DESIGN by Bernard Lauwyck
a rough “artist’s impression”
On Friday 22 July 2016 shortly after 8 pm a fire was detected in the church at Pointe Michel, dedicated to our Lady of La Salette; Dominica’s National Shrine
This week cleaning efforts were started as shown below :
The St. Michael stained glass, salvaged from the ruins of the old Portsmouth church after the earthquake of Nov. 21, 2004, has now been restored in the southern semi transept of the new catholic church in Portsmouth. St. Michael, the archangel, is depicted as defeating the devil.
The St. Peter’s church in Colihaut: the location of Fr. Paddington remains
In two previous articles I published my research on the first black priest in Dominica named Fr. George Paddington, who died in 1851.
In these I cited from several sources, but had very little to present from local sources. I have now found a local source which confirms most of my research and places Fr. George Paddington in a new light. It seems that in the short period, less than two years, that he was living and serving in the St. Peter’s Parish in Colihaut, he must have made quite an impression on the local population.
The local source is THE DOMINICA COLONIST, a newspaper that was not known to be pro-Catholic. Indeed in several issues, I found articles against the “popish religion” (= Catholicism) and in support of the Wesleyan missions and the established church, meaning the Church of England.
Therefore I found, to my great surprise, a very positive OBITUARY of Revd. George J. Paddington in the DOMINICA COLONIST of November 22, 1851.
This could only have been because he was an extraordinary saintly priest.
And I quote: “It is with feelings of the deepest regret, that we have this day to record the death of the Revd. GEORGE J. PADDINGTON, Roman Catholic
Curate of the Parish of Saint Peter – aged 50 years, which melancholy event took place at the presbytery in Roseau, this day at 2 o’clock, after a short illness of eight days.
Mr. Paddington was a colored gentlemen and a native of Kerry in Ireland. His pious and virtuous habits in early life did not fail to attract the notice of several high dignitaries of his Church – among whom we may mention the names of the Bishops of Cork and Kerry. At a later period, yielding to the Divine call he unhesitatingly sacrificed the most favourable prospects of worldly aggrandizement and joined that ministry, of which, to the close of his life, he was a distinguished ornament and most worthy labourer. After having devoted a part of his life to the study of Theology in Rome, he proceeded to St. Domingo [ present day HAITI ], but in consequence of the despotic and tyrannical policy of the government of that country with which his liberal and enlightened spirit could not agree, he left on a tour through the islands, with the intention of proceeding afterwards to his native country; but having landed in Trinidad he was induced at the solicitation of His Grace the Archbishop of Port of Spain, Dr. SMITH, to alter his resolve and to accept a mission in this island, where he arrived in September 1849. From that period this, his zeal in his Master’s cause was unremitting, and his exertions indefatigable.
In fact there cannot be any doubt that his death was exacerbated by his exertion in responding to the calls of the dying, during the Influenza in his parish, being night and day in attendance, and having often to travel at a great distance on foot to the mountainous parts to administer the last comforts of religion.”
In “PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS, HOUSE OF COMMONS AND COMMAND – GREAT BRITAIN. PARLIAMENT”, we read that many islands such as Jamaica and St. Lucia were heavily stricken by Cholera between 1849 and 1850. Dominica however was spared this ordeal but had a flu or influenza epidemic during that period. From reading the above obituary, it seems that this flu caused many deaths in Dominica.
Let us go back to the obituary in THE DOMINICA COLONIST :
“As a clergyman, Mr. Paddington was without blemish; as a friend he was sincere and devoted. To these who were under his spiritual charge, his loss is irreparable, and to his friends, his death must ever be a subject of mournful contemplation.”
And then comes a very interesting piece of information, because Dominica was full of religious strife and discord at the time:
“The Passing Bell announcing that his spirit had winged its flight to the region of immortality had no sooner commenced that it was joined by that of the St. George’s [Anglican] Church and a solemn funeral peal was tolled. This is as it should be. In death there is no difference – A Minister of Christ had gone to his reward and his Brethren in the Ministry, although of another denomination, joined to announce to them the mournful but to him blissful event.
His funeral obsequies will be performed at the [Catholic] church in Town, on Friday morning – after which his remains will be conveyed to St. Peter’s- His parishioners having requested that he should be there interred.”
Fr. George(s) Paddington, a saintly black priest, buried in the Colihaut church, has since that time been forgotten in Dominica .
by Bernard Lauwyck
The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or the Redemptorists arrived in Dominica in 1902 with the arrival of Bishop Philip Schelfhaut, a belgian Redemptorist and 5th Bishop of Roseau. He brought with him several Redemptorist priests and brothers to minister and to serve.
The Redemptorists brought with them the devotion to our Lady of Perpetual Help and in 1921 a beautiful triptych of Mary, the mother of Jesus, under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual help was donated and installed in the Roseau Cathedral.
This religious artwork can now be viewed and venerated at the St. Gerard’s Chapel in Roseau.
The definition of a triptych is any three-panelled picture , screen or mirror. The term was originally applied to three-panel religious paintings used on altars in churches, one of the most famous being the Ghent altarpiece (AD 1432) by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb ( in Dutch: Het Lam Gods or The Lamb of God).
The painting is set into an oak frame with two side panels attached. When the two panels are closed, one notices the inscription :
“GIFT FROM LOUISA POTTER”
I understand that members of the Potter family, notably Cynthia , played the pipe organ in the Cathedral for many years.
The left panel reads
“COMFORT TO THE AFFLICTED”
This is based on the fact that Mary is the mother of God in heaven as she was on earth, because Jesus, remains her Son for all eternity.
She knows and personally experienced human misery.
She obtains, by intercession with her Son, gentle rest for all who are laden with trouble and pain; she gives comfort to the afflicted and healing to the sick.
The wood carvings of roots, stem, branches, leaves and flower depicts one of the most commonly Old Testament prophecies in Christian Art; the TREE of JESSE, which flowers into JESUS, the flower on top.
“And there shall come forth a rod out the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” Isaiah (11.1)
The right panel reads
“HEALTH OF THE SICK, P.F.U” ( Pray for us).
Mary is asked to pray for us, to intercede on our behalf before God, her Son, as she did during the wedding in Cana.
A prayer to Mary reads :
“O Mary, obtain consolation for the sad,
help for the poor, health for the sick
and forgiveness for sinners.”
When we focus in on the centre panel we notice the words below :
O.L.OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR, P.F. U.”
OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, PRAY FOR US”
The Fleur-de-Lys is placed very prominently on top, gold on blue. A stylized lily, in French, “ fleur de lis” literally means “lily flower”. The lily is associated with Mary for her perfect purity and chastity.
In the centre panel, a delicately carved oak frame contains the letters A M for AVE MARY or Hail Mary, the greeting spoken to young Mary by the angel Gabriel, announcing the birth of Christ to her (Luke 1:26): “ HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE, THE LORD IS WITH YOU, BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN “ .
Like all religious images, an icon is as a “window to Heaven”, a portal through which one sees greater Truths than can be revealed by words alone. Icons are not painted but written as a prayer, layer after layer, eight layers or more. The painter starts with the darker colours and, as he or she proceeds, brings out the light from darkness by applying lighter colours till the final layer:the bright gold leaf. “THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS”. John 1:5.
Nearly every aspect of this icon has symbolic meaning. Therefore iconographers will copy older icons as close as possible. Individuality in style and contents is to be avoided. This icon existed already in the 16th Century Serbia (churches of Lesnovo and of Konce) under the name “the icon of the Mother of God of the Passion” (“STRASTNAIA” ).
The title is written on top of the icon: the Greek letters : MP OY. This is the abbreviation of “METER THEOU”, Greek for “Mother of God”.
Two angels are holding the instruments of Christ’s Passion. They are identified with Greek letters. On the left is the archangel St. Michael. He is holding the lance and gall-sop. On the right is the archangel St. Gabriel. He holds the cross and the nails.
In this icon the Mother of God has one star on the veil over her head. She is the Star of the Sea, the one who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world , the star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven, Our Lady of safe Haven.
Mary wears a dark blue mantle (as worn by mothers in Palestine) on a red tunic, the colour worn by virgins at the time of Christ. The icon illustrates that she is both virgin and mother.
Next to Jesus appear the letters IC XC Greek and old Bulgarian spelling for Jesus The Christ .
The Mother of God holds Jesus on her left arm, who looks back fearfully at one of the angels symbolising his passion, his future suffering. For protection, He seeks refuge with his mother: He seizes with his two hands the right hand of his Mother. This is so beautiful, so very human.
The entire background is golden, symbolic of Heaven where Jesus and Mary are now enthroned. The gold reflects on the highlights of the garments of Mary and Jesus. The holiness of heaven burst out of this artwork.
Jesus is not depicted as the little baby, but as Christ-Emmanuel “ God among us” , clothed in glorious gold, red and green. His mission as Saviour is to come into the world to suffer the Passion. Though he is God, he is human as well and afraid of this terrifying future. One sandal slips from his foot. He clings to his mother, who holds him close in this moment of panic and fear.
Mary will be at his side till he dies on the cross. While she can’t spare him his suffering, she can love and comfort him.
This Icon is about Our Lady, not about beautiful colours or shiny gold leaf !!!
This is a woman with a saddened tender face looking straight at the spectators.
We, as spectators become part of this icon, we are drawn into her eyes. Her motherly tenderness, protection and love is not only for her Son, but directed straight at each of us. She offers us the same comfort and love she gave her Son.
This is the meaning and symbolism of this picture.
This triptych has a prominent place in St. Gerard’s Chapel in Roseau, till the day it will return to the Cathedral. In the mean time, let us take the opportunity to re-discover its meaning and symbolism. One can only appreciate what one understands.
This is high quality religious art on display in Dominica. Do not miss it. Do not take it for granted.
On Wednesday April 13th 2016 the Redemptorists in Dominica will celebrate and commemorate 150 years of dedication to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the OLPH chapel at GIRAUDEL.
PS : An authentic large icon of OLPH can also be found at the church in St. Joseph. This was obtained and installed by Fr. Mike Houston CSs.R when he was parish priest there.