In sixth grader Samantha DeFrancesch’s painted depiction of “The Finding of Jesus in the Temple,” the Blessed Mother sprints toward her son like an Olympic athlete, her sandaled feet flying over the cobblestone plaza, her veil and gown trailing behind her.
In stark contrast to this anxiety-ridden mother is a relaxed Jesus, who is about to experience Mary’s response to his disappearance: a hug, followed by a reprimand.
Mary’s all-consuming love for her fully human, fully divine son – distilled in the five Joyful Mysteries – was the focus of an evening rosary prayed outside of St. Charles Borromeo Church Dec. 8 in celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Samantha and her St. Charles Borromeo schoolmate, seventh grader Amari Coleman, painted the mysteries so the 150 gathered faithful could better reflect on them as they made their way around the oak-studded rosary circuit.
“They were coming in during lunchtime to work on these (paintings). They said, ‘We got this!’” observed Carmen Johnson, a substitute teacher who helped coordinate the Living Rosary with middle school religion teacher Lisa Benoit.
A statue of the Madonna and Child was carried in procession to five “Mystery Stations,” each featuring a related student-produced painting: “The Annunciation”; “The Visitation”; “The Nativity”; “The Presentation”; and “The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.” The mysteries also were dramatized at the stations by costumed seventh graders.
The participating seventh graders told their teachers that the exercise reminded them of the latest Internet craze – “The Mannequin Challenge” – because the student-actors had to remain “frozen” in place for the duration of each rosary decade.
“You can talk to any of our students and they will be able to explain to you what’s going on in each scene,” said Johnson, noting that St. Charles Borromeo’s Catholic identity is rooted in constant prayer. Students and faculty pray throughout the school day, including at the start of every class and before and after lunch. Special prayer intentions announced at the beginning of the day are incorporated into classroom-based prayer, Johnson added.
Samantha, one of the artists behind the painted mysteries, said she and her classmates are well-versed on these special events in Mary’s and Jesus’ lives because the rosary is a regular school prayer and topic of study in religion class. The artist’s favorite scene to paint was “The Annunciation,” because “it had a little more detail in it – there was a carpet to work from and a piece of pottery,” Samantha said.
The sixth grader brainstormed ideas with her mother, adding touches such as grass between her cobblestones, a mountain of golden hay in her Nativity scene and gray-and-yellow wings for the Angel Gabriel.
Amari’s painting of “The Presentation” shows St. Joseph holding the Baby Jesus as Anna and Simeon look on. The seventh grader deliberately chose bold colors for the close-up study.
“It took me about three classes to finish,” Amari recalled. “The hardest part was drawing the lips!”