In Your Midst

From the Archives

Easter 2011

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Pleading

In the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle is a 1907 invoice from Benziger Brothers, Chicago, which details Bishop Edward O’Dea’s large order for the furnishing and decoration of Seattle’s new Cathedral. Included in the long list (with everything necessary for a church interior from twelve purificators at 25 cents each to a vault for the sacristy at $35) are three statues:  “Sacred Heart of Jesus Pleading, Mother of Grace, St. Joseph” all in Carrara marble and specified to be 5’7” tall.  The statues of Joseph and Mary cost $380 each, while the statue of the Sacred Heart was $450, and was the gift of Mrs. M. D. Pease.  (The image of Our Lady of Grace was the gift of Mrs. John B. Agen, whose descendants still worship in the Cathedral today!)

The image of the Sacred Heart Pleading is a variation on the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which shows Christ blessing with one hand while he points to his heart, burning with love for humanity, with the other.  In this image, we instead see Christ in prayer to his Father,
“pleading” for us.

In the early days of the Cathedral, the statue was the centerpiece of the Cathedral Chapel, but was later moved into the north transept.  On Monday, April 2, 1973, towards the end of Lent, a mentally ill man entered the Cathedral, and, according to the Seattle P-I the next day, “picked up one of the heavy altar candle holders and swung them around his head, shattering all that he struck.”  Fortunately, the organist and director of music, Paul Carmona, was practicing on the organ at the time, and was able to intervene.  The vandal was taken to Harborview Hospital and then to the City Jail, but not before he had destroyed the entire altar in the north transept.  The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Pleading was knocked to the ground, and shattered.

Irreparable, the pieces were sent to Italy where a new image of the Sacred Heart Pleading was executed exactly like the one that had been destroyed.  A fitting image of resurrection!

Maria Laughlin is the Director of Stewardship & Development at St. James Cathedral

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