The Catholic Spirit
Anyone looking at the new icon of soon-to-be canonized Blessed Junipero Serra might first notice his Franciscan habit and priest’s stole along with a cross and model of one of his California missions in his hands. But when they look at his eyes, the future saint could draw their gaze to heaven.
The icon, written by local iconographer Kati Ritchie in celebration of the 18th-century Spanish priest’s Sept. 23 canonization, is meant to help those viewing it enter into prayer, as it did when she wrote it at the request of members of Serra International.
“It’s a window to heaven,” said Ritchie, 71. “He’s looking out at me from heaven, and I’m looking at him.”
Ritchie, who is a member of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington, talked about being guided by the Holy Spirit and conversing with the saint as she created the icon, which she will present to Pope Francis during the canonization Mass in Washington, D.C. The icon, which measures 24 by 30 inches, is unusual because it is written in pastels on brown paper rather than tempera paint like many other icons, Ritchie said.
The icon was sponsored by the USA Council of Serra International with the support of Serrans in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Serra International is a lay Catholic organization fostering and affirming vocations to the priesthood and vowed religious life. Ritchie was asked to write the icon by members of her Serra club, Airport Serra, which meets in Bloomington.
An icon is an image of a holy person or angel written in the ancient language of sacred images which is meant for prayer, not decoration like a portrait, she said.
Ritchie, who has written more than 100 icons in both pastel and paint, said she learned about Father Serra from her father, who was a Serran in the Twin Cities. She said she admires Blessed Serra because of his perseverance through adversity, his creativity, and love of beauty and music.
Serra International will offer items with the icon printed on them, which can be purchased at SerraInternational.org.
The Catholic Spirit Article