HOUSTON — Robert Lentz, OFM, celebrated the completion of most of a major artistic commission at All Saints’ Church here at an evening vesper service on Jan. 30. A large congregation gathered for the occasion, including Dominic Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar, and Xavier Seubert, OFM, guardian of St. Bonaventure University Friary, who represented the Province.
Robert has now moved to SBU, where he is setting up his studio and joining the academic community.
As one of the most prominent iconographers in the United States, Robert was employed to oversee the vast redecoration of All Saints’ Church more than three years ago in anticipation of the parish’s 100th anniversary. Msgr. Adam McCloskey, the pastor, had been impressed by Robert’s work at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, N.M., and asked him to undertake decoration of All Saints, said Dominic.
The centerpiece of Robert’s work at All Saints is a large sanctuary screen, dominated by a massive icon of the Holy Trinity, which was completed and installed last fall, and blessed by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo on Nov. 23, 2008, during the parish’s centennial year Mass. The Trinity measures almost 10-feet tall by 8-feet wide. Robert told The Texas Catholic Herald, “The image depicts the Father sending the Son and the Son sending forth the Holy Spirit.”
Robert then painted two icons depicting the Annunciation, which were installed and blessed during the Jan. 30 prayer service.
A native of Colorado, Robert entered the formation program of St. John the Baptist Province in the late 1960s, but left the Order just before making solemn vows. Then, turning to his family’s Russian roots, he took up the study of religious icons and was apprenticed under a master iconographer at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Mass., in 1977, Dominic said.
In New Mexico over the past 30 years, Robert has gained a reputation as one of the leading iconographers in the United States, both as an artist and a teacher. His experiences among the poor in the developing world and his Franciscan spirituality have shaped the traditional training he received from the Orthodox tradition, creating his own distinctive style.
He illustrated a work by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God (Orbis, 1996) and then, with Edwina Gateley, co-authored Christ in the Margins (Orbis, 2003), a collection of 40 icons of both traditional saints and contemporary figures, with accompanying reflections. In recent years, Robert has become involved in interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, now working on a text for Orbis Press that will explore Franciscan and Sufi connections.
As a Secular Franciscan, Robert was close to the friars in New Mexico. He was again drawn to life as a Friar Minor and received into the Order there in 2003. He transferred to Holy Name Province in 2008, although he had to complete the major segments of the altar sanctuary screen for All Saints’ Church before moving East to live in the Province, according to Dominic. Although 12 smaller icons of recently-canonized saints remain to be completed for the altar screen, Robert plans to paint these at SBU and have them installed in Houston once they are completed.
Robert’s artwork may be ordered online from Trinity Stores.
Shown in the photo “behind” the picture above are Dominic, Fr. Gino Correa, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, Xavier and Robert.