I recently visited Getty Museum in Los Angeles with my community. One of the main exhibits was a collection of Psalters from the 13th century, books used by monks to pray. The pages of the books contained psalms and traditional Catholic hymns, together with drawings of Christ, Saints, and lots of monks.
It impressed me that the main exhibit of a secular museum would be of Catholic Art, and especially that it would draw the attention of so many people. When I was visiting this exhibit I was more attracted to see the faces and the reaction of the other visitors than to the art itself. I wondered “what they are thinking and feeling when seeing this Catholic Art?” The medieval art had God and the Church at the center of everything, God was the meaning of people’s everyday life and of society. And now here we are in Los Angeles, 2013, a couple of miles away from Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu. Life is very different nowadays: money, fashion, and fame are top priorities of most people.
As I walk through the exhibit, one drawing particularly called my attention. It was a paint of St Jerome extracting a thorn from a lion. It goes back to the legend in which a lion hurt by a thorn went to St Jerome’s monastery. All the other monks fled, but St Jerome realized that the animal was hurt and helped him to get rid of the thorn. The artist depicts St Jerome calm and focused, he is larger than the lion itself, while in the back a monk sees the scene apprehensively.
I really liked St Jerome’s drawing; first because there is nothing coolest than a monk that has a lion as a pet; secondly, it made me think that we should also not be afraid to evangelize culture, like St Jerome taming the lion. That day at the Getty Museum I saw the modern lion bowing down to the wisdom and sacredness of Catholic Tradition.