Wednesday, 30 April 2008

La calligraphie contre l'oubli

Sometimes ideas come to you in one language and when you try to translate them they just don't sound as good - although the French literally says "calligraphy against forgetting" probably the best way of trying to say what the thought expresses is to say "calligraphy as (a form of) remembrance".
The calligraphy above was by Jan Boyd and is part of an extraordinary book of first names of over 1,000 individuals abused by clergy. The beautiful book of names was presented to Pope Benedict during his recent visit to the USA. Rocco Palmo reports it in more detail in his very informative Whispers in the Loggia blog (if you're a Vatican watcher) and you can find more pictures in a photo gallery of the book's creation from the The Boston Globe:
"Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston presented the book at the historic Washington meeting between the pontiff and five abuse victims from Boston on April 17, midway through a papal trip to the United States during which Benedict spoke out four times about the pain and damage caused by clergy sexual abuse.O'Malley later described the book as "a symbolic way of helping the Holy Father to experience the dimensions of the problem."

There's much I find moving in this report - and in the beautiful calligraphy. Not only numbers but also names have been taken back to the Vatican, I like the idea that this book will be there for centuries to come - a way of saying suffering is not forgotten and perhaps also a way of encouraging churches as institutions to take the issue of abuse much more seriously. It also speaks to me of a creative way of campaigning and getting a very painful and truthful message across to a very powerful person - this was not a shrill way of speaking the truth to power, but I'm sure it was effective and moving.
Names say something essential about our individual identity and the dignity of every human life. I began part of this year's catechism by writing each young person's name in calligraphy. All of our names and lives are written in the book of life and held in the palm of God's hand.
That remembrance is eternal, lest Popes forget.

Photography by John Souza