Collection: Mary, Domina Lucis

ARTIST: Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS


TENUI NEC DIMITTAM, the Oblate motto which means, I have taken hold and will not let go

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Because the Oblates are placed under the protection of Our Lady of Light, I chose this title as the theme of the painting for the chapel of the generalate in Rome. It is a little-known title for Mary which reminds us of her presence in the upper room on Pentecost, when the fire and wind of the Holy Spirit filled her and surrounded her, as it does for us today.

Red is the dominant color because of its liturgical symbolism for Pentecost. Combined with orange, yellow, and gold, it represents the vibrant energy and passion which comes with our devotion to God. It is also a gentle reminder of Salesian affection for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The painting was first inspired by the image of Mary in the local parish of Sta. Maria in Trastevere, an historically important church because of its ancient mosaics. In the main mosaic above the sanctuary, Mary is shown as Byzantine empress seated next to her son, the Emperor. She holds in her hand a scroll, the words on which I have changed to TENUI NEC DIMITTAM, the Oblate motto which means, I have taken hold and will not let go. Her three extended fingers at the top of the scroll symbolize the Holy Trinity, and from them hangs an Oblate profession cross with its olive branch, the only spot of green in the painting, another symbol of the new life which the Holy Spirit brings to us.

The hand on Mary's shoulder belongs to Jesus, and refers again to the beautiful mosaic in Trastevere. It was one of the earliest depictions in Christian art of human love and affection between the Holy Mother and her Son. Lastly, the words Live Jesus are repeated over and over in Mary's halo, just as the repeat over and over in all Oblate hearts.

Br. Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS