Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Orphan's Hope By Norman Rockwell

Hubby and I were antiquing/ junking last weekend. It’s like strolling through a thousand dusty old attics in one day. One of the things that really struck me was the number of sacred images. Images of the last supper, the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart, there was even an indulgence certificate signed by the Pope. I thought about buying that one, but I didn’t. What I did buy was a plate by Norman Rockwell.

I’m not a plate collector in fact this one is the only one I have, but the image captivated me. It’s of a nun holding a toddler with a young girl peeking from around her skirt and a conductor seeing off a train of children. I knew right away the image was of an orphan train. This site indicates that “between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were placed out in what is known today as the Orphan Train Era. This period of mass relocation of children in the United States is widely recognized as the beginning of documented foster care in America.” Hubby and I used to have a little joke. When he was running out to the store and would ask if we needed anything I used to tell him to pick up a little blond haired blue eyed tot, you always see one or two in the carts when you’re there. Little infertility humor. It would have been a whole lot easier if there were shipping them in by train.

The image is classic Rockwell. He captures a slice of Americana with kindness and sensitivity. He captures the best of us, our hope, our charity, our innocence, our ability to find solutions to the problems we face as a people. He also captures in this little drawing the source of our ability to do so, by including the image of the nun. The Sisters of Charity who ran the New York Foundling Hospital used this form for the adoption of the orphans. One of the requirements was to raise the children in the Roman Catholic faith, the same requirement made of those who are married in the Church.

I put the plate in my rosary room on the wall with William Bouguereau’s painting the Madonna of the Roses. Jesus is about the same age as the kids on the train and I like the way the nun holding the toddler echoes the way Our Lady is holding Jesus. Timeless images of motherly love. I put this image in a place where I will be reminded to pray for all that this little plate reminds me of, all of the things I hold so dear, our nation, our Church, our families, and especially our children.

Lord bless your people. Amen.


Tausign said...

A fascinating post about our past. In some ways it seems more compassionate to the children and the adoptive parents than what we put them through today.

Your plate has 'sacramental qualities' through and through. An excellent item for the Rosary room (prayer corner) of your home.

Anne Marie said...


Our current foster care system is very difficult to navigate, but in dealing with it I’ve come to understand that the foundational problem is the deterioration of the family and that to pray for families is the key.

Abigail said...

Thank you for sharing this image with us!