Visualizing Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si”

Recently I received an email from a theology graduate student at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown New Jersey. Eileen Connor Callahan stated that she was writing about the correlations between Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care for our Common Home and my painting On Earth as it is in Heaven: through Him all things were made Jn 1:3 (shown here), and she went on to ask me a few questions for her paper and slideshow, which was presented in early December 2018.

It was 26 years ago that I painted this work, which is more relevant now than ever before! Some folks think we as an industrial society and economic system have little to do with causing climate change/global warming, but what parents would gamble on their children’s lives and future generations if there is a possibility that we can do our best to protect God’s sacred creation?










I have learned that most Catholics/Christians have not read Laudato Si’, let alone studied the encyclical. It is clearly written and elegantly concise, and although Pope Francis has quoted popes going back to Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI as well as the research of the most eminent international scientists renown in their fields, it is not being discussed as a prioritized issue in our churches or society in general.

This painting points to Laudato Si’ which spells out in everyday language both the environmental and spiritual crisis we are facing.

Read Eileen’s paper EileenPaper_On Earth as it is In Heaven












































































































My Brother the Bridge Builder



Bridges unify people and make it possible for commerce (like rivers) to flow.

Bridge builders have always risen to take on the dangerous challenges and vital work of their construction.

My Brother the Bridge-Builder
“The Bridge-Builder”
18 x 24 inch acrylic painting

In this painting we can see the progress that the bridge makes possible: the defense of our country, the industries that bring prosperity and the cities of great population.

The iron-worker climbs to erect, refit and maintain the bridges – the vital connections that unify and make for a strong society.

As a tradesman the iron-worker, as all other dedicated workers, keeps our country connected, safe and prosperous, our people unified, and with the hope of a better future for ALL.


St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Missionaries

In celebration of St.Francis Xavier

"En el Nombre del Padre..." San Francisco Javier Baptizing, retablo painting by AVonnHartung, in Parroquia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico)This painting shows the humble Jesuit missionary baptizing a youth

St. Francis Xavier brought more than 30,000 souls into the Faith. Known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and “Apostle of Japan”, he is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul.


This Painting/Retablo was commissioned by Padre Julio Victor García in 2002 for Iglesia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico). It measures 6 feet in width by 11 feet in height and is my original design, built from solid mahogany, painted in acrylic and gilded with gold and copper leaf.

The vertical format symbolizes this world, our Church and the witness of the life and evangelizing work of San Francisco Javier.

The frame, through its striking presence displays the Sign of the Cross with which we as Christians identify ourselves in and through Baptism. It represents the tireless work of St. Francis, from sunrise to sunset, and the eternal truth, the Alpha and Omega of Christ. It acts as a window through which we enter to find further truths.

St. Francis Xavier is portrayed baptizing a youth who symbolizes the future church whose people are seen coming to the Faith.

The Holy Family is represented by any and all who do the Will of the Father in bringing young souls to be saved.

The Children brought forth by their Godparents engage us in reflection and contemplative prayer.

The Holy Trinity: Above the head of St. Francis is depicted the sacred image of The Holy Trinity, originally written (painted) by the great 15th century Russian iconographer Andre Rublev. Its inclusion is meant to draw us into the mystery of God,and to remind us of God’s love. It also prophetically reminds us of Jesus’ words as expressed in John 15: 26-27 (“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”)

The Background: Surrounding this cascade of divinity with its luminous light and vapors, are luxurious examples of Holy Creation as expressed in the abundance of nature – by the breadfruit and mango trees, symbolizing Love, Beauty and Resurrection, and by the depiction of the dove which is drawn closer, and the serpent which is driven away.

“They who pray with faith have fervor and fervor is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.” (Francis Xavier)


Through Him all things were made Jn 1:3

It was 49 years ago that we first received an image of ourselves from the Moon. In the process of sending a man to the moon for the first time, Joseph Allen, one of the astronauts who was involved in the planning process recalls:

“Among all the arguments that were made for and against traveling to the Moon, nobody mentioned the possibility that the best reason would be simply to observe ourselves.”

And, that turned out to be the reason, to see ourselves from outside as planet. When we received the photo of our planet, it was a global revelation that changed the way we think. From then on, our consciousness has never been the same. We saw ourselves as we really are; alone in the vast darkness of space; small, delicate, resplendent with life, divine beauty.

It was not until the beginning of the 70’s that we began to think about ethics and care of the environment. This was only commented on by mystics and environmentalists, but since then everything has changed. The world has responded with a lot of important reflections. Now we have the scientific tools and the philosophical and ethical thinking to begin to reason about our responsibility regarding the environment.

Through Him all things were made Jn 1:3


 I  painted this Work (Oil painting on wood panel, 42 x 57″) when I was a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of C.O.R. here in San Juan, Puerto Rico back in 1992, inspired in part because of the deteriorating environmental conditions on this most delicate island, the thoughtless over-development and pollution that was going on, and the destruction of local communities. Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care for our Common Home spelled it all out completely. Its message was clear and eloquently stated. It was a theological clarification of what all the science said, and for me Hurricane Maria slammed down the proof of it!

The painting is rhetorical in concept and presents us with two possibilities: one in harmony with God’s Creation, a future of justice, peace and sustainability. The other of plunder, chaos, endless war and an ultimate collapse of nature and life on our planet home as we know it. Earth is painted in the form of an egg, metaphorically symbolizing the fragility of Earth’s ecosystem as well as her natural abundance and fertility. The metaphor of the egg is also used to show a covenant broken and the resultant rupture of earth’s fragile ecology and humanity’s fall from grace caused by a flawed linear economic system based on the misuse of power and wealth, symbolized by the unholy use of GOLD.

There is no doubt about this. We humans have the tools to destroy or save civilization, because God created us with that capability. But he also created us with free will.

Caring for the environment is a moral issue. Pope St. John Paul II emphasized the priority of ethics over technology, and spirit over matter. If we destroy the earth, we destroy the divine creation, we destroy ourselves.

Is that God’s plan? Is that our plan?








La Resurrección: Alegría, Esperanza y Salvación

Oscuro era el momento en que Judas traicionó a Jesús, lo que condujo a su sufrimiento, crucifixión y muerte en la cruz; un momento en que se puso a prueba la fe de sus seguidores. Pero cuando el Mesías-Cristo resucitó al tercer día, sus oraciones fueron contestadas, su fe cumplido, su alegría desbordante.

Estamos viviendo en tiempos tan oscuros, y ahora es nuestra fe que se está probando. Sentimos el aguijón de la traición. A través de nuestras lágrimas e indignación comprendemos mejor cómo sufrió Jesús y nos acercamos más a él.

La sensación es como la muerte — oscuro, frío y vacío. Pero al igual que llegaron a conocer sus discípulos, reconocemos que Jesús ha resucitado; por lo tanto, nuestra fe se fortalece, nuestra determinación es fuerte! Porque vivimos en la Luz y tenemos nuestro ser en el Amor y la Misericordia de nuestro Salvador Jesucristo.

Cristo Ha Resucitado! ¡Aleluya!

Painting "He has been raised!"_1st Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung

Mi proyecto principal durante los últimos cinco años ha sido pintar las Estaciones de la Resurrección (Via Lucis: El Camino de la Luz) cuando Jesús se apareció a Sus discípulos comenzando el Domingo de Pascua durante un período de 40 días hasta que ascendió y luego los obsequió el Espíritu Santo en Pentecostés.

Mi esperanza es que estas imágenes serán recibidos en nuestras iglesias. Están a la venta en conjuntos de 14, pero se pueden comprar individualmente para el hogar o en conjuntos limitados. Títulos y texto en Español o Inglés.

Las catorce estaciones que se muestran aquí son reproducciones de alta calidad. Las pinturas originales se encuentran en la nave central de la histórica Catedral en el Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico (Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista)

Después de las imágenes, lea más en torno a la historia reciente de cómo el Via Lucis llegó a ser sancionado por el Vaticano, y comentarios sobre el arte y motivaciones que inspiraron a este importantísimo proyecto.

Painting "He has been raised!"_1st Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "He saw and believed"_2nd Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "Go tell my brothers"_3rd Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung


Painting "They did not recognize him"_4th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "Then their eyes were opened"_5th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "Do you have anything to eat?"_6th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting_"Receive the Holy Spirit"_7th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "My Lord and my God!"_8th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "It is the Lord!"_9th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "Peter, do you love me?"_10th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting "Go then to all Peoples"_11th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting_"He is taken up"_12th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung



Painting_"The Vigil"_13th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung


Painting_Pentecost_14th Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung


La idea de representar el Camino de la Luz se inspiró en una inscripción antigua encontrada en una pared de las Catacumbas de San Callisto en la Via Apia en Roma. Este cementerio lleva el nombre de San Calixto, un esclavo que finalmente se convirtió en el 16º Papa (217-222).

La inscripción encontrada en San Calixto proviene de la primera carta que escribió San Pablo a la iglesia de Corinto (alrededor del año 56 d. C.), en respuesta al informe de que algunos miembros estaban negando la Resurrección. La declaración completa en la carta es (1 Corintios 15: 3-8):

Porque ante todo les transmití a ustedes lo que yo mismo recibí: que Cristo murió por nuestros pecados según las Escrituras, que fue sepultado, que resucitó al tercer día según las Escrituras, y que se apareció a Cefas, y luego a los doce.

Después se apareció a más de quinientos hermanos a la vez, la mayoría de los cuales vive todavía, aunque algunos han muerto. Luego se apareció a Jacobo, más tarde a todos los apóstoles, y, por último, como a uno nacido fuera de tiempo, se me apareció también a mí.

En 1988, el padre Sabino Palumbieri, sacerdote Salesiano y profesor de antropología teológica en la Universidad Salesiana de Roma, “propuso la creación de un nuevo conjunto de estaciones [para complementar las Estaciones de la Cruz] centrado en la Resurrección y los acontecimientos posteriores de la misma, a fin de hacer hincapié en lo positivo, la esperanza de la historia cristiana que, aunque no ausentes de las Estaciones de la Cruz, está oculto por su énfasis en el sufrimiento.”

Padre Sabino escribió de esta idea en el documento Dame una Base Firme (“Give me a Firm Footing 1999) que describe las realizaciones que tenía “después de una profunda crisis de sentido existencial … debido a la perspectiva de la muerte”, seguido por el estudio de los evangelios y el reconocimiento que “Con el Resucitado, sé por qué vivo“.

“Personalmente, gracias a este punto de inflexión de fe, pude proclamar continuamente al Resucitado y de esta manera proponer, como dijo Pablo VI, el cristianismo como alegría, como un esfuerzo continuo por superar el estancamiento del sufrimiento sin salida.

… Una nueva forma de piedad popular, por su gracia, fue esbozada. Es la Via Lucis, que es el segundo momento fisiológico del Via Crucis, que ahora se ha extendido por los cinco continentes.

… Tantas personas sufrientes me escriben diciéndome que todos los días hacen una estación de Via Lucis, sacando fuerza, alegría y paz …Esto no significa abolir el Vía Crucis, que es el espejo del sufrimiento del calvario sin fin en el mundo.
Significa solo completarlo con la Vía Lucis, que es el espejo de las esperanzas del mundo, especialmente de aquellos a quienes más corresponde, los pobres “.

La primera gran celebración pública de la devoción fue en 1990. Fue sancionada oficialmente por el Vaticano en 2001.

Al contemplar la pintura de las estaciones, me di cuenta de que cuando Jesús resucitó, convirtiéndose para nosotros en el Cristo, ¡en ese momento el mundo cambió para siempre!

La Tierra estalló en flor, la Tierra brilló con luz en la profunda noche oscuro del tiempo. Todo, toda la Creación fue iluminada con significado Divino, luz, esperanza.

Como tal, pinté estas Estaciones. El color intenso busca producir este cambio milagroso en nuestra conciencia.

Los colores están super-infundidas con matiz. Cada color se convierte en la esencia elevada de sí mismo. Estas pinturas que parecen vidrieras pueden lucir fantasiosas. Están destinados a ser, sin embargo, de forma simple y contenido básico.

Las figuras muestran emoción en sus gestos y movimientos exagerados. Esto es para mostrar que la realidad se viró patas arriba. ¡Algo tan increíble había ocurrido que cambió la conciencia para siempre!

El mundo se llenó de esperanza, luz y significado porque la oscuridad de la muerte había perdido su poder, su control sobre la humanidad.





The Resurrection: Joy, Hope and Salvation

Read this in Spanish

Painting "He has been raised!"_1st Station of the Resurrection by avonnhartung

Dark was the time when Judas betrayed Jesus, which led to His suffering, crucifixion and death on the Cross; a time when the faith of His followers was tested. But when the Messiah-Christ rose on the third day, their prayers were answered, their faith fulfilled, their joy overflowing.

We are living in such dark times and now it is our faith that is being tested. We feel the sting of betrayal. Through our tears and outrage we better understand how Jesus suffered and we are drawn closer to Him.

The feeling is like Death–dark, empty and cold. But as His disciples came to know, we recognize that Jesus is Resurrected; therefore our faith is fortified, our resolve strong! For we live in the Light and have our being in the Love and Mercy of our Savior Christ Jesus.

Christ is Resurrected! Hallelujah!

My major project for the last five years has been to paint the Stations of the Resurrection (Via Lucis: The Way of Light) when Jesus appeared to His disciples beginning on Easter Sunday over a period of 40 days until he ascended and then gifted them with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Continue reading

Faith in Art

In his August prayer intention, the Holy Father speaks to artists, “That artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.

In response to Pope Francis’ prayer intention, the Catholic Truth Society requested I write an article about how I find Faith through my art. “Faith in Art” was published on 20 August 2017 on their blog CTS Catholic Compass.

Here is the Spanish translation

La Fe en el Arte


San Patricio (vitral en Iglesia San José)

En su intención de oración de agosto, el Santo Padre habla a los artistas: “Que los artistas de nuestro tiempo, a través de su creatividad, nos ayuden a descubrir la belleza de la creación”.

Como artista de Arte Sacro Católico, me esfuerzo por poner a Dios en mi trabajo.

Como un niño pequeño y creciendo asistí a nuestra Iglesia Católica local, San José en New London, Connecticut.

Siempre nos sentábamos en el lado sur por las hermosas vidrieras donde la luz de la mañana era más radiante; cada uno representaba un santo diferente. Creo que fue a causa de esta exposición temprana a la belleza sagrada que con el tiempo he dedicado mi regalo del arte a la Iglesia.



A medida que crecía llegué a entender que Dios estaba en todas partes, oculto en todas las cosas. Vi esto reflejada más en la magnífica belleza de la naturaleza, y al madurar en la fe vine a conocerlo a través de Cristo, en la humanidad.


Busco a Dios y me esfuerzo por revelarlo en mi arte. De hecho, es mi acto más fuerte de oración.


Así que ofrezco esta pintura en respuesta a la llamada del Papa Francisco al diálogo y la acción en su encíclica Laudato Si’, Sobre el Cuidado de la Casa Común.

La pintura es alegórica y hace una pregunta profética, ya que nos presenta sólo dos posibles futuros. Uno en armonía con la voluntad de Dios y el otro en desarmonía.


"On Earth as it is in Heaven"_oil painting by AVonnHartung
   “Thy Will Be Done” oil painting  42 x 57-inches

Empecé a pintarlo en 1993 y originalmente titulado “Hágase Tu Voluntad” tomado de la oración que Jesús nos enseñó, el Padre Nuestro.

¿Cuál elegiremos vivir, dejar a nuestros hijos y a las futuras generaciones?


Como cristianos, hemos aprendido que Dios nos dio Libre Albedrío, cuando en el Jardín del Edén, le dio a Adán la opción de ser heredero de todo bien en su Creación, pero le prohibió comer del fruto prohibido (Génesis 2: 16-17).

Adam optó por no escuchar a Dios y le desobedeció. Así que él y todos sus descendientes fueron expulsados y sufrimos el Pecado Original.




Dios nos dio una segunda oportunidad cuando envió a su hijo Jesucristo al mundo para redimirnos (Juan 3:16). Una vez más, la humanidad no escuchó, lo ignoró y la orgullosa élite gobernante y sus secuaces lo rechazaron y lo crucificaron.


Ahora bien, Dios nos está dando otra oportunidad, claramente hablada a través de su «Vicario de Cristo» en la Tierra, el Papa Francisco, en su encíclica Laudato Si, y a través de la ciencia que ha medido y nos ha alertado sobre la última extinción espantosa causada principalmente por la actividad humana, Resultando en daño cataclísmico a su creación.


Vamos una vez más no escuchar a Dios, no hacer su voluntad? ¿Volveremos a optar por rebelarnos contra él? A través de la indiferencia y orgullo seguir nuestro propio camino tonto hacia la destrucción?

Hay cristianos que están esperando, de hecho daría la bienvenida a la Segunda Venida de Cristo para que pudiera enderezar nuestro lío, para elevarlos en “El rapto”! Esto no es lo que pide Laudato Si’. Nos pide ser responsables del Regalo de la Creación, ejercer nuestro libre albedrío, nuestra inteligencia consciente y atender la llamada a cuidar “nuestro hogar común”.


En su encíclica, Nuestro Santo Padre nos habla de San Francisco de Asís cuyo nombre tomó como suyo, al convertirse en Papa (L.S.10).

En la pintura, vemos a San Francisco en primer plano con el buey fiel, símbolo del Evangelio de San Lucas y el Libro de los Hechos, abriéndonos el espectáculo completo de la conciencia y la elección fatídica ante nosotros.


Una elección que debemos hacer para cuidar la Creación de Dios, en armonía con su voluntad.




Como tal, pinté a Cristo, el centro de la Creación

(Por medio de él todas las cosas fueron creadas … Juan 1: 3)

Su divina Belleza, Palabra y Verdad que vi y oí como un niño, me esfuerzo humildemente por revelar aquí a través de mi arte, el amor de Dios por nosotros en su don de la Creación, a través de su hijo Jesucristo, nuestro Señor y salvador.


“Let it be Done”




"Let it be Done", painting by AVonnHartung for Walsingham UK

Deep in the night with the Star of Jesus centered in the sky, Mary is in prayer, surrounded by the symbols of her faith.She prays that in some small way she might serve in the coming of the promised Messiah. Suddenly her prayers are answered!

The ceiling opens!

The Angel Gabriel descends in divine glory and declares the message from God the Father. After pondering deep in her heart the words and their meaning, Mary gives her consent.

At that very moment she is filled with the luminous light of grace as she vows to fulfill the will of the Father and to deliver His only Son incarnate as Jesus Christ into the world according to His divine plan for our salvation.

This original painting by AVonnHartung (acrylic 36″x 60″) was created for EWTN (UK)’s new welcoming center at the National Shrine of England (Mary’s House of Nazareth) in the village of Walsingham. The painting is an interpretation of the visions received by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (Augustinian Nun) in 1821, with some added symbolism by the Artist to enhance and clarify the spiritual and prophetic consequences of the Annunciation Event.


“In 1061, the widow of the lord of the manor of Walsingham (Richeldis de Faverches) had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary, who showed her the house in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel made his revelation of the forthcoming birth of Jesus. Our Lady asked Richeldis to build a replica of the holy house in Walsingham.” It was at a time when it was extremely dangerous to visit the Holy Land, so this replica of Mary’s House would afford English Christians the opportunity to pay homage to her house in their own country. Walsingham became the premier shrine, and a large Christian community and monastery grew in its proximity.

“During medieval times, Walsingham was visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over Britain and Europe, including nearly all the kings and queens of England from Henry III (c1226). Royal visits continued right up to Henry VIII (1511). Then came the Reformation in 1538.”
When the pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII ordered the destruction of Mary’s House in 1538. It was burned to the ground and the statue of Our Lady was taken to London to be destroyed.

The Shrine at Walsingham is visited today by 350,000 pilgrims annually.

 “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.”

(Pope Leo XIII)


The opening of the roof exposes the open sky showing the constellations of Virgo and Leo and the location of the holy house in Nazareth. The Star of Jesus, better known as the Star of Bethlehem, is used here to signify the presence and the will of the Father.

Mary’s Halo shows an ethereal lightening, a shimmering of the atmosphere around her head, indicating her divine nature; her luminosity and state of grace.

The Scroll on the prayer table symbolizes the prophecy of Isaiah (“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14).

Mary’s belt shows a symbol of the Fetus.

The Three Lilies on the prayer table remind us of the promise of Joseph to honor Mary’s vow of virginity and dedication to the Lord.

The Three Lilies carried by the angel Gabriel are a sign of the fulfillment of her vow and a blessing of her faithfulness.

The Rug (woven in lamb’s wool) represents Mary’s faith and prayer life. Its design, which emanates from and surrounds the Star of Jesus (“For we have seen his star in the east…” Matthew 2:2) is made up of symbols and scenes in the life of Christ to come.

The design of the the Floor Tiles symbolizes the flow which spread the Christian Faith from nation to nation throughout the world (“Go ye and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19).

The Fireplace is a symbol of the home and family, of warmth, well-being and security.

The Drawn Curtain on Mary’s bed reminds us of the torn veil of the temple (Matthew 27:51); a symbol of hope reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, death and resurrection and promise of eternal life; the faint spectrum of color emanating from the curtain, a symbol of revelation.

The Hope Chest beneath the bed reminds us of the simplicity and humble social status of Mary, the young bride of Joseph the Carpenter. This same Mary who will become the Mother of God.


Christ visits His Mother

Although extra-biblical and controversial, there is a tradition in Christian circles, especially in many Eastern Churches, that our risen Lord’s first visit was to His mother after His resurrection from the dead. Many western saints subscribed to this belief, such as St. Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus, d.1280), St. Ignatius of Loyola (d.1553), St. Teresa of Avila (d.1582) and Pope St. John Paul II (d.2005). 

Christ visits His Mother

John Paul II asked how the Blessed Virgin, who was “present in the first community of the disciples, could have been excluded from the number of those who encountered her divine Son risen from among the dead. On the contrary, it is legitimate to think that the Mother may really have been the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not the absence of Mary from the group of women who approached the tomb at dawn constitute an indication that she had already met Jesus?

I humbly painted this scene symbolic of the Divine Bond between Mother Mary and her Son; a bond unique, mysterious and wonderful.

Let us celebrate the Love between mother and child, children and mothers, and mothers and the Special Gift they have in bringing life into the world.

Happy Easter and Mothers’ Day!