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Paintings of the saints beautify new chapel at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly

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The new campus at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly came with many beautiful donations that brought meaning, love and community to Paul VI’s new home. One prominent donation is the collection of paintings of saints in the chapel by artist Betsy Farr.

At the beginning of the year, Chaplain Father Stephen J. Schultz told students that an artist had painted six paintings for the chapel out of the kindness of her heart, with four more to come. However, many students did not know a lot about the artist or the paintings themselves.

Margaret Farr goes by Betsy (from her middle name Elizabeth), except on her artwork and documents. Living in Greece in her 30s, Farr began painting the many wildflowers that grew outside her home. She built a garden to grow what she wanted to paint. After starting as a botanical artist, Farr added Madonnas to her painting collection. This was significant because her journey in life did not merely involve art, but her spiritual life as well. In 1992, Farr and three of her immediate family members converted from Methodism to Catholicism.

Father Schultz saw Farr’s work and asked her to create artwork for the chapel. Farr made the paintings larger than she normally does. "They’re large enough for you to feel surrounded by the saints," she said. "They’re really with you. That is a real blessing of Catholicism."

Farr began with St. Paul VI. In the painting, she included many elements such as "Humanae Vitae" in his hand, his emblem of the papacy and the quote, "Mary remains ever the path that leads to Christ," because St. Paul VI proclaimed Mary as the Mother of the Church.

Second, Farr completed a painting of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, the school’s patron saints. In addition to powerful quotes, Farr added a heart to represent St. Jane’s devotion to the Sacred Heart, and the book "Introduction to the Devout Life" that St. Francis de Sales wrote.

There is also a wonderful painting of St. Josephine Bakhita. Farr took inspiration from a holy card of the saint on her kitchen window. Farr added a Madonna, keys, shackles and acacia trees. St. Josephine grew up in Sudan, represented by the acacia trees; the keys and restraints symbolize that she was enslaved

Farr is working on a seventh painting — this one of St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian saint who had a way with animals, and is including a depiction of her own dog.

Farr loves what she does. "I love doing it. I have found an outlet," she said.  "I donate to the church, it’s what God’s given me. It’s what I can do. It’s a joy and a privilege."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020