HOUSTON — A major artistic effort by master iconographer Robert Lentz, OFM, came to completion on Oct. 5, with the unveiling and blessing of the “Wall of Icons” in the sanctuary of All Saints Church. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, presided and preached at a 5:30 pm Eucharist here. I was honored to represent Holy Name Province on this occasion and concelebrated the Eucharist with the cardinal and the pastor, Msgr. Adam McClosky.
This project goes back almost a decade, when Msgr. McClosky decided to renovate All Saints, one of the oldest Catholic churches in Houston. Impressed by Robert’s large reredos depicting American saints in St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, Santa Fe, N.M., he contacted him about a similar effort for his own church. The result is a large sanctuary screen, reminiscent of a Byzantine iconostasis. The central arch is a large icon of the Trinity; beneath it is an icon of the Annunciation, with the figures of Gabriel and Mary facing the tabernacle. These central panels are flanked by icons of 12 saints, chosen from a wide variety of cultures in order to express the title of the church. Most have been canonized or beatified in recent decades.
The central portion of the Wall of Icons was installed in 2009. Since then, Robert has been working on the remaining eight icons of saints, first at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., and more recently at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., amidst other projects. He and Michael Reyes, OFM, packed and drove the artwork to Houston early in the week. In order to introduce them to the parish community, Robert also presented two public lectures. On Oct. 2, he spoke on “The Communion of Saints,” addressing the project as a whole: why the choice of icons instead of Western art, and the overall composition of the screen. The following day, Oct. 3, in a talk titled “A Conversation with our New Saints,” he spoke of the 12 figures depicted and why he chose to compose their particular icons the way he did.
As one who teaches the Franciscan theological and spiritual tradition, I am deeply impressed with the way that Robert expresses St. Bonaventure’s Trinitarian theology in his central icon (all creation dynamically emanating from God’s Word, the “Eternal Art”), and how “the Most High becomes Most Low,” dwelling among us in the Incarnation and the Eucharist.
The 12 saints chosen are, from left to right, first on the left side: (top row) Andrew Dung Loc, Josephine Bakhita, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, (bottom row) Pedro de Betancour, Toribio Romo, and Edith Stein. On the right side are (top row) Juan Diego of Mexico, Martin de Porres, Pio of Pietralcina, (bottom row) Maximilian Kolbe, Katherine Drexel, and Faustina Kowalska.
Reproductions of a number of these icons are available online.
— Fr. Dominic is Provincial Vicar of Holy Name Province.