‘The Way’ to Jesus – a ceramic story

‘The Way’ to Jesus – a ceramic story

Two beautiful ceramic sculptures of Ignatius with Mary – as a young boy and at Monserrat. Read what inspired Margaret Strobl, Giver of the First Spiritual Exercises, and sculptural ceramicist, to create these pieces.

I’ve always had an interest in expressing myself with art, I started painting when I left school. After I married and had children, we lived in a few different countries. All this meant painting took a decidedly back seat in my life. When we lived in Hong Kong, I discovered evening ceramic classes near to where we lived. Soon I came to love the feel of clay and the adventure of its transformation through fire. In Korea, I enrolled in a university course studying traditional Korean ceramic making.

On moving back to Australia, I started at a workshop with a leading ceramicist. And I continued over the years, learning, and experimenting, finally developing my own abstract sculptural style of work. I sometimes disappoint my family that I don’t turn out plates and cups and more useful things!

My art has helped me to keep sane through a lot of things. When I am working with clay, I am completely immersed in what I’m doing, cut off from everyday stresses. Time ceases to exist. I am just doing and being in the moment.

When I came across this Erromeria festive pilgrimage for Ignatius I was inspired. I wanted to follow the route and find out more about the life of Ignatius and the places connected to events in his life-journey. As I reflected on Ignatius’ early life, I was struck by how strongly Mary had featured and was also excited to find that there was a version of Mary connected with him in most places through his life. This was my inspiration when I decided to make something for the Erromeria pilgrimage in clay.

As Ignatius’ mother had died when he was so young and his home then becoming very masculine with father and brothers and then being sent, still young, to live at Court, he never experienced a mother’s love. Perhaps an unconscious yearning for this was what made him so open to responding to Mary. This thought is what brought about the first sculpture. Mary embracing the youth, Ignatius, as a mother, arm around his shoulder, with Jesus in her other arm like a younger brother.

Young Ignatius offering his sword to Mary

As a mother, I feel he would have missed out on so much. Many children who have never known their birth mother are always wanting to find her or know about her. It is very moving the sense of something missing from their lives. I saw Ignatius in this situation. This piece was made very quickly, almost spontaneously, the image took shape. The young Ignatius is offering his sword to Mary as a knight of his imagination would do to his chosen lady as a symbol of his devotion.

Ignatius’ vigil before the Black Madonna

This image is the same for the second sculpture. However, for this piece, I tried to create a more dynamic form. It is more closely representative of the vigil Ignatius made at Montserrat before the Black Madonna. Mary has become his “Lady” and she, his mother, to lead him to her son, Jesus.

Suddenly, the name Our Lady of the Way took on a second meaning to me. Mary is not only our guide and companion on our pilgrimage but for Ignatius and for me she is ‘the Way’ to Jesus. How better than to find Jesus through her?

Thank you to Margaret Strobl for this contribution to our Erromeria Pilgrimage. Margaret is a giver of the First Spiritual Exercises and member of JISA’s Sydney Metro FSE team. She is a mother, grandmother, and sculptural ceramicist.