By: Deacon Marques Silva
I went fishing with my oldest son and youngest daughter a few weekends ago. While we were admiring the serenity and beauty of catching nothing the entire day, a pelican flew over. And it got me thinking…
Over the centuries, a few birds were adopted by Christians to symbolize Jesus and His salvific actions. The Pelican was one of the first and quickly became commonplace in the Church’s frescoes, murals and church architecture. In modern times, we have begun to forget some of these symbols. It would be a shame to lose this beautiful artistic expression of our Lord’s passion.
St. Thomas Aquinas memorializes this when he addresses our Lord with “Pelican of Mercy, cleanse me in Thy Precious Blood,” in his hymn Adoro Te. Found often in Christian frescoes, murals and stained glass, the Pelican is a symbol of the atonement and the Redeemer. It was believed that the pelican would wound itself in order to feed its young with its own blood. Shakespeare even alludes to this belief in Act IV of Hamlet, “To his good friend thus wide I’ll open my arms and, like the kind, life-rendering pelican, Repast them with my blood.”