ROME — Cardinal Raymond Burke recently unveiled a monument he commissioned for his titular church, St. Agatha of the Goths, of a saintly Irish monk who was ordained there in 1881.
“Cardinal Burke loves to build and loves to beautify … and this is a monument to this great man and this great event in his life to remind us where this saint was ordained,” said Duncan Stroik, the monument's designer, in a Nov. 14 interview with Catholic News Agency.
The monument to Blessed Columba Marmion, which was dedicated Oct. 25, is located on the side aisle of the church and features a bas relief profile of the blessed above a Latin inscription.
The inscription proclaims, “Here in the church of St. Agatha of the Goths, June 16, 1881, Joseph Marmion was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dublin by Tobias Kirby, rector of the Irish College. Then, after entering the Order of St. Benedict and taking the name Columba at the Abbey of Maredsous, he was elected the third abbot of the same community.”
“Excelling in priestly virtue and renowned for his sanctity, he died on Jan. 30, 1923, and was beatified Sept. 3, 2000, by Pope John Paul II.”
It also notes that “His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke took care to erect this monument in A.D. 2012.”
Stroik said that the extraordinary beauty of Roman churches is due to the fact that they are cared for by cardinals. Part of being made a cardinal by the Pope is that each cardinal receives a titular church.
“It's the cardinals' responsibility to take care of their titular churches; that's why churches in Rome have been so beautified ... because the cardinals are spending money on their churches,” Stroik said.
When Cardinal Burke was given St. Agatha of the Goths, he saw that “here's a man [Blessed Columba] who is going to be named a saint in a matter of time, and there's no monument to him in the church where he was ordained, so that was the impetus for the monument,” Stroik recalled.
‘Theology in Stone’
Reflecting on the importance of beauty in drawing man's heart to Christ, Stroik said, “Are not our churches theology in stone? Beauty draws us in and affects us. … When we do things for the glory of God, it should be our best. Since he is beauty, our best should be beautiful.”
The monument is made of Giallo marble — to “pick up the beautiful, rich marbles in the apse” — and the abbot's profile was sculpted by Giuseppe Ducrot.
Stroik said it was designed to be both unique and to fit in with the rest of the church in a harmonious way. Below the inscription is a coat of arms for Blessed Marmion, which features an abbot's crozier and two shamrocks to represent his native land.
Joseph Marmion was born in Dublin in 1858 and went to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome for his final seminary studies. At the time, St. Agatha of the Goths was the site of the Irish College.
He served as a parish priest, professor and spiritual director while he served the Dublin Archdiocese.
After five years as a diocesan priest, he obtained permission from his bishop to join the Benedictine monastery of Maredsous, Belgium. After becoming abbot, he continued to devote himself to spiritual direction, focusing his retreats on Christ as the model for the life of Christians.
His classic spiritual works include Christ, the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ, the Ideal of the Priest.
Stroik has authored a book, The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence and the Eternal, which will be available in December from Liturgy Training Publications.