Catholic Sacred Art

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?








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.


Last Chance to Sign-up for my Woodcarving Workshop

Last weekend to sign up for my Sacred Art Woodcarving Workshop/Retreat.

Date: August 6-11, 2017

At Sacred Art Institute, Enders Island,

            Mystic, Connecticut

Call and ask for/leave message for Tracie 860-536-0565.

 Whether you’d like to learn a new skill or to continue more advanced study, this class is for you!

Although Enders Island is a Catholic retreat center, it is ecumenical in spirit and outreach and all are welcome! Hope to see you there!   

St. Michael Archangel Icon high relief wood sculpture by AVonnHartung (Artist's Collection)













“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!

Learn Wood Carving with Master Carver

I will be teaching a Wood Carving Workshop at the Sacred Art Institute on beautiful Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut on Long Island Sound.

St. Michael Archangel Icon high relief wood sculpture by AVonnHartung (Artist's Collection)

Date: August 6-11, 2017

Learn a new skill or continue more advanced study

View a video of last year’s Wood Carving Workshop


Although Enders Island is a Catholic retreat center, it is “committed to Pope Saint John Paul II’s vision of inclusiveness and friendship among all faiths…”

Hope to see you there!

“Described as a ‘little known gem’ this 11 acre island is surrounded by beautiful gardens framing breathtaking ocean vistas. Home to St. Edmund’s Retreat, there is a soulful tranquility to this place that seems to hang in the air with the ocean breezes. There are plenty of garden paths to walk and seaside benches to soak in the sun and saltwater air.…” (Assisi Institute)















Forever Young, Siempre Joven, Christ Among Us

A 27 sq ft work of art by A.VonnHartung for the students of Colegio (High School) San Juan Bosco at Parroquia Maria Auxiliadora, Cantera, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Párroco Padre Colacho SDB).

Commissioned by the Director and Theology Professor, Padre Jorge Santiago SDB .

Was installed in the main hallway of the school on the Feast Day of San Juan Bosco 31 January 2017.

The painting expresses an Epiphany of Faith, Joy, Love of Community and Learning, so much evident in the Christ-filled spirit of the school.

Director of School Padre Jorge Antonio Santiago SDB with artist Arturo Vonn Hartung and Felix “Junior” Rodriguez

Upcoming Classes by AVonnHartung

A.Vonn Hartung will be teaching two dynamic workshops this Summer (Woodcarving and Mosaics) at the Sacred Art Institute at St. Edmund’s Retreat on Enders Island in beautiful Mystic, Connecticut on Long Island Sound.

Aerial view of Enders Island, Mystic, Connecticut
Aerial view of Enders Island, Mystic, Connecticut

July 24-29: Woodcarving
July 30-Aug 6: Mosaics

If you can make it, to start a new hobby or to continue more advanced study, this class is for you!

Although St. Edmund’s is a Catholic Order, it is ecumenical in spirit and outreach and all are welcome! Hope to see you there!

One of the breathtaking views on this 11 acre island

“Described as a ‘little known gem’ this 11 acre island is surrounded by beautiful gardens framing breathtaking ocean vistas. Home to St. Edmund’s Retreat, there is a soulful tranquility to this place that seems to hang in the air with the ocean breezes. There are plenty of garden paths to walk and seaside benches to soak in the sun and saltwater air. It is a short trip into the picturesque coastal village of Stonington, CT., one of the last remaining authentic New England fishing villages…” (Assisi Institute)


Stations of Mercy

With great joy I share the news of this booklet recently published by the Catholic Truth Society (Publishers to the Holy See), “Stations of Mercy with Pope Francis” by Amette Ley ©2016, illustrated with my paintings of the Stations of the Cross, commissioned in 2001 by Mons. Antonio “Tito” José Vázquez for Parroquia Santa Rosa de Lima in Guaynabo (Barrio Amelia), Puerto Rico, blessed in 2002 by our Archbishop Mons. Roberto González Nieves OFM.

Booklet by Amette Ley published by Catholic Truth Society©2016 with paintings by AVonnHartung
Booklet by Amette Ley published by Catholic Truth Society©2016 with Stations of the Cross paintings by AVonnHartung
Jesus takes up his cross, ViaCrucis station 2 painting by A.Vonn Hartung
The book cover image is a detail of the second Station of the Cross painting (Jesus takes up His Cross)

Here is the description of this booklet from the Catholic Truth Society website:

“A journey with Pope Francis along the well known Stations of Christ’s passion to discover at every step the boundless and life giving mercy of God. Each Station is accompanied by a brief scripture passage and pertinent words of Pope Francis, giving his own particular insights into mercy. These themes of forgiveness and mercy, so important during the Year of Mercy, are readily absorbed by way of this simple and long-standing devotion.”

The Catholic Truth Society is a non-profit company which has been publishing booklets for the Holy See since 1868.

I give thanks for this Blessing and Honor!

Purchase this booklet
See the video of these paintings
Learn more about these paintings