It has been awhile since I wrote something Catholic. The last time I went there I was angry. Good, old fashioned, Class-A angry. Stuff has been going on that I do not like, and that has no business happening.
I wish I could go into a long and hopeful piece about how the hierarchy is hard at the difficult work necessary to solve these issues. But alas I cannot, at least not yet. So when my Church is mired in clay and seems unable to pull itself where it needs to go it is time to get back to basics.
Like Mary, Joseph and Jesus basics.
I have written before about how I am a little out of step with modernity. Well you already knew that if you have read much of what I do here. But since becoming Catholic a number of years back I have come to appreciate the season of Advent as preparation for Christmas.
So while the whole world is in jolly jolly cheer cheer mode, I am hanging back and waiting through this time for something good to happen. I will also be out of step when I shift into jolly jolly cheer cheer mode myself on December 25th and stay there for a couple of weeks. Oh well.
So where does the spray paint come in? I’m getting there.
For quite a number of years now our only outdoor Christmas decoration has been a set of statues depicting the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in his manger. My Mrs. found this set at a department store that has long since been swallowed up by another department store (about three times by now). It is attractive in its simplicity, and made of a resin material that mimicked the look of something like alabaster. Shine a white spotlight on it at night, and there you have it.
It goes up at the beginning of Advent and will remain there until the Christmas season is actually over – I mean the liturgical Christmas season, which goes on while all of the stores are hyping plastic storage containers. We dispense with the wooden structure, the hay, the animals and the lights. Our holiday display is distilled to its essence. Simplicity is a virtue, right?
Anyway, the first sign of trouble was about three years ago. I went to put the pieces away and Mary’s base stayed attached to the frozen ground while the rest of her got picked up. After the weather warmed up I had to epoxy her back together.
Then Joseph’s hand broke off. With another batch of epoxy mixed up, hand reattachment surgery was successful. It was then that I began looking over the two big statues and saw that small cracks were forming everywhere. Mary and Joseph’s outdoor living was not proving to be a healthy lifestyle.
Interestingly, Jesus was perfectly fine, as was his manger. Was it because he waits until Christmas Eve to make his appearance? Or because of the whole Divinity thing? I am not prepared to say.
The epoxy repairs I had made were noticeable in their color difference from the rest of the pieces and this was only going to get worse. Something was going to have to be done and it was going to have to involve paint of some kind. But what kind of paint?
I have a little experience with automotive touch up spray, having restored some elderly metal lawn chairs and also having fixed the rust spots on my car. But did we want to go for a sleek shiny metallic look that imitated bronze or some other metal? We considered those options but decided against that look. We are just not hip enough to carry off such a modern style.
OK, except for on the lantern that Joseph holds. General Motors Bronzemist Metallic seemed just right for a lantern. Besides, I had some left over from the lawn chair job. Sticklers for authenticity may question the use of a metal lantern with glass on four sides in the context of a middle-eastern setting during the reign of King Herod. But that’s what came with the set and we are sticking with it.
The solution would turn out to be a Rust Oleum product of a color and texture that approximated limestone. Multiple cans of primer and paint were purchased and home we went to begin the restoration. If I were still a Lutheran, I might have even called it a reformation.
A big batch of epoxy was mixed and slathered into every crack I could find. And there were quite a few. It took some epoxy putty to fill the chunk that had broken out of one of the folds of Mary’s robe.
I must confess that the stress did not really begin until I picked up the first spray can of primer. There would be no going back after this, but then there was no going back after the many non-matching epoxy repairs, either. So . . . . Let us spray.
I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. There is a lot of surface area in those garments and they soaked up a lot of primer. The finish paint was even more arduous. My original three cans of paint turned out to not be enough and three more were purchased – and used.
They dried in the garage for a couple of days then were brought into the house to finish the process. Yes, they made the house smell delightful. But it was Mary and Joseph, so what . . . you want to complain?
I decided against painting the baby Jesus and his manger. First they were in good shape and didn’t really need anything. But the other thing was that I wanted to be sure that this process was going to work. I can always finish on these last pieces at a later time.
Sunday was the first day of Advent and Mary and Joseph went out to their appointed campsite to await the birth of the baby Jesus. They turned out just fine and should be ready for many more years of duty. A new spot light bulb also seemed in order. For the record we went with old-school high wattage halogen. There will be no green compromises for the Holy Family.
We Catholics are feeling besieged right now, and things are probably going to get worse before they get better. But a presentable holiday display of the Holy Family is one small way we can stand our ground and commemorate the reason we believe as we do. Now if only I could find a decent sized statue of St. Dominic.
A blessed Advent season to you all.