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Creative Minority Reader

Yikes. Virgin Mary Wrapped in American Flag.

The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, ran this picture alongside a story about the Fortnight for Freedom. The caption reads, "This poster depicting the Blessed Mother draped in the American flag has been distributed to all parishes in Brooklyn and Queens as part of the observance of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign launched by the U.S. Catholic Bishops. The bishops are combatting threats to religious freedom in America."

David Gibson of Religion News called it the Star Spangled Virgin. He asked if it was "blessed or blasphemous."

I'm not sure about picking one of those words though. "Icky" comes to mind. "A mistake" comes to mind.

I understand that we're talking about freedom here and it's not party politics so... No. I'm trying to talk myself into not being queasy over this but it's not working. It's disturbing to me.

And I'm not a guy who shies away from saying "God bless America" but that's a whole different thing than wrapping Mary in the flag. Just no. No. No. No.

It seems that the artist is a woman named JoAnne Von Zwehl who's done other paintings that give me the heebie jeebies as well. Like this one:

I'm sure the artist means well and loves Christ and loves America but if that confusing image doesn't ignite some sort of gag reflex I don't know what would.


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Anneg said...

Although I do believe in American exceptionalism and that God has used this country for enormous good in the world, we do not reach the level of wrapping the flag around the Blessed Virgin. She is our patroness, though..
Btw I never could figure out the picture of Jesus with the Italian flag coming out of his chest, though.

BurgoFitzgerald said...

I am not an American, but I subscribe to many catholic blogs that are written by Americans. With all due respect, I always feel, as you write, "icky" when I see art, memes, or images in these blogs (although catholic boards on Pinterest are especially notorious for this) in which Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, or God Himself are wrapped in the American flag, or standing beside Thomas Jefferson, or pointing along with Uncle Sam saying "You Will Not Take Our Religious Liberty." Whether or not these artists mean well is irrelevant. They have missed the point of what Christianity, and especially if they are catholic artists, and Catholicism is. Furthermore, looking upon these images it would seem that the artist truly believes that somehow God and his staff of Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit, have an actual geo-political stake in the world.I have never seen St. Joseph wrapped in an American flag, but as he is the patron saint of Canada, perhaps his diplomatic mission is a covert one.

Harry Seldon said...

And why is the Virgin wearing eyeliner and lipstick?

Nathan said...

I'm American and don't believe in American Exceptionalism (we went from slavery to genocide to Jim Crow to murdering millions of babies) and don't like these images, although I imagine there must be a way an artist could combine the flag and Our Lady or Our Lord, just not this way - not in a way that makes them seem like American patriots. Christ is Lord of the World (including America) and Mary is the Protectress of the Americas so there must be some way of doing this tastefully while getting across the idea of the Fortnight for Freedom, but not like this.

August said...

Since the republic for which that flag stands no longer actually exists, I find regard for it troubling and possibly demonic in nature. I understand the right wing patriotic mindset- that is where I came from- but the thing is destroyed. This is like watching family members deny grandma is dead. It starts to get annoying.
Last Sunday, the priest wanted us to say the pledge. I did not, but of course, probably everyone else did. It seemed quite a lot like someone literally putting a 'god' before God, though I suppose the geometry was a bit off.
This indivisible part stands out as something I hope is quite wrong. We are already know we are not 'under God'. It is hard enough to keep our own houses. We can't even say our neighborhood is under God. We are, however, certainly under attack. The intelligent thing would be to separate out, come together, and create a place we could defend (if necessary) and grow stronger while these mindless idiots chase after each other (I bet most of the NSA spying is actually on government people. D.C. people think themselves so important they are unlikely to notice much that isn't directly relevant to them) and destroy whatever remaining assets they have available to them.

Harry Seldon said...

Ah, I see now. This is the work of Joanne Von Zwehl, daughter of the people who built the chapel in NY promoting the dubious "Rosa Mystica" apparitions in Italy. There's lots of shifty mysticism involved, the OMI and SOLT are part of it, and it appears that bad taste is the least of the problems.

Whatever we think of as the problems in the American Church, always remember that we also have a group of people, distinct from orthodox Catholics who have Marian devotions, who are Marian crazies. The Marian crazies are in every parish, and apparently in lots of chanceries, and they are a fun wild card that pops up from time to time and do inexplicable things. Like this.

Dymphna said...

You know that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the symbol of Mexico and that the Divino Nino wears the colors of the Colombian soccer team? The art is tacky but it's not unusual.

Ellyn said...

I see the 'good intentions' of the artist, but it is really icky. And I could see how non-Catholics could look at this and make a connection with the whole "flag=last refuge of a scoundrel" sort of thing.

Donna M said...


In defence of the artist. Her work will be judged by God. A "feeling" of icky? Her work may be, being defined from a very "narrow" interpretation! Bad taste possibly, maybe. But, remembering intent of the artist applies here. Fortnight for freedom!
Where is all the outcry for "truly" sacrilegous work by supposedly catholic artists, who never apologize! Glorified by secular society. Now there is a scandalous outrage!
I've often heard that Catholic artwork is too graphic, distorted and grotesque! And that is the passion and crucifixion!

Uh,....er, uhm. Out of charity for possibly miss spoken words. Please, take heed and be very careful in calling Marianists "crazies"!
Sounding alot like the defeated, underworldly co-pilot!
Reminding, when natural and man made destruction has happened in the past and present, it is usually MARIAN images that have survived the cataclysm!

Foxfier said...

How about this one?

Not explicitly USA, but does have a red, white and blue theme.

Dennis Mahon said...

I think a more appropriate image would be of Our Lady comforting a wounded eagle.

Subvet said...

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Israel have a claim on God's favor also? That didn't stop them from routinely turning away from Him, for which He allowed their chastisement at the hands of various foreign nations.

My point is that if you want to claim God's favor you'd better darned well be worthy of it. We presently are not.

Harry Seldon said...

Not mis-spoken at all. Marian crazies exist. They do things like this.

NickMcC said...

I'm becoming more and more of a Marian crazy since my introduction to Schönstatt my junior year in college (last fall). As a Marian crazy, I find this work to be not primarily Marian but first American then Marian (which should never be the case - God is above Country), and as an artist I find this work well meaning but the symbols mix uncomfortably (Mother of God draped in American flag - is America protecting Mary? More like other way around).

Harry Seldon said...

Harry Seldon wrote:

""Whatever we think of as the problems in the American Church, always remember that we also have a group of people, distinct from orthodox Catholics who have Marian devotions, who are Marian crazies.""

Yep, that's what I thought I wrote. Distinct from Orthodox Catholics who have Marian devotions. Seems pretty clear.

Fr Bill Peckman said...

bah...still doesn't possess the creepiness factor of a precious moments figurine.

Donna M said...


Nan said...

@Fr Bill, when my sister got married she had forgotten to get a guest book so my aunt and I stopped at Hallmark to get one. My aunt reached for the precious moments one....I wanted to scream "nooooooo!!!!!!!" and bat her hands away from it. Instead I just chose another that was more appropriate for a 33 year old bride who didn't love precious moments.

Sarah said...

Gauche. And lame. Way to reduce the Blessed Mother to a posterchild for the Protestant idea of "religious freedom." The American flag has nothing to do with God's rights and the rights of the Church He founded. It has everything to do with a kumbaya, let's-all-stand-up-for-each-other's-faith-journey, Protestant mangling of our universal right to do as we ought, which should lead every soul to the Catholic Church. Any country which makes laws without reference--or in open opposition--to the Bride of Christ is doomed.

William Meyer said...

"the proper mission that Christ has entrusted to His Church is not of the political, economic, or social order: in fact, the end that he has set is in the order of religion." (Gaudium et Spes S, 42).

We are promised that the Church will prevail, not that any country will.

Further, on the secular side of the question, flag etiquette forbids the wearing of the flag as an article of clothing, though this clearly is overlooked in practice, almost universally. Still, it is wrong from both sides of the question.

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