Portrait of the Founder
After being elected grand knight of Our Lady of Grace Council 3401 in Toronto, Adrian de Rooy asked more experienced Knights, “What do I do?” His district deputy told him to use his God-given talents to raise funds for charity. So de Rooy, a professional artist, started painting.
“I thought that we need to put Christ back in Christmas, and make a Christmas card with that theme for councils to sell,” he recalled.
Showing an angel placing the infant Jesus in a manger, with Mary and Joseph in the background, the Christmas card became popular with Toronto councils last year.
More recently, de Rooy asked another question: “What is the relationship between our founder, Father Michael McGivney, and Christopher Columbus?”
“I thought that we need to put Christ back in Christmas, and make a Christmas card with that theme for councils to sell”
Again, he put his talent to work to provide an answer. His research discovered that Columbus was chosen for the name of the new Order because the explorer was a widely recognized cultural hero who was also Catholic. Thus, Columbus was a perfect patron of an organization that was sure to face anti-Catholic bias in Protestant America. With this information in mind, and after studying a number of existing images of Father McGivney, de Rooy painted a large portrait of Father McGivney with the ships of Columbus’ voyage in the foreground.
“If you look closely, you can see the figure of Columbus on the Santa Maria pointing the way,” the artist said.
When de Rooy heard that the Supreme Convention was coming to Toronto this year, he asked the organizers if he could display the oil-on-canvas portrait in the registration area.
“I had no expectations,” he said. “I really didn’t know what people would say, but I knew I had to offer it to my brother Knights to see.”
As it turned out, the painting became a popular talking point among delegates and their families, many of whom asked about the meaning of the ships in relation to Father McGivney. The questions gave him an opportunity to talk about the beginning of the Knights and the vision of the founder. He also met Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who praised the painting.
De Rooy said that, unlike many modern artists who are concerned mainly with form, he uses art for education. Visual images can be powerful vehicles for conveying truth and beauty, he added.
“I wanted to give Father McGivney a reality so that people today can relate to him,” he said. "You can be sure that I prayed to Father McGivney to help me.”