20 April 2007
Those who know us know that we attend the great annual gathering of Auckland Catholics known as the ("Eucharistic Convention"). The first convention happened the week-end after Easter - Divine Mercy week-end - in 1994, at a time when we did not even know what the future might hold for us as regards the Catholic Church. We attended the Convention in 1995, when we were on our way into the Church and already in RCIA, and were a bit bewildered by it all. We have attended each convention since then, barring one a couple of years ago, when my orchestra had a concert that week-end. I think each year that perhaps this will be our last. The speakers don't always sound that engaging. It takes a fair effort to make it - time off work, money spent, arranging where to stay. Each year after the convention I cannot imagine not going. It is true that not all of the speakers are equally exciting. I will only mention one this year, though as I say it, the memory of others comes crowding in, and "Oh, you must mention him," or "Well she, at least, cannot go unremarked" - still, I am not going to retail the whole event here! Michael Pervan was for many years a sign writer in Auckland. Perhaps he still is. But what he is par excellence is an iconographer. He wrote (he would not want me to say 'drew') an icon of Our Lord on stage during his 40 minutes at the convention. "Well," I hear you say, "that must have been interesting." I have not the words to convey what it was; 'interesting' is utterly inadequate. Michael began with a clean, almost man-sized, sheet of paper on an easel. He had, he said, prepared some of it beforehand. What we saw was all white, with a covering of another piece of paper that left a head-and-bust sized hole. What he had prepared was a border around the outside with lettering. He began with the eyes. He drew two dots for the pupils. All this time he was talking. He spoke of Genesis chapter 1, of the Light that existed before the sun and the moon; of the Eighth Day, the Day of Resurrection, of ... well, let me say that I was utterly gripped by what he did, and said, and that so, I think, must the audience have been, from the reaction at the end. During the whole of it he prayed, in the intervals between his comments, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Likeness of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner" - and got us all praying, softly, with him. At the end he announced that he would donate it for the highest bidding to the poorest congregation represented amongst us. A congregation of mostly Samoan nuns was the recipient. He did not tell us who made the bid. He has been commissioned to make icons for our Cathedral which is being refurbished. I was stunned. We will certainly go next year.