And so, for many decades, the vessel was stowed in a locked closet, inside a specially fitted case, and out of commission—until a friend of Manz's great-grandchildren contacted Timothy Shreenan O.F.M, director of liturgy and communications at St. Francis church, who helped organize a reunion-slash-photo session in midtown Manhattan in January.
While a church associate fetched the monstrance from its vault, a family member inquired whether Brother Tim could pinpoint when it had last carried the host during a mass. Not in any of the years he'd been assigned to the diocese, said the friar, who joined the order in 1986. Nor, it seems, did Manz leave behind a record of instructions from the diocese, a blueprint, correspondence or notes about the iconography on the piece.
We can only speculate about the crows flanking the luna but it seems likely they are a reference to St. Francis's famous sermon to the birds: "Ye sow not, neither do ye reap, and God feedeth you and giveth you the rivers and the fountains for your drink." His message—that providence is ever-bounteous but not to take the privilege for granted—was so well received by the flock, legend goes, that Francis and his friars were energized to carry forth their ministry. It clearly resonates, too, for Manhattan's Franciscan community, which runs a daily breadline for hungry New Yorkers outside the church's West 32nd Street entrance, as it has done continuously since 1930.
All images (c) Gustav Manz LLC. Special thanks to Fr. Timothy Shreenan, O.F.M., Director of Liturgy & Communications, Saint Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church
Copyright © Laura Mathews 2013
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