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Our Daily Bread


“Oh then, my daughters, let there be no neglect: but when obedience calls you to exterior employments (as, for example, into the kitchen, amidst the pots and dishes), remember that our Lord goes along with you, to help you both in your interior and exterior duties.” - Saint Teresa of Avila


It goes without saying that motherhood completely transforms your world - but each woman’s individual experience is unique. As I’ve explored this uncharted territory of motherhood these past nine months with my little one, I’ve grown closer to Our Lady. When Behold’s founder, Katie Weiss, introduced me to the talented Italian painter, Sofia Novelli, I was immediately drawn to her painting, Pane di Vita, which means "Bread of Life" in Italian. 


Novelli captures a beautiful scene of Mary in an everyday scenario where she is kneading dough for the Holy Family’s “daily bread”. You can see the tender affection that Novelli captures in their gazes at one another as mother and child. Mary and Jesus are each other's companions in the simple moments of everyday life, which is fitting as the etymology of the word “companion” comes from the Latin word, com, which means together with; and the Latin word, panis, which means bread. 


Novelli’s painting is filled with Eucharistic imagery as you can already see Christ growing into His holy office as Priest. His tiny hands are holding two halves of baked bread similar to a priest holding the Eucharist during consecration at mass. Behind Mary and Jesus you can also see a table with bread and wine. Novelli explains:


"Jesus and Mary in the domestic moment in which the Madonna kneads the bread for the family. Jesus offers a piece of bread, already anticipating in childhood the purpose of his saving mission, which is the sacrifice on the cross. For her part, Mary engaged in the dough visualizes a daily gesture, but also the task of accompanying the Son who was formed in her womb day by day in order to become, according to the will of the Father, the "panis vitae" (John 8:12)


Novelli brilliantly captures the essence of a “Domestic Church.” Another detail in the painting is a lamp filled with oil and a single bright flame flickering in the bottom right corner. Images of candles and flames of light typically represent prayers ascending to God. I like to imagine that this detail represents Mary offering up her work as daily sacrifices for her home as an active prayer. Recently at Behold’s day retreat with Father James Brent, I asked him if he had any advice for young mothers who struggle to find time to pray. In his wisdom, Father James shared that, if done with love, mothers’ daily tasks for her household can become moments of prayer!


While it can be tempting at times to remember the days of fancy lunch meetings downtown and high-stake presentations, especially during the busy moments of laundry and dishes; this image reminds me of the dignity of my vocation and how God redeemed the nature of everyday life by our Lady’s fiat and her surrender to God’s plan - even in the hidden years as the family of a carpenter in a small town. In Caryll Houslander’s book, Reed of God, she ponders: 


“Yes, it certainly seemed that God wanted to give the world the impression that it is ordinary for Him to be born of a human creature. Well, that is a fact. God did mean it to be the ordinary thing, for it is His will that Christ shall be born in every human being’s life and not, and as a rule, through extraordinary things, but through the ordinary daily life and the human love that people give to one another.” 


Fortunately, you too can have a copy of Novelli’s Pane di Vita through Behold’s shop! I have my copy on the wall above my kitchen sink, and now each time I load or unload the dishwasher has become an opportunity for prayer and invitation to participate in Mary’s obedience both in the small and grand parts of God’s plan for her life. Novelli’s Pane di Vita has become a special reminder that God has blessed each part of our work as wives and mothers.


To check out more of Sofia Novelli’s work, you can visit her website here!

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