The Holy Family

The current issue of America magazine has a piece reflecting on a painting by Janet McKenzie, The Holy Family. As the writer observes, many of the pictures of the Holy Family that we see in museums show a fair-skinned Jesus and Mary and an elderly, also fair-skinned, St. Joseph.

The McKenzie painting (which is hangs in Loyola School in NCY and which you can see a representation of here), looks nothing like so many of those depictions of the Holy Family. As the author of the America piece observes, McKenzie picture is of “a group of poor people who have the features of the African or perhaps the Mexican or Peruvian.”

It is no more likely that Jesus, Mary and Joseph looked African, Mexican or Peruvian, than northern European. Yet, as the author observes, “forcing us to recognize both similarity and difference…[compels us] to think again and to look twice…It is as if the unknown reality of those first-century peasants has been transposed into another key, one to which we can genuinely respond.”

I had a number of things I thought to say about this painting. But instead, I invite you to take a look at it yourself, and reflect on what you see there. On how it is both the same as and different from other depictions you’ve seen. On what it is that draws you to it.