When graphic designer Sr Jane Maisey, RSJ, hears of a need into which she can pour her artistic talents, it is an invitation that she cannot turn down.
So, when Te Kupenga— Catholic Theological College lecturer Fr Merv Duffy, SM, asked her if she could create an image that will feature the books of the Bible, she said “yes”, in a very Catholic way.
“When you hear a need, the design process or creative process for someone who’s Catholic or that has a spirituality, is you have to take it into prayer and you have to give it time because . . . it’s not a mathematical problem in an accounting sense. It’s more of a process of listening for a revelation,” she said.
Fr Duffy showed Sr Jane an image that he had cobbled together of a bookcase that had the books of the Bible stacked on it.
But as the creative process churned in her mind, Sr Jane said that she started thinking about stained glass.
“We have such a beautiful tradition with stained glass in our churches throughout the world. It’s beauty that invites us in, beauty that is non-confrontational. It’s welcoming to everybody. It’s alluring,” she said. “So, with developing it, I said, ‘ok, let’s do the stained-glass thing.’”
Sr Jane said that a couple more people asked her for such an image, which convinced her that there is a need for a visual representation of the books of the Bible.
She started with splitting the Old Testament books into four windowpanes: Pentateuch, Historical, Wisdom, and Poetry and Prophets. An additional windowpane was devoted to the New Testament.
“Once we had that framework set up, then it was getting the visuals accurate,” she explained.
Sr Jane worked out the correlation of the number of chapters in a book, to the width a particular book would have.
“If I’m drawing Genesis, that is almost 50 chapters, how much width will that take up in a window?” she said. “With the psalms, there’s roughly 150, so that would take up three scrolls.”
When the Old Testament was written down, it was initially on scrolls, while the New Testament writings took the form of codices and books.
“Once we’ve got that figured out, then it was figuring out how we were going to label them, what sort of a background image there might be? Theologically, how was this going to work? What is accurate? I really needed help [from] theologians and biblical scholars because it’s not my area of expertise,” she admitted.
Fortunately, she was working, not only with theologians, but also for Te Kupenga—National Centre for Religious Studies.
“I just happened to be around people who have the skills [that] I can draw upon, and to also be able to ask teachers along the way what their thoughts are, and if this is something that they would need,” she said. “That’s the great thing about community. When you work together, it grows beyond your imagination.”
She had to make sure that images like flowers and fruits link to the Scriptures. Such images might be pomegranates for the Pentateuch, and poppies for Jesus’ message on the lilies of the fields. An eagle represents Wisdom, while the Ark of the Covenant is represented by an acacia tree.
The community, which also included her family, kept her motivated and encouraged during the entire process.
“When you reach out and you work with others, it can become more than you imagine. And that is what our God of community calls us to, to do all things in love,” she said.
Sr Jane reflected that Catholics are “not ferocious readers” of the Bible, unlike people from other Christian denominations.
She hopes that this poster will help attract people to reading the Scriptures.
“We are all invited into relationships through the Word, and through beauty, which leads us to goodness and truth,” she said. “Beauty is revelation that leads to relationship.”
For more information on Sr Jane’s Books of the Bible poster, go to www.designjane.com/bible-books-windows-poster-catholic-school-educational-art-resource .
Photo: Sr Jane Maisey, RSJ, with the Books of the Bible poster