Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy

The Statue That Couldn’t Be Destroyed: A Story of Love and Reparation

By Kathleen Keefe

Peace Through Divine Mercy Apostolate –Intercessors for Bishops and priests.

Queen of the Clergy statue before restoration

The once regal statue of Our Lady, now broken and defaced, sat perched on the dusty shelf of a seedy thrift shop awaiting a bargain hunter. Despite the peeling paint and discoloration from years of neglect, the beautiful face of the loving Mother holding her infant Son remained a most striking feature of the statue. The tiny hand of the Child Jesus held a replica of a small white host over a golden ciborium. It was the nineties when plaster statues, identified with a bygone era, occasionally found their way into second hand shops. In that setting of cast-offs and broken dreams, Marian, a street singer, was at once drawn to the damaged statue of the Mother of God and the Child Jesus.

Our Lady’s hand once held a golden chalice before the statue was damaged and put on display in a thrift shop.

Public Mockery

Sadness, mixed with a sense of revulsion, came over the musician as she took in the scene of a tawdry Halloween basket slung mockingly over Our Lady’s arm. The hand of the Virgin Mary, which once held a replica of a golden chalice whose contents simulated the Precious Blood, had been broken off either accidentally or deliberately. In either case, it spoke of disdain for the sacred and it spurred Marian into action. Reaching into her pocket, she offered the clerk her last seven dollars, putting an end to the blasphemous display. The street singer held tightly to her precious treasure as she left the store that day.

In the Providence of God, Marian was to become the guardian of her fragile possession for more than a decade. Occasionally, she sent the statue to families to pray for priests but over time it deteriorated badly and could no longer visit homes.

Before Restoration { Click to enlarge photo }

There Are No Coincidences

In 2004 I was invited to speak at the retreat center where Marian was in the music ministry. She later explained that she felt compelled to bring the statue to the chapel that evening. Before placing it near the altar, she carefully camouflaged the broken hand with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. During the talk, I spoke of Mary as “Queen of the Clergy,” unaware that the statue a few feet from the podium had the prayer, “Queen of the Clergy pray for us,” inscribed on its base.

A week later, and twelve years after its rescue from a thrift shop, Marian donated the statue to the apostolate. Admittedly, I was reluctant to undertake its restoration. Nonetheless, moved by its history and curious about its origin, I accepted the statue.

A Bishop Acts As Her Emissary

Too fragile to be shipped, it would be two months before the statue arrived in New York in the company of a bishop who was kind enough to act as Our Lady’s personal emissary. Cracked and patched in several places, its condition presented a daunting challenge.

The mystery surrounding the origin of “Queen of the Clergy,” the twenty-five year gap in its whereabouts before its rescue in 1992, and the twists and turns of its journey into the 2lst century, signaled that Our Lady had a purpose in preserving her statue and arranging the circumstances of its restoration. It was a charge I took very much to heart.

A year passed with no success. In an effort to attract a sculptor to reconstruct the statue, a gifted photo retoucher enhanced a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the chalice. Still, no one was willing to undertake the restoration of the almost century-old statue that might be irrevocably damaged in the process. Just as the task seemed hopelessly blocked, a door opened at the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Georgetown, California where the nuns offer their lives in prayer and penance for the Church and for priests.

At What Price?

The statue was shipped to California but its fragile condition was further compromised during its 2,500 mile journey. It arrived broken into two pieces and separated from its pedestal. Restoration would begin at the foundation.

Queen of the Clergy statue after restoration

Undaunted by the challenge before them, the Nuns supported their Carmelite Sister in prayer as she set out to re-form and rebuild what appeared irreparable. Painstakingly, the young nun sculpted a new arm and hand, skillfully forming the golden chalice that called to mind the Precious Blood shed for our salvation. The statue was returned to its pedestal and fortified with steel rods and new materials to strengthen the disintegrating plaster that dated back to 1922. It was stripped of its peeling paint hand-painted with great care and love. Using finest quality gold leaf paint, Sister applied it in a meticulous fashion to the crown, garments and sacred vessels. Tiny hosts were painted into the ciborium and the color simulating the Precious Blood was applied with extraordinary artistic skill that made it appear fluid and life-like.

The Cross

Every encounter with the statue was a challenge that called for prayer and suffering to hone the skills needed to produce this work of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady. Each brush stroke had a price, and the price was the cross, not only for the artist, but for those who supported her in prayer. After six months of trials and suffering, Our Lady’s statue was restored in the Monastery of the Holy Family, model of all families, and St. Thérèse, who declared at the time of her profession as a Carmelite nun: “I have come to save souls and especially to pray for priests.”

After Restoration { Click to enlarge photo }

Our Lady’s mission, the healing of families and the sanctification of priests, was revealed in the shadow of the cross. The statue’s history brought it to this defining moment in its journey.