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Art Festival to Display Paintings Portraying Gospel of John

Ten original paintings once used by a scholar as a teaching tool for his lectures on the Gospel of St. John will be on display in the Ave Maria town center during the weekend Festival of the Arts, March 27-28. Those paintings, along with many others by artist Helen Owen, form the basis of the artwork found in a unique book, The Trail of Glory, by Fr. John J. Gerhard, which is being sold in the Ave Maria Inspirations shop inside the Qwik Pack and Ship.

"I really don't know of another book like this one," says one of the book's co-producers, Susan Matthiesen, "where there are this many paintings by a single artist to illustrate one book around a unified Biblical theme."  She says it is her hope that the book will be used to assist people - high school and university students and everyone else - as an aid for studying the gospel and experiencing God.

Trail of Glory, which features 67 colored plates, had its genesis in the life-long studies of Johannine scholar John J. Gerhard, S.J.  Now in his 90s, Fr. Gerhard, emeritus professor of theology and Biblical studies at St. John's University in New York, regularly lectured for many years on the Gospel of St. John. In the early 1970s, after lecturing at a church in New York City, an interested parishioner stayed to speak with him afterwards and eventually volunteered to create art to illustrate the scenes as Fr. Gephard envisioned them.

A self-taught artist, Helen Owen had learned much of her craft by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She began working under Fr. Gephard's direction, executing the action, the buildings, the dress and the characters as the scholar envisioned them. 

After about six years,the results were sixty-seven 22 x 28 paintings, rendered mostly on foil-covered art board.  For a time, Fr. Gerhard brought the paintings with him when lecturing to help illuminate the teachings in St. John's gospel.  Eventually, however, the paintings were put away in storage.

It was not until decades later when Rudolph Lohse, a former student of Fr. Gerhard and now co-producer of Trail of Glory, inquired after them that the the paintings were retrieved from five or six huge dusty boxes, and work began on incorporating them into a book.

Trail of Glory features a scriptural citation on the left-hand page with the illustration on the right-hand page (see picture at top of page). The series of boldly-colored plates that capture the major scenes of Jesus' ministry as described by the evangelist culminates with the Pope elevating the Holy Eucharist on the altar of St. Peter's in Rome.

"We are honored to have the book of the collection of paintings at our Gallery and to be able to exhibit 10 original paintings," said shop co-owner Mary Stuller. "It is a beautiful collection for all ages to contemplate and grow in a deeper understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Eventually, prints of the art in Trail of Glory will be sold by Inspirations.

For Ms. Matthiesen, the story of the collaboration between Ms. Owen and Fr. Gerhard is secondary to what she sees as the real story behind the book.  "Father was inspired by God, and he in turn inspired Helen Owen.  For whatever reason, these pictures came to light now."  She hopes people will use the Gospel of St. John and Trail of Glory together to experience the gospel. "I hope the book will help all to know Christ so that they can benefit from His salvific plan for mankind."

For more information about the book, visit  



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