The official Icon for the World Meeting of Families 2018 is to have a permanent home in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh announced the news on Twitter saying: “The beautiful and inspiring icon of @WMOF2018 is finding a home in the Cathedral of
#StPatrick #Armagh Come with your family to pray.”
The Icon of the Holy Family, commissioned for the 2018 World Meeting of Families, was written by iconographer Mihai Cucu, who comes from Romania. Mihai was assisted by the Redemptoristine Sisters of the Monastery of St Alphonsus, Iona Road, Dublin. It was truly a work of their prayer
and of love.
The word ‘icon’ comes from the Greek word for ‘image’. An icon has a very different intention to the countless images with which we are bombarded day in day out. An icon is not like a photograph, nor is it a portrait. It is an image which invites us to prayer. Like the Gospels, but in a visual way, it helps communicate to us what kind of relationship God wants to have with us.
Traditionally icons use seasoned wood as their ground. Specialist Joinery Group, a company based in Co. Derry, crafted the wooden cabinet and base for the WMOF2018 Icon. This was then covered in several layers of gesso, which works like an undercoat, priming it to receive the paint well.
The type of paint used in icons is known as ‘tempera’, an ancient technique, in which the coloured pigments are bound together with egg yolk and water. This has very different qualities to oil or acrylic paint. The colours need to be applied with great patience, building from dark shades to light, often requiring many layers of tiny hatch-strokes laid closely on top of another.
The WMOF2018 Icon depicts an image of the Holy Family at table, sharing a meal and sharing their faith, as suggested by the Gospel of Luke chapter 2. An obvious Gospel text reflecting God’s concern for marriage is the Wedding at Cana in the second chapter of the Gospel of John. And finally, the other Gospel that came to mind was the Raising of Jairus’ daughter as found in chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel. There we see Jesus’ response to a family with a sick child and how he respected that family’s privacy in
the midst of emotional turmoil when it came to the moment of healing.
With these three narratives, the design of this icon takes the form of a triptych which looks, from the outside, somewhat like a house with front doors. On these outside doors, the Archangels Michael (left) and Gabriel (right) are featured.
On the base of the Icon is the inscription “AMORIS LAETITIA”, ‘The Joy of Love’, the title of Pope
Francis’ post-Synodal exhortation on love in the family, the source of many of the reflections
during the World Meeting of Families 2018.
The Icon travelled 45,000km around Ireland and to Rome as part of preparations for WMOF2018. More than 60,000 prayer petitions were collected as part of this prayer initiative which included parishes, dioceses, schools, a prison, monasteries and many more venues. Pope Francis blessed the Icon in Rome in March 2019 and was quite moved by the beauty of the Icon writing and the themes chosen for reflection.
The WMOF2018 Icon has been placed for the moment in the sanctuary of St Patrick’s Cathedral and it will be placed in a more permanent position in the Cathedral in the coming months. People are encouraged to pray before the Icon of the Holy Family for the protection of all our homes and families when visiting the Cathedral.