Sister Wendy chooses charity’s Christmas cards

0831uk_giotto.jpgBy John Newton
WORLD-RENOWNED art historian Sister Wendy Beckett has personally selected the images for a range of Christmas cards for a Catholic charity.
 Sr Wendy chose three images for the seasonal greetings cards which will be sold in support of Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians.
She selected images by Giotto di Bondone (c. 1266-1337), Sano di Pietro (1406-81) and Albert Herbert (1925-2008).
The eighty-one-year-old Carmelite hermit said she was delighted to choose the images for Aid to the Church in Need and expressed her support for the charity’s work.
She said: “There are many needs in the world but the church in need has a special call on our attention.
“In some parts, where our suffering brothers and sisters have little to comfort them, it is to the church that they look for support. But these churches are poor and often persecuted.
0831uk_herbert.jpg“We are privileged to give to them from our own relative abundance.”
The first of the three images she selected for the cards was the Nativity by Giotto di Bondone, who is widely described as the first Italian Renaissance painter.
Sr Wendy said: “Giotto brought to life the mysteries of faith, and art was never the same again.”
The Carmelite hermit described the scene from Giotto’s fresco in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua, Italy as “one of my favourite nativities”.
Describing Saint Mary in the picture, Sr Wendy said: “Our Lady is so strong, so determined, so focused.”
 The second picture is a modern composition, Nativity with Burning Bush by Albert Herbert, a British artist who converted to Catholicism in the 1950s.
 In the picture, the Virgin Mary holds the new-born Christ child before an elderly figure, who could be St Joseph, while the burning bush of Mount Sinai is seen behind her.
0831uk_pietro.jpgThe burning bush is symbolic of Mary carrying Jesus in her womb – as God is described in the letter to the Hebrews as a “consuming fire”.
In St. Gregory of Nyssa’s fourth century work On the Birth of Christ, he wrote that just as the bush was on fire but not consumed, so St Mary carried God in her womb but was not consumed by his power.
Sr Wendy described the figure in Herbert’s painting as: “Just an old man on his knees holding out his arms to mother and child.
“This is us – pitiful and longing and certain of divine love.”
 The final image is a Madonna and Child by Sano di Pietro, a Sienese painter famous for his depictions of the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ.
Sr Wendy said: “This is a very tender little Jesus”.
All three cards are available from Aid to the Church in Need and proceeds from their sale will go towards the charity’s projects helping suffering Christians.

• All cards are available on the web at

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.

While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.