Father Gordon MacRae revisits “Michelangelo and the Hand of God: Scandal at the Vatican” a prequel to some upcoming thoughts in solitude behind These Stone Walls.

Four-hundred and fifty years ago, the famed Italian sculptor, painter, and architect, Michelangelo Buonarroti, left this world having almost attained his 90th year. His final work of architectural genius was the design of the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Church, completed in the year of his death in 1564. He outlived the High Renaissance, a period of individualism and idealism in art for which, five centuries later, he remains an almost superhuman figure.

Michelangelo began his famous marble sculpture, the “Pieta,” at the age of 21, and at 26 he undertook the liberation of the majestic “David” from his marble tomb in Florence. With his unrivaled genius for depicting the human form in motion, Michelangelo painted for Pope Julius II the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, an area of several thousand square yards in just four years. One of those panels, the “Creation of Adam” depicts God, with the unborn Eve under His left arm, instilling the divine spark of the soul into Adam. It is perhaps the most viewed image of Renaissance art known to history.

But above all, Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor, and was undoubtedly the greatest sculptor of his time. He was able to capture in marble the animated human form with a realism not seen in art for over 1,000 years.

As a young man in his 20s, Michelangelo just happened to be present, seemingly by chance, at the unearthing of a treasure out of mythological lore lost for over a millennia. The odds against him being in that place at that time were astronomical, but there he was, and from it, his life and all of art history were changed.

This is that story, and it’s a prequel to an upcoming look at the Hand of God in human history, literature, art, and the story of each of us who can still be inspired despite inevitable suffering. If you’ve ever wondered whether faith will survive the sordid scandals of our times, or whether God has a hand in the part of the tapestry of creation into which your own life is woven, then please read and share this week’s encore prequel post – “Michelangelo and the Hand of God: Scandal at the Vatican.”

thermometerEditors’s Note: a continued thanks to TSW readers for their generosity in responding to Ryan MacDonald’s appeal to help with the legal costs, at the Federal level. We haven’t reached our goal yet, so please share this link to Ryan’s news alert post!

About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE


  1. Mary Fran says:

    Fr. G, I had to pull out the art books on the Vatican to look at these—the Laocoon group and the creation scene from the Sistine Chapel. I never noticed the woman under God’s arm. And even if I had, I would not have realized who it was. Okay, another letter is in order. Too much to write as a response to a post. I do love your writing.

  2. Cathy Pequeno says:

    Hello Fr. Gordon,
    I read “Michelangelo and the Hand of God” within the past two weeks. Marvelous article. Thank you for your courage to write, your words touch me deeply. You are always in my prayers, along with all your friends. I carry you in my heart wherever I go and whatever I do, especially when I go to Holy Mass or Adoration.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Hello Father.
    I wax profound so often when I come here, but I end up not expressing nearly as well as I’d like.
    You went out of your way to help me in creating a blog of my own, using snail mail to send me resources that have been enormously helpful, even if I’ve been slow to implement them.
    I work with pro life on the front lines, at the slaughter clinics and in booths. I work with young people too. I notice things often before others see a trend because of where I’ve been. There is so much more hope, paradoxically, in being exposed to these troves of deeper faith and faith filled action on the front lines.
    Besides working on these things, I have your column to turn to, like a quiet guardian angel, with messages mysteriously apropos.

    Sometimes, in tough weeks, I get a little grim and think that your experience there enclosed will help me and others who read you endure, Being claustrophobic, a possible incarceration of my own is rather overwhelming but the phrase lately has been in my mind “I can do all things through God who sustains me.”

    You embody that phrase and I wonder sometimes if Michalengelo, as enraptured as he was by God’s creation, wished he could somehow paint the human soul of saints. The mind and heart, not anatomically, but inexpressibly linked to the Holy Spirit. Like seeing God before we are pure enough, it would be so blindingly beautiful that it would be impossible to withstand.

    Mother Teresa saw that supernatural beauty in the poorest of the poor, taken away by God’s love in every human, as found on the filthiest, most diseased streets of the world.

    She made a little Heaven for everyone who encountered that love and THAT would likely challenge Michelangelo to near despair, trying to capture the divine soul in a body that was all ‘used up’ just as Blessed Mother Teresa wished.

    I wish I’d managed this this shorter, but there is so much that I want to say about the light of truth and hope and divine magic that your heart and soul are radiating there in that seeming place of oppression. Because of you people who have known oppression, both physically and spiritually, are finding a freedom from the fetters of despair. Just as Michelangelo uncovered those wondrous figures entombed in solid marble, or gave 3 dimension through his painting, so you are helping people see God’s design within them through this light that is blazing from a tiny, dark cell.

    I know that my own reversion these last several year was changed forever when I casually read an article by Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal. I wrote her and she gave me your information. It took a little time but I followed up and found to my astonishment that you were just starting your column, foregoing my writing to you, snail mail.

    Since then, God has been helping me catch up with the decades of ‘cafeteria catholic’, where His light wasn’t being given much opportunity to shine. So many factors have contributed to amazing discoveries through my faith and I count you as so priceless.

    God bless you and give you joy in His inexplicable way.

  4. James Hawes says:

    Outstanding article, Fr. Gordon. Keep them coming. I love Church history. God bless you, my friend.

  5. Bonnie says:

    Your prequel was wonderful reading. I had no idea of the story behind Michelangelo’s painting of the Hand of God, thank you!
    I have an 8 x 10 print of just the two hands framed and in my home. I look at it fondly. Can’t wait for next weeks’ post. Take care Father, Max, and all of your friends there. You’re in our daily prayers.

  6. Mary Fran says:

    Fr. G. So glad you posted the link to the 2010 article. Don’t know how I missed that one, but I did. History is fascinating, now that I’m an adult and can choose the history I want to read. Textbook history was so dry and boring. Real history is anything but that. The little details make all the difference in the world. I’m looking forward to your continuing story about the hand of God in the tapestry of our lives.

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