Statues and Shrines – St. Mary’s Church, Sacramento, CA

Although the building age and design are relatively modern, the church is full of many lovely statues of long-venerated saints of the church. The volume is such as one would see in older Catholic Churches but the statues here are of newer design.

Of course, the patroness of the church, Mary the Mother of God is depicted in many ways throughout the church; and the foster-father of Jesus, St. Joseph is also shown in several places. The frequent appearance of St. Joseph is due to the long-time association of the parish with the Oblates of St. Joseph – as well as the special devotion to the Saint by the Italian-heritage people who formed the parish.

A carved wood statue of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus in his right arm and lilies of purity is his left is normally mounted on the side wall of the south transept. The Saint’s gaze is downward in contemplation and reverence as the Child holds his arms open in blessing. Today the statue is given a prominent place on the right side of the sanctuary during the Year of Saint Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis to run from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 to mark the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. An interesting painting of St. Joseph as the foster father of Jesus hangs near the side entrance on the south of the sanctuary. This image of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus is apparently modeled after the ancient image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in that the gray-bearded likeness of the Saint holding Jesus and a stem of lilies is surrounded by overhead monograms of “S.Jos.” (St. Joseph), “O.P.N.” (Ora Pro Nobis, i.e. Pray for Us) and E.C.P. (Ecclesiastical Protector), as well as large haloes.

On either side of the nave are niches with blue-sky backgrounds matching the ceiling mural which display saints honored for centuries in the Catholic Church. On the north side is St. Terese Lisieux (“The Little Flower”) shown life-size and holding a bouquet of roses over a crucifix. The Child Saint died at the young age of 24 from tuberculosis, but not before completing her autobiography, Story of a Soul which described her life as a “little way of spiritual childhood”. She believed in, and taught the importance of, a childlike focus and totally attentive love. In the south side niche is a saint very dear to the faithful practicing prior to Vatican II, St. Michael the Archangel. Saint Michael the Archangel is in his battle pose wearing Roman-style clothing fighting the evils of the world with a sword in His right hand and left finger pointed toward heaven. He holds down the head of a dragon (evil) with left foot, driving Satan into the underworld – a reminder of the strength needed to defy the evil influences in the world. The parish at St. Mary’s continues to recite the Prayer to St. Michael at the end of each Mass, as it has been done in churches throughout the world, since the prayer originated in the late 19th century from Pope Leo XIII: “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”

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