St Peter’s Catholic Church in Hove will mark the first anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Carlo Acutis by unveiling a portrait of the teenager painted by artist and parishioner, John Armstrong. The painting, which will hang in the Sacred Heart Chapel, will be a welcome addition to the church encouraging the veneration of a boy who was born and baptised in London, before moving with his family to Milan.
Carlo Acutis has been the subject of interest around the world. Before his death from Leukaemia in 2006, he was a self-taught computer programmer who loved football and the Eucharist, attending Mass and praying the Rosary daily.
Pope Francis highlighted Blessed Carlo as an example to young people in his sixth papal document, Christus Vivit. Speaking shortly before his beatification on 10 October 2020, the Pope referred to the teenager as a model of holiness in a digital age.
The portrait of Carlo Acutis has been warmly welcomed by parish priest, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith who visited Assisi shortly after Carlo’s beatification last year. Speaking of the importance of the teenager within the life of the parish Fr Alexander said: “[Carlo’s] beatification has been an internet phenomenon. In a world where bite size chunks are all we can manage, his sayings, his life, so short, yet profound, are easily digestible. The child Carlo belonged to his parents and undoubtedly brought them great joy. Now he belongs to the whole Catholic Church. As he was to them, so may he be to us.”
John Armstrong has painted a range of abstract, figurative and landscape themes during his long career with his work found in royal and international collections. John’s work within churches includes a Great Altar Crucifix at St Peter’s Church in Brighton; a Great Hanging Crucifix at St Boniface, Tooting, in London; a cycle of sixteen paintings at St George’s Catholic Church, Hangleton; and an eight figure Reredos at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Bath.
The painting, which is in oil on board, took more than eight months to produce. Speaking about the portrait, John said: “I was very pleased to respond to Father Alexander’s request to paint the Blessed Carlo Acutis painting for St Peter’s Church. I would acknowledge Fr Alexander as a keen supporter of the arts. We had a number of discussions at St Luke's Studio in Portslade about the composition of the piece. The painting is based on an iconic photograph of Blessed Carlo, with the Basilica of St Francis in the background and a butterfly, symbolising Christ’s resurrection, in the foreground.”
The painting will be unveiled at the 11.15am Mass on Sunday 10 October 2021.
Carlo Acutis could become the Catholic Church's first millennial saint.
The portrait took eight months with a number of preparatory studies undertaken. It measures 99cm x 60cm and has been executed using oils on ply board.
Beatification is the formal announcement by the Roman Catholic Church that someone who is dead has lived a holy life. It is usually the first stage in making that person a saint.
John Armstrong is a member of The Society of Catholic Artists. The Society was established in 1929 as part of the centenary celebrations for Catholic emancipation in Britain and was originally known as the Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen. Membership is open to practising Catholic artists as well as Catholics interested in the visual arts who support the aims of the society. The Society’s members have been responsible for major artistic work in cathedrals and churches throughout Britain.
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