Katherine Fields, Christine Connor, Allan Palacios Chan, Andrew Brown, Dylan Gallagher and Anthony Smitha.
The string quartet included William Tortolano and Ruth Erbe, violin; May Ann Tortolano, viola; and Michelle Keenan, cello.
Holan is a freelancer in Arlington.
For more upcoming events for the Diocesan Golden Jubilee, go to arlingtondiocese.org/jubileehome.