Commissioned by Reverend Robert McNamara of St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church for Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church.

Minh shares her experience about painting the icon.

January 30, 2002 With God's many graces and blessings, and after our working on this project together (patron, carpenters, artist, and your prayers), here it is the finished icon of Blessed Grimoaldo Santamaria after ten months when I first received the commission. The beautiful hidden panel underneath the many thousand layers of egg tempera brush strokes was built by Paul Conklin. The handsome stand was constructed a couple of weeks ago by Spencer Furbush. Praise God for their help, generosity and talent, and thank you all for your holy prayers.

It was a beautiful and reverent ceremony yesterday. After the blessing of the Icon, Father McNamara gave a brief but meaningful story with highlights about what brought the people to the gathering to celebrate and remember Blessed Grimoaldo's life of holiness. Fr. Wheeland, the Pastor of the Holy Cross Church brought up an important point. A friend made a humorous comment that Blessed Bl. Grimoaldo was just 19 when he died. He was too young. He could not have done much... Father continued saying that God's definition of what one has done or accomplished in his or her life is not the same as ours...

This reminded me about once a dear friend gave me a compliment saying that: "Minh did that! Our little Minh is doing great things for God!" I hastily told her that I am not that good because I have many weaknesses. It is not about doing great things for God the way we see it, but it is the purifying of one's soul that I think pleases him more. To me, it seems that whenever we have a goal set, we are pressured; Therefore, we try harder to succeed and often lose track of what are really the important things the Lord is trying to teach us. It is not about being successful. Whatever we do, charity should always be the priority.

February 22, 2002 Thanks Ms. Ellen for her help providing these pictures. They were taken on January 29, 2002, the day of the unveiling and blessing of the icon.

Left: (from left to right): Rev. Robert F. McNamara, Minh, Helene Panella Schlegel, and Ida Panella Turan (nieces of Blessed Grimoaldo).
Right: (from left to right): Back row: Rev. Foster Rogers (attended beatification), Rev. Thomas Wheeland (pastor of Holy Cross Church), Rev. Joseph Brennan (recommended Minh as iconographer), and Rev. John Reif (attended beatification and blessed the icon)
Seated: Rev. Robert F. McNamara (commissioned the icon).

Blessed Grimoaldo
(Images in progess which accompany thoughts, insights, reflections and prayers are at the end of the page)

July 12, 2001 What does it mean to be holy?

July 20, 2001 After a few hours, I finally was able to settle down and tried to work on the sketch of Blessed Grimoaldo. Praise the Lord for you, dear Blessed Grimoaldo! I know you understand that it is not easy for me to do this commission of depicting your icon. With the descriptions I have about you, I can just come up with the drawing, but it is your soul that the image needs to be able to come alive and help people get closer to our Lord and the Blessed Mother.

Please, I need your help of course. Also, please teach us how to focus on your holy life and learn from it, so that we can imitate you in virtues in order to give glory to our Father and to do his will more effectively.

September 26, 2001 Finally, the sketch is finalized, and the panel is built. Many thanks to Ms. Ellen Brannin. With her patience, enthusiasm, and prompt responses, she helped Fr. McNamara and me to speed up our communication through several emails and attachment files to finalize the drawing for the icon. Many thanks to Fr. McNamara who obviously has great enthusiasm and responsibility for this project, for showing me my "needed to be more humble"- self :-)! I definitely need the humble attitude to be able to understand this Blessed whom I now have the privilege to depict. Many thanks to my carpenter Paul Conklin for doing such a beautiful work building the panel. I hope to have a chance to take a few pictures of the details of the panel to show them here.

Praise the Lord! Here we are. We are now on a spiritual journey dealing directly with the Holy Trinity, and asking Our Blessed Mother and Blessed Grimoaldo especially for their intercession, prayers, guidance, help and inspirations.

This morning, I was happy to see that everything is gathered. Now it is just you and I traveling the journey. I added the very first layer of gelatin solution to the panel this morning. We have to wait for at least 24 hours before another coat can be applied...

September 28, 2001 A second coat of gelatin solution was added to the panel yesterday. Tomorrow, it will be ready for the application of the cheesecloth. The preparation of the panel is very labor intensive. The process takes time, and it is important to be patient.

It is divine providence that I am doing this icon commission now... God's timing is ever perfect!, or shall I say that the Lord is giving me the experiences which I am going through now to help me go deeper in prayer to do this project more effectively. If that is what it requires, dearest Lord, please give me the grace to accept and endure them with deep joy and peace. Like all the Holy ones, Bl. Grimoaldo went through many trials to be purified... O blessed Mother and Blessed Grimoaldo, please pray for us, who find it quite challenging going through the growing process and need to trust in God's loving mercy and compassion!

October 3, 2001 The cheesecloth layer is drying slowly which is necessary. This step helps to stabilize the painting surface in case the wood decides to move which it will due to the changes of temperature. The application of the first several coats of gesso is planned for the next day or so. This is the toughest part of the reparation of the panel. It takes almost all day to do this. I need your extra prayer for it.:-)

October 9, 2001 Thank you Lord! After several days of heavy work, finally the panel is ready for the next step which is the application of the clay (where the gold-leaf is going to be). That will take another day! After the cheesecloth, twelve layers of gesso were added to the panel. This morning the panel was dry enough that with God's perfect timing for good weather, I spent several hours of intensive labor sanding the panel. It was a miracle for me because I was a little worry that it was going to rain and cold as the weather has been predicted. The Lord sure surprised me :-) as he always does. I am grateful to you Lord. With you nothing is impossible!

October 18, 2001 I finished applying the clay onto the panel a few days ago. While waiting for it to settle, I transferred the sketch onto the panel and started mixing the colors. As I played with the colors, looking out from the New Helfta cell window, I realized the Lord is too hard at work painting the Fall away :-). How beautiful is your masterpiece O Lord, our great artist!. I told my spiritual hermit teacher to be careful that the Lord does not paint him too!;-) for he spends most of his time in the woods!. Today, how appropriate!, Happy St. Luke Feast Day! (As tradition has it, he is the first Iconographer!) I began to put the very first underpainting layers onto the panel. This process will take a few days. These layers will be buried underneath; However, they require my special attention and patience because they are the foundation for the rest of the layers of paints.

The actual painting process is one of the most edifying steps for me when working on a painting project. This is when God's gift becomes visible to our naked eyes. The Spirit is in total control, whether I feel it or not. I will be fine as long as I follow the inspirations and stay discipline. When I am off the track even a little, I will be reminded because my conscience will not let me be at peace. :-)

May St. Luke intercede for this project and help carry it along well. And may we all be generous and open to the Unity of Spirit in praying and being attentive to his Word as we continue to walk this journey with our Blessed in the presence of the Beloved Lord and his Blessed Mother. Amen.

October 23, 2001 Holding on to the brush, I abandoned myself to the Trinity in silence and peace, and let the brush do its job. Now and then, I was busy mixing the color paints while the brushes did the dancing on the mixing palate and the panel! After four hours, the habit began to submerge. That was like a miracle! Praise the Lord! Thanks to our Bl. Mother and Bl. Grimoaldo who had to listen to many of my stories! Also, many thanks all for your continuous prayers and support in the Spirit!

November 1, 2001 It is rather difficult painting an icon with a smile! I think I am breaking the rule of icon painting tradition here! :-) Anyhow, I have spent at least more than ten hours on the expression of his face. There was time I felt a little silly smiling at the image that smiled at me. Then sometimes it got too serious.... Having studied many pictures and images that I gathered as models, today, praise the Lord! and thank to the intercession of our Blessed Mother and all the Saints, I liked what appeared to be after spending several hours with it. What did he look like? How was his smile? Yes, he was gentle, pleasant, but firm and determined! Did he always have the same smile to everyone and all the time?...

November 9, 2001 Everything seems to come together. Praise the Lord for these beautiful fall days. I will need to pray for another sunny week to complete this icon. As always, He is so generous in giving. I trust in his loving mercy.

A friend is diagnosed with cancer. After talking to him, I was reminded to lend him the book about Blessed Grimoaldo's life so he can get to know him and ask for his intercession. Please say a prayer for this friend also. Thank you.

November 18, 2001 Many thanks for all your prayers. I just have to wait for a few days to glaze the icon and then add gold leaf to it. It has been a blessing!

Please note: For those of us who follow this project, the Journal page will tell you when this page is updated.

Model #1

Model #2

Passionist Badges

Camellia Tree

Graphite Study

Panel - Side view

Panel - Front view

Panel - clayed


In Progress

December 9, 2001 Thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Rob Cullivan and Andrea Dixon did a nice job on the article in the Catholic Courier about the painting of this icon. I just have to apply the gold leaf to the frame and the halo. Fr. McNamara saw the icon and liked it very much. I am happy with it also. The presentation date has been scheduled. If everything goes as planned, it is on January 29, 2002. Blessed Grimoaldo was beatified by Pope John Paul II January 29, 1995. So I guess that makes sense to have it on this date. Below are a few details of the icon.

According to A CURVED BRIDGE TO CALVARY The Life of Blessed Grimoaldo Santamaria passionist student by Pierluigi Mirra, C.P., translated by Rev. Dominic Papa, C.P., Blessed Grimoaldo was born in Pontecorvo, Frosinone, Italy, and was a member of the Congregation of the Passion founded by St. Paul of the Cross in 1720. While he was studying at a seminary, he got sick with meningitis and passed away on November 18, 1902 at the age of 19. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II January 29, 1995.

Grimoaldo's mother and sister emigrated and came to Rochester, New York. His mother died in 1933. His sister and many immigrants from Pontecorvo carried with them the memory of his holy life. They began to send prayers and supplications to him. Miracles happened through his intercession. The news traveled back to Pontecorvo and Ceccano, the townspeople and his Passionist brothers relived his memories, and they became witnesses of his holiness.

He is "another of God's young chosen ones,... a model for imitation on the road to eternity,... particularly to young people, those especially who are searching for meaning in their lives, or are struggling to overcome uncertainty and fear.... a model of pastoral commitment to those who minister as catechists or are members of organizations in their own parish communities... and finally, ...a model of 'earnestness' and 'consistency' to those who are committed to God in the Consecrated Life."

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