Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mary, Mother of Mercy

The Dominican Family under Mary's Mantle by Thoma Swanson, OP

Catholic devotion to Mary as Mother of Mercy flourish in Europe from the tenth century onward and spread to the Americas.  The most common way of portraying the Mother of Mercy is as a protective mother with a group of people taking shelter under her outstretched cloak. This image is called known by many names.  In Latin she is Mater Misericordiae and in Italian Madonna della Misericordia (Our Lady of Mercy). In Germany she is commonly known as the Schutzmantelmadonna (Sheltering-cloak Madonna) and in Spain the Virgen de la Merced (Virgin of Mercy) or Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady of Mercy).  In France she is the Vièrge au Manteau (Virgin of the Cloak) or Vierge de Miséricorde (Virgin of Mercy). 
The people taking shelter under her cloak are depicted on a much smaller scale compared to her and they represent diverse members of Christian society, kings, queens, popes, religious, saints, and ordinary people.  Several families, confraternities, guilds, convents, abbeys, and monasteries have commissioned statues or paintings of Our Lady of Mercy with the figures taking shelter under the mantle representing whatever group commissioned the work of art.  This 2005 watercolor painting by Dominican Sister Thoma Swanson watercolor hangs in the De Porres Center in St. Mary of the Springs, Columbus, Ohio.  It shows several Dominican saints and martyrs along with the dog from the dream of St. Dominic's mother, Blessed Jane of Aza, representing the light of Truth setting the world on fire.