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Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Memories of Christmas
Chapel Infant Jesus 2011 Hummel Bisque
Since the days of our foundress, Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa, there has been a Christmas tradition in our Order of displaying a large baby Jesus figure in a cradle. Her monastery in Foggia, Italy has an infant Jesus figure dressed in clothes that are said to have been made by her own hands. We continue that tradition and have this Infant Jesus under our tree. This Bambino is larger than most baby dolls, at least two feet in length. But the infant above is much smaller and brings it own story. This year it rests on a small round-topped table placed in front of the ambo in our chapel.
The little baby Jesus figurine is about five inches in length. It has been in my possession for fifty years and followed me to the monastery. It was a gift from a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, NY, Sr. Mary Corita Hawthorn, CSJ. I was a public school girl who attended her 8th grade Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (aka CCD) class on Wednesday afternoons during 'released time' from public school. Yes, we were permitted to leave school at 2pm Wednesday afternoons to walk to the local Catholic school, if our parents wished it, for religious instuction. Sister and I struck up a frienship that lasted until 2010 when she passed on to her great reward. I think I was a real curiosity to her because even though the product of public education and non-church-going parents, I passed the exams for admission into the finest of Brooklyn Catholic high schools for girls, a flagship high school of her congregation. Some time during my high school years she presented me with this baby Jesus as a Christmas gift.
Being half German I fully appreciated the artistry and value of this Hummel figurine. On the back of the figure the Hummel name has been molded into the bisque. There is the familiar Hummel logo of the "vee" with the bumble bee above it and the word "Germany" stamped in ink on the back also. Unlike most other Hummel figures this one is not multi-colored but very subdued in light brown and biege. The back also has two holes which would allow for the figure to be hung on a wall.
I remember that it took me a few years of prowling around the post-Christmas sales in New York City department stores to find a cradle to fit this babe. This little one, just perfect in its construction of twigs delicately nailed together, has been carefully re-glued a number of times. But it survives.
These last few days I have searched the internet to find the market value of this piece. None of the Hummel price lists I have found included this exact piece. Maybe someone out there will know more about this. No matter what monetary value may be revealed, this Bambino is priceless to me. It speaks of Jesus in such a sweet voice and speaks of an old and dear friend who reached out to a student to encourage, to reassure and to teach the faith.