ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Nick Markell had never heard of Christian Brother James Miller when Cretin-Derham Hall High School first commissioned the acclaimed artist to paint an icon of the martyr.
A combination of prayer and research went into his creative process, including a picture of the late missionary holding a lamb in Guatemala. Add to that the fact that he often wore overalls, and an image was emerging: the traditional ambiance of a religious icon with a contemporary twist, showing Brother James — “Hermano Santiago,” as he was known — donned in overalls with a gold nimbus encircling his head and a lamb in his arms.
“It made him more accessible,” said Markell, a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Stillwater and owner of nearby Markell Studios. “Perhaps that’s why the image has taken off a bit.”
It has become the most widely known image of the Midwestern saint-to-be.
Markell spent a month painting with acrylic wash and gold leaf in his apartment; he listened to Gregorian chant, and incense filled the air.
Markell focused on Brother Miller’s prominent eyebrows and eyes. “I tried to capture an essence of that,” he said.
As he painted, he contemplated the message behind the martyr.
“He represented for me an everyday saint. There’s a certain status about being martyred, but this is possible for the everyday person. A lot of the icons I might do over the years are saints that seem out of reach — the great saints of history. But then you have an example of a recent saint who walked the streets with us, but their faith was strong, and then died for it.”
He said the lamb remains a reflection of Brother Miller’s gentle, attentive outreach, embracing each child as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did.
Markell said he was touched by the response to his icon and added, “I’m very grateful to have been involved.”
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103