MADONNA della VIA
photograph, collage, colored pencil, 14 x 11 inches
While visiting the Vatican Treasury in Rome, I gazed spellbound at rare diamonds that were as large as crystal doorknobs. Jewel-encrusted, 24 carat gold chalices. Emeralds. Rubies. Sapphires. Citrines. A baroque pearl that looked like an irregular full-moon on a clear night. It was wealth beyond any form of measure and it saddened me because on my way to the Vatican Museums, I'd seen an aged, homeless woman, folded into herself like a question mark--as if her body asked the question Why me? This stunning figure appeared to have worn all the clothes she owned on a 90 degree day, as she sat next to a large cardboard box, which must have been her shelter.
The saintly lady was as blessed as the Madonna depicted in the great Vatican paintings. It was clear to me that she was Madonna della Via (Madonna of the Street), and my daughter, Kate, whose dark chocolate eyes misted with love for humanity, side-stepped over to her and quietly dropped money into her beggar's cup.
I reflected upon the stark contrast of the massive wealth of the Vatican Treasury and the abject poverty of the beautiful woman and was dispirited by the inequity.