View from the Pew
Traditions and trends can clash when churches alter their corporate logos
In this materialistic culture, visuals and symbols and logos are so important. Develop an image that defines the company or the product -- a golden arch, a philosophical talking lizard, a fast swoosh -- and the buyer can fill in the blanks, the thousand words aren't necessary.
That was true for Christianity long before marketing was adopted by capitalism. A simple two-stroke symbol, a cross or the outline of a fish, was an identifying password for the first followers of Christ. They never were replaced -- just watch for the auto emblems, tattoos and jewelry.
The simple symbols were elaborated upon over the centuries as theologians and artists interpreted, and some people lived Christ's message so well that they became symbols themselves. The oldest branches of the church, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, developed a plethora of saints and symbols in a deep-rooted tradition that is part of their spiritual lives but puzzling to others, including more recent variations of Christianity.
Anyone who grew up in the Catholic or Orthodox Church came to identify with the saint or the symbol whose name was given to the parish. In America, nationalities brought favorites from the old country, and you identified the ethnicity of the neighborhood by St. Giovanni or St. Adelbert. Even in Hawaii, school team names like Crusaders or Troubadours reflect the stories of their namesakes, St. Louis and St. Francis.
Two Honolulu churches recently underwent symbol adjustment, for better and for worse.
St. Stephen Church in Nuuanu Valley will dedicate a new mural depicting its namesake tomorrow. Catholic Bishop Larry Silva will preside at the 9 a.m. Mass and dedication celebration.
Icon artist Nicholas Papas of Greensburg, Pa., described his work Wednesday night to an audience of parishioners. Most of his work over the past 25 years has been in Orthodox Christian churches, which require the stylized imagery that dates back to the fifth century.
Stephen, whose story is told in the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles, died about two years after Christ's death and resurrection. Stoned to death by Jews who considered his teaching about Christ to be blasphemy, he was the first Christian martyr.
"As a prototype, he is depicted in simple garb, like baptismal garb," Papas said. "He is historically shown as a young man, beardless. The gospel writer said his face was beautiful when he was martyred."
The iconography tradition can also call for stones and bloodiness in the Stephen image. Papas said he left the gore out because the location is "in a place for children, a teaching image for them."
The 12-by-7-foot canvas mural also incorporates the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, imagery tied to the nearby baptismal font, and makes a new background for a treasured wooden statue of the Virgin Mary.
The bright new panels bring color and a focal point in the modernistic structure of dark wood and open space which, aside from the traditional crucifix, was virtually devoid of art. The mural was contributed by the family of the late Walter and Hilda Azevedo.
Across town, there is a church so loaded with a wealth of art and images that few people noticed that a basic, beloved symbol was recently surreptitiously discarded. St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki is a virtual gallery of glowing stained-glass art, stories from the Bible and the lives of the saints.
There is no other saint whose logo is so well known that even an atheist would get it right. Whether it is in ancient icon art or a hot-off-the-press T-shirt, the shamrock identifies St. Patrick. The guy who brought Christianity to Ireland used the three-faceted leaf of the common little plant to describe the Trinity, God in three persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Artist Nicholas Papas of Greensburg, Pa., created the new 12-by-7-foot icon mural of the namesake saint of St. Stephen Church, to be dedicated tomorrow. Papas used the ancient art form of iconography for the painting, which includes a scene of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and incorporates the church's treasured wooden statue of the Madonna at its center. Catholic Bishop Larry Silva will dedicate the liturgical artwork after the 9 a.m. Mass.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At the front of the main building of Sacred Hearts Academy are two big medallion decorations near the roof line, each showing a heart -- the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The shamrock has been dropped, deleted, discarded from the logo of St. Patrick parish and school. It was the decision of the Rev. Clarence Guerreiro, who, since he became pastor earlier in the year, has made numerous other changes to the 75-year-old parish.
Guerreiro was not swayed by complaints from an Irish sansei parishioner that it was an unholy divorce of the saint from his identifying symbol. That it is a terrible loss of a teaching tool about a basic point of theology. That it is just wrong.
The Portuguese priest said, "You can see the shamrock all over the place." He said there are very few people of Irish descent in the parish or the school. He said he wants to give prominence to his company logo.
Guerreiro replaced the shamrock with the symbol of the religious order to which he belongs, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a vision of Christ revered by Catholics since medieval times. Artists often show an anatomically correct heart superimposed on the breast of Jesus, circled with a crown of thorns, radiating light. It tells about Christ's divine love for mankind and the death he endured to show it.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary also has been an object of devotion since the Middle Ages. It is shown as pierced with a sword, symbolizing love for her son, aflame with compassion for humans, ringed with roses for heavenly joy.
Thankfully, the pair of hearts on the St. Patrick School sign is a tidy symbol, minus the details of blood dripping from piercing thorns and swords, with which artists loved to embellish the story. Perhaps the sign maker considered the sensibilities of children by sparing the gore.
The pair of hearts is somewhat familiar to Hawaii Catholics. The first Catholic missionaries here were members of the French-based religious congregation. In their heyday they staffed many of the parishes and schools in the islands, and some of the first bishops were named from their ranks. Their numbers have dwindled to less than a dozen men still in active ministry, with four parishes on Oahu. They wear the symbol embroidered on their liturgical robes.
"We established the church in Hawaii. It's important for people to know who we are," said the Rev. Paul Zaccone, administrator of St. Michael Church in Waialua and Sts. Peter and Paul Mission at Waimea Bay. He is absolutely on the same page about promoting the company logo. Zaccone has commissioned Sacred Hearts Sister Dorothy Santos to make two 5-foot square mosaics of the twin hearts, one for each of the North Shore churches. He distributes small heart lapel pins. "I think the symbol got lost. It got taken for granted."
Needing moral support, an Irish columnist would naturally seek out an Irish cleric. Brother Greg O'Donnell, president of Damien Memorial School, is a member of the Christian Brothers, whose logo is a Celtic cross.
He said he understands the use of an identifying logo like the Sacred Hearts. "Go ahead and put it on," he said. "But why take the other symbol off? The shamrock is a very strong symbol that people understand. It doesn't need explanation." It's the opinion of an Irish American from a religious order that originated in Ireland and, of course, has no likelihood of persuading a shamrock plucker.
The Sacred Hearts fathers are tardy in recognizing the power of the symbol. Only lately have they capitalized on the best-known Christian missionary to Hawaii, a member of the Sacred Hearts.
It was the Christian Brothers, latecomers to the islands, who memorialized Father Damien DeVeuster, the Belgian priest who is on track for sainthood because of work with leprosy patients. They named their school for Damien, an idea that the Sacred Hearts congregation never implemented.
Accompanying that famous name on the school logo is the symbol of the Irish cross.