Many of us will recall with great affection the late Fr Martyn Hill TSSF. He was a man of remarkable gifts, intelligence, and holiness. Subsequent to his death his daughters approached me and said that there was something that their beloved Dad would want me to have. Knowing of my devotion to Our Lady, Martyn, it would seem, would have wanted me to have a statue of the Madonna and Child that had been in the family for many years. In fact, Liz Fox, his daughter can never remember it not being “around” and was often cautioned, “Don’t touch.”
Over the years though it had developed its own bumps and bruises. Notwithstanding, I was utterly amazed at what was presented to me. The face was sublimely serene, the working of the carving in wood overlaid by a sort of “slip” was decorated with stars and a cloak of gold. Me being me, I set about to discover its provenance and its likely French or Dutch origins. I decided that it also required a bit of a clean. Here I sought the artistic genius of Ian McLaughlin; not merely a skilled painter and decorator. Ian set about cleaning it up and as you can see from the two photographs the transformation was, like Fr Martyn, remarkable!
It struck me that this rather beautiful object was a sort of metaphor for the Christian life and indeed the world in general. God wants to clean us up, remove the grime and dirt that covers the beauty of his world and the men and women who inhabit it. There is a lovely verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes where we read that, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” This is true; the problem is of course that sin (now that’s a good word to reclaim) has somewhat badly marred it. Perhaps through our prayers however, and our personal commitment to the Gospel, all of us might like to think of ourselves as, “little restorers,” bringing light and healing to God’s world – however it starts, as always, with ourselves!